SITUATION BEFORE THE INITIATIVE BEGAN
Parla has been configured as a dormitory city. It has undergone a disorderly and chaotic process of urban and population growth, changing in 40 years from 1,800 to 100,000 inhabitants. Historically it has lacked an economic, service, and equipment infrastructure with which to face the needs of the citizens. The identity processes have been sustained in the negation and hiding of the fact of belonging to this Community. The group affected will therefore refer to the society of Parla.
ESTABLISHMENT OF PRIORITIES
Given the importance of same, the project is directed from the Mayor’s Office. The government team will define the priorities in order to subsequently agree to them with a group of external experts. Finally each working group will debate and define the following:
• Make Parla inhabitants participants in the transcendental decisions regarding their city.
• Open new spaces for citizen control over local political management.
• Build citizenry: rights and duties of the citizen.
• Define new public spaces for debate and proposals.
• Reinforce the collective identity of the Parla inhabitant and increase the self-esteem of citizenry.
• Transparency in urban management.
Leadership from the outset was political inasmuch as it was an impeller and subsequently it will be the participants (with the advice of technicians and experts), who will assume the direction of the initiative. To the degree that the GUPP must be approved by the Municipal Plenary Session, the political commitment runs throughout the entire process.
FORMULATION OF OBJECTIVES AND STRATEGIES
The priorities mark the general objectives that will be de-segregated into specific ones for each one of the work committees (trained by citizens, technicians, and politicians) during the first encounters
• Define the GUPP in a participative manner.
• Define a city in accordance with the needs, demands, and wishes of Parla inhabitants.
• Advance towards a sustainable and accessible city.
• Define the new public spaces of Parla.
• Agree on a diagnosis of Parla (Strengths and Weaknesses) bearing in mind the perspective of sex and age.
• Create new networks of social relationships.
The strategic wager is based on the methodology: work is carried out in a participative manner, analysing the present by means of visits to the city, chats, and information on the ground (surveys, interviews, and workshops).
MOBILISATION OF RESOURCES
The initiative had political backing from the outset. All of the council members were present at the work tables.
The service directors were also present in the entire process, with punctual collaborations of municipal Technicians with minor responsibilities, but with broad knowledge of the social reality. The process offered an opportunity for technical coordination from an integral point of view.
The experts were called for the purpose of having more objective and independent advice and evaluation. Representatives from different universities were called on (academic point of view) and with professionals (praxis). All of them agreed, without economic compensation, motivated solely by scientific and investigative reasons.
The citizenry was called from among the associations. Neighbourhood and opinion leaders were also resorted to in order to further extend the call. Themes such as “make the city”, “the Parla of the future”, or “we all count” were very effective, great motors and motivating stimuli.
The town council assumes 100% of the economic expenses (publications, transport, acts), technicians (audiovisual material, fungible material, meeting spaces, computers…) and 100% of the human resources, bearing in mind that 90% of the participants worked without additional cost.
TOTAL BUDGET FOR THE PROJECT 175,555.14 EUROS
• The language of the GUPP is very technical and specific and to facilitate work, the use of images was resorted to, as well as the training of the participants by means of chats, workshops, field trips.
• All of the actors placed a relevant role, regardless of what it was.
• Put into play all of the visions and legitimacies of each one of the actors from a horizontal organisation.
• Achieve an integral vision that transcends the individual (“my neighbourhood”) to focus the process from the global vision (“my city”) overcoming individual interests.
• Integrate those who were not present: sociological research techniques were resorted to (surveys, interviews, focus groups) for the purpose of garnering their discourses, visions, and proposals in order to add them to the debates.
• Achieve a long term motivation and perspective, given that the results and actions resulting from the process are not immediate.
• Work was carried out from a generational and sexual perspective, in order to visualise the different uses and needs of urban spaces by the different groups.
• The GUPP compiles diverse opposing interests, many of them individual, a reason for which the degree of conflict was another one of the variables that was worked with from the outset.
