From informing to empowerment – Influential Groups promote participation

Participation is a multi-dimensional term and might have various interpretations. However, it should be a core element of every city official’s daily work.

In Turku participation and community involvement has three main elements: communication, cooperation and interaction between citizens, city officials and decision-makers.

The key in understanding participation and empowerment means that one appreciates the knowledge and experience of the citizen side-by-side with the expertise of the city officials. Participation means doing together, clear communication and openness. A city is a partner and provider of possibilities by offering e.g. services, facilities, structures and even financial support for citizens, NGOs and enterprises.

Influential Groups are a crucial component of participation in Turku. The city runs six official groups: Parliament of Children, Council of Immigrants, Council of Gender Equality, Council of Youth, Council of Elderly and Council of Disabled. The last three ones are statutory by law.

The Turku-strategy is a guiding document for all groups. In order to support the groups, the city provides them a small amount of funding for the activities and by providing a person for preparation and maintain the work.

One of the most important roles of the Influential Groups is to act as experience experts of the group they represent. All of the groups have a massive amount of voluntary organizations at their background. The Influential Groups make initiatives, give statements, organize seminars and follow-up decision-making. Their role is important in providing information of the current and future needs and concerns of their target group.

The groups have increasingly worked together during the last two years. It is very natural, because the common task for them is to promote health and well-being of Turku citizens. The co-operation takes the forms of common planning meetings and events, which offer platforms to share good experiences. The new co-operative models are also tools in tackling the inequalities.