The City of Espoo is piloting new ways to encourage participation and engage international residents in the development of city services. Especially among the foreign-speaking population, due to the lack of information on how they can influence matters in their hometown, participation is often low.
The Espoo Town Hall Meetings are interactive events in English focusing on changing themes related to the development of the City of Espoo. They aim to increase opportunities for international residents to influence and feel a sense of belonging to the city. The project also increases the city’s understanding of the needs and wishes of the foreign-speaking population.
Enabling dialogue with international residents on changing topics
The first Espoo Town Hall Meeting was organized in the beginning of 2020 for international residents to work on measures that promote employment. Around 60 participating residents met with city experts face to face, to provide the city with insight about employment related concerns that particularly affect residents with international backgrounds. The feedback was then used to improve city employment services and provisions designed for the foreign-speaking population.
Due to the corona virus pandemic, the following Town Hall Meetings have been organised virtually, bringing on the positives and negatives of online platforms to the interactive meetings. The second Espoo Town Hall Meeting in autumn 2020 focused on urban planning and future development of the biggest of Espoo’s five urban centres - Leppävaara and the following two on the English language communication about the city’s early childhood education and education services and the development of client processes in healthcare services.
The project culminated in December when international residents were invited in dialogue with the city experts on the city strategy, the Espoo Story, that will be updated for the next council term 2021-2025.
In Town Hall Meeting events international residents in Espoo have a chance to get their voices heard in the city’s public services. Resident participation has been promoted over a long time in Espoo by utilizing various methods and tools.
The Town Hall Meetings continue even through the restrictions due to the corona-virus pandemic
The theme of the Town Hall Meetings are planned on a case-by-case basis, according to the requirement for information.
As a pilot project, the Espoo Town Hall Meetings have brought new ideas and a renewed energy into Espoo’s toolbox to support resident participation - particularly from the international communities. The global pandemic and meeting restrictions have meant that the Espoo Town Hall Meetings have been organised only virtually in autumn 2020.
“We are currently planning the events for next spring, and although it is our wish that we could return to face-to-face meetings as soon as possible, it is likely that for now the events will be virtual. We would still like to encourage all interested international residents to take part so that city of Espoo would have better understanding of its resident’s wishes and needs. The importance of dialog between international residents and city professionals has really increased during last fall of 2020 “ says Hanna Eskelinen, Coordinator of International Affairs, who has been running the pilot.
For more information regarding to the Espoo Town Hall Meetings, please contact:
Hanna Eskelinen, Coordinator of International Affairs
This article is part of the International Espoo series, through which the City of Espoo aims to share information about ongoing activities and initiatives that are developed for the benefit and active involvement of Espoo residents.