Participation requires an organisational system that makes it comprehensible for those who are going to exercise it. The system of this process has a formal side and an informal one. The more formal structure refers to the organisational structure: General Assembly, Thematic Commissions, General Council, Executive Committee or Advisory Committee (Experts and Municipal Technicians); and to its temporary structure (Diagnosis and Proposals).
The informal side refers to a decentralised form of working and organisation that responds in an individualised manner to each one of the entities that make up the social tissue (internal work in the headquarters); enabling a participative space that is pre-defined by the actors themselves.
The relationship with the group of experts is channelled fundamentally by means of electronic mail, by means of the so-called Delphy Technique. The Municipal Technicians will have their own table and will be present in all of the workshops, as well as the local Politicians.
There will be moments when all of the participants work in common (meetings, specific workshops, routines) and others in which the tasks are diversified and are sector-related work.
A municipal website is also put into place as an additional participation mechanism, which means direct, electronic access to those persons who wish to do so.
The resulting reports will be the base for the advance of the revision of the GUPP.
• The participation of citizens has contributed to the modification of the imaginary group (in positive terms) by being able to contribute in the transition of the dormitory city into a complete city.
• The increase and the complexity of the relations in the different directions open new paths, thanks to the meeting of actors who previously had worked separately.
• New proposals and work commitments, new projects, among which is noted a Local Agenda 21 or participative strategic plans, Local Board of Disabilities.
• Understand the citizen not only as an object of management (receptor), but as a subject (broadcaster).
• Delving deeper into the co-management between the political sector and civil society. The citizen feels closer to the local administration.
• Didactic process in which learning has been a central element. Each one of the actors, from his/her position, has transmitted his/her knowledge (technical or living), contributing to the balance of the process.
• The technical proposals begin with the interests and needs of the citizens and of their residential experiences.
• Definition of a model of city according to the needs and uses that the different groups make of Parla.
• Knowledge of the different uses that are carried out in the city depending on the possibilities of mobility, the roles, sex, etc.
• Integral vision of Parla: overcoming the image of a city as a conglomerate of houses for that of complex city: healthy city or sustainable, in the broadest sense.
• Diagnostic document and proposals, bases of advance of the revision of the GUPP.
• The Advance of the Plan dedicates its 12th chapter denominated public participation to carrying out a detailed description of the Citizen Forum process, as well as its implications and significance.
• Consolidation of the social tissue.
• Strengthening of the administration-citizen relationship.
• Citizen legitimacy of the revision of the GUPP: participation of the inhabitants of Parla in the definition of their city.
• Participation in the different departments of the Administration.
• New social relations that are promoting new networks of work and collaboration between the social tissue and between the Administrations.
• Complexity of the social network, which means greater creativity, an increase in the social control over the administration and the strengthening of society.
• Overcoming the matters of the GUPP. The expectations, implication, and motivation of the citizenry have opened new routes of participation (Local Agenda 21, Citizen’s Gateway, and Local Council on Incapacities, Economic and Social Council).
• The fact that it was an institutional initiative inhibited the participation of some groups.
• It is a new process, and communication deficiencies have been detected, as well as difficulties for training in urbanism matters.
• The excessively technical language causes certain distance between the less implicated participants and the final document.
• Temporary application: the results will begin to be seen in the mid-term, which can generate impatience and unhappiness and cause frustration in the citizenry.
• Complementary nature of the visions (citizen-oriented, technical, political, expert) enriched by means of contradictions and opposing points of view between them.
• The participation processes are circular, and one leads to another. They have a logical structure (diagnosis-proposal-action-evaluation) which feeds on itself. New spaces for participation and interaction between actors have been opened.
New routes: the future creation of Open Commercial Spaces stands out as a strengthening and dynamic strategy of the sector in the city (by means of pedestrian zones, new associations, collaboration between industrial-commercial tissue and the Town Council).
