City of Lappeenranta to improve the state of the environment with EUR 20,000 through participatory budgeting 

The City of Lappeenranta won the European Green Leaf 2021 title in a competition organised by the European Commission highlighting pioneering green cities in Europe. With the victory, Lappeenranta decided to continue the promotion of sustainable development and sharing of good practices, for example, through a standalone budget reserved for this purpose. The city wants to involve residents in making the climate capital of Finland a better environment to live in, so we earmarked EUR 20,000 from our Green Leaf budget to do just that, says the city’s Environmental Director Ilkka Räsänen.

- Through participatory budgeting, we set out to look for proposals and ideas whose implementation will reduce the harmful effects of Lappeenranta residents on the environment, climate and nature, improve biodiversity, or increase the opportunities for the municipality’s residents to enjoy local nature or Lake Saimaa in a sustainable way.

An online survey was used to ask residents for ideas related to, for example, promoting walking, cycling or public transport, reducing transport emissions, recycling or reducing the amount of waste, promoting sustainable consumption and housing, improving the efficiency of energy use, the urban environment, or nature activities. The ideas had to be possible for the city to promote and implement during 2021. The survey was open for two weeks (18 February–3 March 2021).

During the collection of ideas, residents were able to discuss their own idea with city employees in a virtual Q&A webinar.  

Abundance of ideas with the same themes repeated

Residents were inspired to brainstorm and replies to the survey started accumulating quickly. A total of 140 ideas were sent to the city by the deadline, says Green Leaf Project Manager Kati Korhonen.

- The ideas were really diverse and there were numerous proposals meeting the criteria. We were pleasantly surprised that there were so many suggestions.

The ideas received largely repeated the same themes: developing mobility, increasing urban green spaces, construction, and recycling.

All the ideas submitted by residents were pre-screened and a cost estimate was calculated for their implementation. A panel of city officials and various experts selected 11 ideas from those put forward by residents to the voting phase.

At this point, another webinar was organised for residents, with residents and experts together considering and discussing the proposals that had made it to the vote.

Residents excited by the voting phase – appropriation to be used to develop mountain biking, beach cleanliness, bike safety and playgrounds

The voting period for the 11 ideas was two weeks (22 March–4 April 2021). Voting was possible online or on paper at the City Hall.

No ideas whose implementation had already been decided or that do not fall within the authority of the city were included in the participatory budgeting vote. Each idea was described in brief on the participatory budgeting website. Residents could only cast their vote for one idea.

A total of 1,350 votes were cast. The four proposals that received the most votes and that will be implemented using the EUR 20,000 appropriation were:

- Mountain biking route, EUR 5,000, 408 votes

- Development of beaches by reducing littering, EUR 5,000, 266 votes

- Surveillance cameras for bicycle parking areas, EUR 5,000, 160 votes

- Development of playgrounds, EUR 5,000, 146 votes

The other ideas put to vote, in the order of the number of votes, were as follows:

- Increasing planting areas, EUR 5,000, 124 votes

- Insect hotels, EUR 1,500, 56 votes

- Urban green spaces highlighted, EUR 2,000, 50 votes

- Cargo bicycles for rent, EUR 4,000, 45 votes

- Environmental games for children and young people, EUR 1,500, 37 votes

- Joint project for designers and children, EUR 4,500, 34 votes

- Wild herb course, EUR 1,000, 24 votes

The results of the vote were published immediately after Easter in early April. The City of Lappeenranta will monitor the implementation of the measures throughout the year. Residents will be informed of the results once the measures have been completed. A summary of all the ideas and their decision justifications will also be compiled on the website.

Participatory budgeting is a new practice in Finland

Participatory budgeting is being implemented in environmental matters for the first time in Lappeenranta. Participatory budgeting is a new way in Finland to involve local residents in the municipality’s financial planning. Participatory budgeting means combining the economy and democracy. Even though the Council decides on the broad lines and bigger issues of municipal finances, it is worth listening to the residents of the municipality. The result may be better targeted services and more satisfied residents.

Residents were involved in considering what the financial resources would be used for, and the implementation plan will be prepared in accordance with the result obtained, says Environmental Director Ilkka Räsänen.

- The idea search for participatory budgeting yielded many good suggestions. Only some were included in the vote, with a lot of good proposals left out. Efforts will be made to implement and develop them where possible, in connection with other measures.

Further information:

Ilkka Räsänen, Environmental Director for the City of Lappeenranta,
tel. +358 40 081 5284, ilkka.rasanen(at)lappeenranta.fi

Kati Korhonen, The Green Leaf project manager 
Tel. +358 (0)40 354 2799, kati.m.korhonen(at)lappeenranta.fi