Hajnówka at regional participation practice forums
Consultation meetings, training and workshops, surveys, information meetings, idea boxes. These are examples of activities involving residents first in the creation of the New Development Path of Hajnówka, and now also in the activities resulting from the “Hajnówka ReNewal – Green Transformation” program. It was these activities that we had the opportunity to talk about at the Regional Forums of Participation Practitioners.
The meeting took place in the Social Activity Center in Bialystok. It was attended by representatives of such cities as Łomża, Grajewo, Białystok and Wasilków.
The Regional Forum of Participation Practitioners is an event addressed to local social activists, representatives of local governments who are interested in the subject of social participation. It was addressed to the inhabitants of Podlaskie and Warmińsko-Mazurskie Voivodship, we wanted to ensure through this event the opportunity to get to know each other, exchange experiences, gain new knowledge about participation tools, about what is happening in this field in two regions. We also wanted to present good practices in the Podlaskie Voivodship.
Hence the invitation to participate in the discussion panel of representatives of the city of Hajnówka.
We are proud that we were invited to this meeting and that we had the opportunity to present our activities for participation. It so happens that both during the writing of the "Hajnówka ReNewal - Green Transformation" project, the local community was included already at the stage of writing the project. We noticed that there is a group of committed residents in the city who care about its development. These are people aged 33+/55+. The first workshop meeting showed, however, that people are not willing to express themselves in the forum. They prefer individual interviews. We conducted 30 such interviews. Thanks to them, we obtained a lot of important information about their perception of the city and potential directions of development.
The representative of the City Hall had a joint speech with Grzegorz Gawrysiak, the substantive coordinator in the Revitalization Team at the Marshal’s Office of the Podlaskie Voivodeship. Magdalena Chirko talked about participation on the example of participation in the Local Development Programme. A participatory approach was used here to a large extent – not used on such a scale so far in our local government. It is addressed to small and medium-sized cities that are losing their socio-economic functions and are struggling with many problems of a social, economic, environmental or institutional nature. Residents, on the other hand, expect cities to be good places to live. This is also the aim of the program – strengthening social cohesion.
While working on the New Development Path for Hajnówka, we used the following forms of citizen involvement:
- Consultation meetings
- Training and workshops
- Working information meetings
- Group workshops
- Online surveys
- Citizens Hearing
- Outdoor meetings
- Meetings with young people in secondary schools
- Inclusion of NGOs
Participatory tools are elements of many activities provided for in the project. An example is the Art Time competition, which concerns the development of the surroundings of Hajnówka Centralna (projects were prepared by students of the Faculty of Architecture of the Białystok University of Technology). This undertaking is aimed at young people, as its aim is to arrange the area in such a way that it will best meet the needs of young Hajnówka residents. That’s why we asked them to vote. We collected young people’s wishes during individual conversations, we invited them to a vision of the area, we also launched an online platform.
The competition is already settled, but even at this stage we asked the opinion of Hajnowians. All submitted projects could be viewed in the Water Park and voted on the spot or by completing an electronic survey. About 1,600 people took part in both voting, which we consider a very good result.
Other participatory activities include, for example, including the voice of residents in the process of creating the Hajnówka Murals Trail. Here, already in 2020, over 800 people took the floor, choosing a topic, we recently asked about the location, and soon we will ask them about their opinion on a specific project.
As part of the project, we also invite local non-governmental organizations to co-implement projects and participate in competitions, an interesting idea is, for example, the Neighborhood Initiative formula. In this way – the idea of the feast of Wierobieja Street, one of the oldest streets in the city, has been completed. The event took place in August and will continue. Thanks to the competition, the local rock band Błękitny Nosorożec (Blue Rhino) recorded a music video and material for their latest album.