The Valma preparation forum

Valma complements the practice of representative democracy in Tampere. The aim is to give people a better chance to participate more directly in decision-making.



Main goal

The Valma preparation forum allows Tampere residents to express opinions about issues under preparation. Residents can have a say in matters early and throughout the preparatory process. This makes public participation an integral part of the city’s preparatory process.

When opinions are submitted, they are emailed to the preparatory officials and decision makers. The decision makers can then follow the opinions while forming their own perspectives on the issues at hand.

Valma can be seen as an e-participation tool or forum for preparatory work. Its features are:

- It puts items online for your comments and outlines procedure and tells you when to act. It shows all related documents as well as processing information and GIS data. It sends your opinions to the preparatory official and committee members and publishes the opinions, if the sender provides his/her contact information. Opinions can be posted under a pen name.

- Valma posts items by subject matter. It posts the latest items and opinions on the front page. If you register as a user, Valma emails you about issues you are interested in at your request.

The information is published alongside with official data, which means that processing phase of the subject matter, electronic documents and decisions can be viewed in the same electronic environment at the same time. There is a connection to the GIS-service so that the Valma-users can scope matters which they are interested in. People can register to Valma and subscribe bulletins on interesting topics and areas.

Public consultation and residents feedback is an integral part of high-quality preparatory work. Valma offers complete and user-friendly approach to the feedback collection of very different types of cases.

Valma was developed to complement the practice of representative democracy in Tampere. The aim was to give people a better chance to take part more directly in decision-making.

Lessons learned

If you want to improve residents’ participation, it is very important to have a political and top management support for that.

Citizens’ opinions should be gathered at the best suitable time, usually the sooner the better. Long-lasting Valma inquiries are generally not necessary. Two weeks might usually be long enough. Citizens' participation is possible only if they are adequately informed about their possibilities to participate. Valma-issues are being informed in compliance with the usual communication practices of the city of Tampere. At least a press release is written about each Valma-topic.

When decision is being made on a subject matter, there is a mention in a preparatory text that Valma has been used. In the text there is also a link to a Valma site, where all the comments are published. Number of comments arrived and the time when comments were collected is reported. Preparatory text gives also a brief summary of the comments received.

During the Valma project working groups and workshops were used as working methods. This was considered as an effective way to proceed. Although it was a quite heavy way of working.

Recommendations

You need to have enough resources if you start to develop residents’ participation.

You need to have somebody in the organisation who is responsible for arranging civic participation.

In the Valma development project, commitment from the highest management level was important, as it is in public participation in general.

In the implementation phase the most important partners were officials from different parts of city organisation. At this point also the cooperation with the City Communications Unit became very important. Residents obviously need to know the participation possibilities before it is possible for them to participate.

It is important that the preparatory process has a clear understanding of how the received opinions are used. Do we want new kinds of perspectives, collect information, and clarify various options or something else. This should be taken into account already when deciding what and how to ask using service such as Valma.

Giving residents early opportunities for participation is part of preparatory work and decision-making. It was important that city management, elected officials as well as civil servants, supported the idea of promoting participation. Also the access to information is a basic condition for developing eParticipation.

Location

Tampere, Finland

Author

Eija Uurtamo

Info

http://valma.tampere.fi

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