Community engagement is growing in Estonia
In the small Baltic country of Estonia community engagement at the municipal level is starting to sprout, and Järva Municipality is where roots are taking a firm and exciting hold.
Since independence in 1991, community engagement hasn’t been on the top of the priorities list for Estonian municipalities. In recent times, however, attitudes and priorities have changed as municipalities and community members alike see the need and potential impact of comprehensive community engagement policies and practices.
This is particularly true for Järva Municipality, which has made it a goal to get closer to community members in order to better understand their needs and preferences. For the municipality the idea is to make it easy and accessible for people to communicate with them about municipal topics.
However, Järva has faced the same challenges as any other municipality or large organization when thinking about community engagement.
· How to best reach everybody in the community?
· How to encourage people to actively participate?
· What are the best channels for two-way communication and engagement?
Järva decided that the best solution for overcoming these challenges was an approach that is part traditional and part high-tech. Hold periodic public townhall style meetings and simultaneously deploy a mobile engagement application. The townhall meetings cater to those community members who have the time and interest to engage face to face, such as retired people. The mobile engagement application will cater to a wider audience that does not traditionally have the time to participate in municipal matters in face to face meetings, such as families and youth.
The driving idea is to bring the municipal stakeholders closer to the municipality. As Järva begins their new community engagement journey the focus will be on encouraging stakeholders to participate and demonstrating that there is no longer a lack of participatory channel. In the long run, the municipality wants to make engagement a part of everyday life rather than onetime feedback or polling, and that is where the mobile engagement application will play a decisive role.
Järva believes that this dual community engagement approach will have a positive effect for the community. These efforts will help to make participation a part of everyday life, get people involved in an actual dialog and giving feedback to the municipality. And ultimately help improved livability for the community.
Additionally, the municipality believes that having more people involved will result in more efficient allocation of public money and that the municipality will be able to make more informed decisions.
Community engagement in Estonia is only just starting to grow. Järva is definitely a forerunner in the country for combining traditional and tech methods of engagement. If Järva is an indication of the things to come, then it will indeed be exciting times to witness how other Estonian municipalities approach community engagement.
Want to read about more Nordic cities doing great things with citizen engagement? Check out How One City is Reaching the People or 3 Creative Ways Finnish Cities are Engaging Their Communities.
As always feel free to drop us a line. If you apart of a city that wants to reach more of the people, let's see if we are a good fit!