“Today it is important to get closer to the citizens and to understand their preferences and insights.”
The County Mayor of Järva, Rait Pihelgas, sat down with us to tell why citizen engagement is so crucial for his municipality and what his hopes for the future are.
1. Why does citizen engagement matter for you?
For 25 years, municipalities in Estonia have been operating according to their own understanding and ways of doing things. In the past, simple questionnaires and a few public meetings we´re arranged, but unfortunately these had poor results. Today it is important to get closer to the citizens and to understand their preferences and insights. People want to communicate with the municipality. They want easier ways of communicating and being involved.
2. What are the typical citizen engagement challenges that you face?
It is very difficult to reach everybody in the municipality. Easily engaging stakeholders in general and different target groups specifically is always a challenge. Having the suitable channel for reaching them has been limited. Additionally, people overall do not actively participate.
3. How are you approaching citizen engagement today?
Of course, we have our website homepage and a Facebook page. But now going forward, we will be utilizing our municipal engagement mobile application for better reaching and engaging people. The plan is to utilize the app to involve people in issues such as future development, and strategy planning. At the same time, we will integrate the feedback from the application with that of our public meetings.
4. How do you hope better citizen engagement will change the municipality?
The driving hopes and dreams are many, but the most ideal outcome is that the usage of public money will be more efficient, that the municipality can make more educated decisions, and that the residents will be better equipped to connect with us here at the local government.