Article Information

THE PARADOX OF PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN “COMFORTABLE CITY ENVIRONMENT” PROGRAMS: ENGAGEMENT INCREASED, TRUST DECLINED

Elena Tsumarova (tsumarova@gmail.com)

North-West Institute of Management RANEPA, Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation

Citation: Tsumarova E. (2021) Paradoks obshchestvennogo uchastiya v programmakh blagoustroystva: vovlechennost' rastet, doveriye snizhayetsya [The paradox of public participation in “comfortable city environment” programs: engagement increased, trust declined]. Zhurnal sotsiologii i sotsialnoy antropologii [The Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology], 24(4): 221–248 (in Russian). https://doi.org/10.31119/jssa.2021.24.4.9

Abstract. The article presents the results of a study of public involvement practices in the implementation of the federal project “Formation of Comfortable City Environment” in Yekaterinburg, Petrozavodsk, and Saint Petersburg. Launched in 2017, the project includes not only traditional public hearings but also other forms of public opinion taken into account. Over the past four years a large number of citizens took part in this project in various forms. The research question was formulated as follows: why the authorities' efforts to involve citizens do not lead to an increase in trust in local government? The empirical base of the research included 16 semi-structured interviews with activists in the three cities, who had a successful experience of participating in the project. In order to understand the general context of the project’s functioning, the analysis of messages in the profile communities of Vkontakte social network, as well as materials from local online media was done. The research showed that experience of interaction with the authorities does not increase trust; on the contrary, it reinforces mistrust in municipal authorities among the residents of the cities. The main reason for the decline of trust is the consultative format of public participation, which implies limiting people's participation only at the initial stages of the project life cycle: when choosing a territory and discussing improvement options. At the same time, there is practically no opportunity for citizens to participate in direct implementation of the project and to control the work’s progress. Non-transparent decision-making procedure and a lack of communication between the local authorities and initiative groups after the vote were also highlighted.

Keywords: public participation, initiative groups, trust, comfortable city environment, improvement, engagement.

Acknowledgements

This article was written as part of the project “Legitimacy, Urban Planning and Sustainable Development in Russia and Scandinavia” (https://rucarr.mau.se/research/lupsruss/), supported by the Swedish International Foundation for Local Democracy.

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