The City of Helsinki’s participatory budgeting programme OmaStadi has successfully ushered in many new experiments and improvements in all corners of the capital. In the programme’s first round, city inhabitants were invited to submit ideas for using EUR 4.4 million in funding. Many of these resident wishes have now come true.
The first round of the City of Helsinki’s OmaStadi participatory budgeting programme, arranged in 2018-2019, resulted in 44 proposals that were selected for implementation. Ideas that received the most votes from city inhabitants were related to Helsinki’s natural environment and outdoor sports and exercise. A few resident initiatives also sought to make certain neighbourhoods cleaner and more pleasant, while others altered the city landscape with the planting of more trees, spruced up parks and new piers.
For some of the proposals, the coronavirus situation caused a delay or prohibited the final phases of the project’s implementation. For example, community volunteer drives to plant greenery at a park or gatherings to celebrate a project’s completion had to be put on hold. Even so, over 80 per cent of the projects from the first round have been successfully carried out as planned.
The City of Helsinki’s Urban Environment Division executed a large part of the winning OmaStadi proposals. Deputy Mayor Anni Sinnemäki is excited about the long-term benefits of the city’s participatory budgeting efforts.
– I think it is truly special that the people of Helsinki have made these kinds of selfless contributions to the betterment of their hometown. Participatory budgeting has allowed us to connect and create a dialogue by which we can work together to get things done, said Sinnemäki.
Exercise and hobby opportunities top resident wish list
Many of the resulting upgrades have been particularly welcome by residents spending more of their free time outside, due to the pandemic. Projects like the new artificial turf football pitch in the Arabianranta Sports Park bring everyday benefits to local inhabitants and sports clubs alike. Helsinki resident Jan-Christian Söderholm submitted the idea for the pitch in OmaStadi’s first round.
– The new field has been a fantastic boon for both children and adults in the area. It has become our community’s new living room. It is also a great thing for local sports clubs, because they now have a home pitch for practices. There’s also plenty of time and space for people to come and play in their free time, Söderholm says.
Another fun OmaStadi idea led to the installation of seven in-ground trampolines at different Helsinki locations. A group of teenagers submitted the proposal, and the trampolines are now publicly available for people of all ages to enjoy.
In western areas of the city, campfire sites were built to provide city hikers with a fun destination and place to enjoy a break. The urban campfire sites have been very popular with outdoor enthusiasts.
The outdoor recreation area in the Helsinki district of Puotila was given a facelift as part of the OmaStadi programme. The city installed a sawdust track around the Valtti club’s football field and added an outdoor gym with ten different exercise machines. The park’s renovation was complete within four months of the plan’s competition.
Thanks to OmaStadi, new piers were also added along the banks of the Vantaanjoki and Keravanjoki rivers. Helsinki resident Mika Tullila was one of the people who originally suggested the idea.
– There were several of us proposing this same kind of idea. We hoped that the new piers would encourage people to enjoy the river’s natural environment more. People can now fish, launch their paddleboards or just enjoy the riverbank more, Tullila said.
Another pier for swimming will be completed at the Särkiniemi outcrop, in the city’s Lauttasaari island district, by the end of the year.
OmaStadi facilitates rich experiences
Jonna Martikainen, a skills training manager at Helsinki’s Adult Education Centre, has contributed to an OmaStadi project to open up the city’s crafts classrooms for recreational use.
Craft classrooms in five schools throughout the city were made available to the public in the evenings, so Helsinki residents could tinker, repair and create things to their hearts’ content. The project had launched for three months and received positive feedback before it had to be shut down, due to coronavirus restrictions. All five classrooms reopened in late August and the activities are now scheduled to continue through December. After a holiday break, there are plans to keep the facilities open from early January to late May.
– I’ve heard many people say that they think it is wonderful that they have the chance to work on handicraft projects independently, and yet also have a bit of guidance, if necessary, said Martikainen.
Project planners Sami Komppula and Sonja Witting were responsible for leading an OmaStadi summer job project in northern Helsinki in the summer of 2021. The project would have paired local young people with households and businesses to encourage youth employment. Online sessions were arranged for interested young people and employers and a tour of the local schools, arranged together with the neighbourhood’s youth services, shared information about summer work experience opportunities with ninth graders.
– Unfortunately we couldn’t carry out the rest of the project this summer. To protect people’s health, we had to postpone our plans to have young people run errands for older people in their neighbourhood, Komppula said.
The first-ever round of OmaStadi in 2019-2020 also led to a project to plant seedlings of edible plants, berry bushes and fruit trees in ten Helsinki playgrounds. The ‘edible park’ idea was submitted by Milla Karkulahti.
– The project was a resounding success from an environmental education perspective. I hope that the idea can be repeated in future urban environment planning efforts. The city could plant more fruit trees and berry bushes and in this way allow residents to reap the benefits of the harvest, Karkulahti said.
OmaStadi’s second round is underway. Proposals have been submitted and preparations are being made to begin the voting phase. Check in the month of the September for information on voting times and other important dates.
Photo: Marja Väänänen, City of Helsinki material bank
Photo: Paavo Jantunen, City of Helsinki material bank
Illustration: Minna Alanko, City of Helsinki material bank