Others that already exist: application to the Neighbourhood Councils of the dynamics and methodologies of the Forum, fortifying the relationship between Neighbourhood Councils and Sector Councils.
On an informal level some groups have begun to define new strategies of work and interaction.
• The quality of the projects improves with the implication of the beneficiary actors in same and increases precision and efficiency.
• It is possible and reasonable to make the urbanism processes transparent by means of participative processes. The citizenry knows what it wants and how it wants it. They favour the search for collective wellbeing and social equity.
We consider that it has been a pioneering project in the Spanish State and therefore there are no similar references. It is true that in various Spanish municipalities and cities projects have been carried out, as well as processes, plans, programs… based on participative methodologies of enormous interest and with great social and political repercussions. Generally speaking, they have been budgetary initiatives (participative budgets), social intervention (community plans, specific plans in certain areas), environmental (Local Agenda 21), local development, and of course urbanism as well. But in none of these cases has a process with the dimensions, ambition, and complexity presented herein been carried out, not even in a city the size of Parla. Nevertheless, it is obvious that all of them have served to inspire the bases for the project of the Citizen’s Forum that we present herein, debtor to the magnificent pioneering experiences in the State such as: Community Plan of Trinitat Nova, Cordoba, Albacete, and Rubí Participative Budgets, participative model of Calviá, as well as those carried out in other countries: experiences in Porto Alegre (participative budgets), Peru (participative urban action in Villa El Salvador and neighbour participation in the district of Santiago de Surco (Lima)), Colombia (preparation of methodological documents destined to help cities in the planning and development of urbanism projects and lend support to specific projects in some cities. Medellin, Pereira), Italy (Participative Budget Pieve Emanuele) etc. and which have been an inspiration for our process.
Furthermore, excellent professionals were on hand who provided advice on the project drawing from their university experiences, public bodies, citizen entities… with which the flow of influence has been very diverse and very direct.
Communication of the Parla experience has been carried out basically in congresses (the Basque one on Sociology, Bilbao, February 26-28 2004; finalist of the citizenry award of the Observatory for Quality in Public Services April 22 2004) and in several seminars on local development and participation seminars (“Neighbour participation in the construction of the city”. In Conferences: Spanish municipality: challenges and perspectives, Pozuelo de Alarcón, September 30 2005. Socialist Group of the Town Council of Pozuelo de Alarcón and Cities Foundation. November 2005), on community management, collaboration with universities (Complutense of Madrid, Public University of Navarre).
Furthermore, the experience was transferred to the Urb-al project, in the framework of collaboration between the European Union and Latin America: “Accessibility to public transport for persons with reduced mobility”, (2004-2005) with the participation of Trento, Italy, Graz, Austria; Cartagena, Colombia; Valledupar, Colombia; Criciuma, Brazil; Quito, Ecuador, and Parla, Madrid, whose methodology was applied in the different cities.
RELATED POLICY/IES OR LEGISLATION
The current Government Team has as a priority the fomentation of citizen participation and the opening of new channels of relation between politicians and the citizenry. Among its objectives are that the citizens are the true protagonists in municipal management, assuming the commitment of delving into participative democracy, and in the definition of an open-door policy. It is understood that citizenry is no longer merely an object of the policies and becomes the active subject of same. This begins to crystallise beginning at two different moments:
• In the definition of the electoral program, this was accorded with the citizens themselves in a municipal convention. One of the objectives agreed to was to impulse the proximity of municipal management to the citizen by means of administrative decentralisation parting from a new administrative territoriality (item that takes shape in the District Councils created on June 15 2004). As well as empowering the current technological possibilities, opening new forms of access to the information and participation (website, telephone management service, etc.).
• The composition and structuring of the Municipal Government itself, in which the competency of fomentation of Citizen Participation is not delegated, remaining in the hands of the mayor himself, symbol of the importance granted to this matter.