Riga’s neighborhood residents centre
In order to move towards the priority of the Riga Development Programme 2021 – 2027 – Modern and open-ended city management, which talks about bringing the city administration closer to the citizens from different points of view, a new institution the Neighbourhoods Residents Centre has been established and started its work on May 1 2021. The Mayor of Riga Mārtiņš Staķis pointed out that the Riga City Council must be closer to the people of Riga, and everything should not happen only in the city centre. Inspiring life in the neighbourhoods of the city is a priority of the new Riga City Council’s Coalition for Change. There will be neighbourhood coordinators to whom you can submit practical questions about the placement of the bench; providing lighting in a specific park; organizing neighbourhood festivals and events. It will no longer be necessary to try to receive the approval of several departments and companies. It will be the neighbourhood coordinator who will take care of moving these plans forward. One idea, one driver and one, a real result, not an endless process”.
In the framework of the Neighbourhoods Residents Centre five territorial customer service points have been created in Riga neighbourhoods through May of this year, a conceptually new – neighbourhood coordination institute has been introduced. In order to ensure more effective cooperation with the 58 neighbourhoods, the city is divided into five territories – the Centre (16 neighbourhoods), Agenskalns (18 neighbourhoods), Teika (ten neighbourhoods), Moscow Suburb (eight neighbourhoods) and Bolderaja (six neighbourhoods). Each customer service point serves as a one-stop agency for the provision of services to neighbourhood citizens. In each of these territorial points works one Neighbourhood Coordinator who proactively explores the needs of neighbourhood citizens, who is is responsible for the interests of the residents of his neighbourhood, listens to them and further cooperates with the municipal authorities to solve the problem. The Neighbourhood Coordinator informs the residents about the opportunities for participation in the development of their neighbourhood, provides a permanent link between neighbourhood residents and the municipality, promotes communication between residents, the municipality and various municipal bodies in initiating and implementing initiatives, providing quality feedback. Residents have the possibility to implement their initiatives in direct cooperation with the Neighbourhood Coordinator. One of the current events in the municipality in May was the competition for the implementation of participatory budget project ideas. The Neighbourhood Coordinators spent a lot of time introducing it to their neighbourhood associations and helping to prepare project ideas in accordance with the requirements of the competition regulations. Citizens are given the possibility to implement their initiatives in direct cooperation with the coordinator, without visiting other municipal institutions
The Neighbourhoods Residents Centre brings citizens and municipality closer to each other, strengthening the sense of belonging to a particular neighbourhood, focusing not on the differences in language, culture, political beliefs, etc., but on being aware of themselves as citizens of a particular neighbourhood who have an impact on the processes in their neighbourhood, When citizens see the realization of the their proposed solutions in real life and the possibility of achieving them through active participation, in fact being aware of themselves as decision-makers in the use of municipality funds, strengthen their confidence in the municipality and their interest in further involvement in the development of their neighbourhood.
The neighbourhood coordinators spent the first month developing cooperation mechanisms, as well as addressing non-governmental organizations and neighbourhood associations, meeting both on-line and in person to identify issues relevant to neighbourhoods and provide answers as regards eventual solutions, create impetus to promote the sense of belonging to a particular neighbourhood.
The Coordinator of the Centre territorial point Villiams Vrobļevskis, pointed out that he has got acquainted with three neighbourhood associations from Kundziņsala, Mežaparks and Avoti. “This summer I plan to tour all the neighbourhoods, get to know the associations and active residents, look at the neighbourhood and listen to the topical issues. 2 of the 16 neighbourhoods in my area do not have active neighbourhood associations”
Maria Krasovska, coordinator of the Moscow Suburb territorial point: “We see how the interest of the residents has grown due to the participatory budgeting competition. We will continue to work on the promotion of the project and monitoring the implementation procedures. The projects implemented are development of recreational area, a public outdoor space, construction of a playground and a gym”.
Daiga Mežale, the coordinator of the Teika territorial point is leading the work on the draft law on municipal support for neighbourhood associations, taking into consideration the proposals of neighbourhood associations.
Aija Lilienfelde, the coordinator of Āgenskalns point, added that the cooperation between the center and the residents of the neighbourhood is going smoothly, thanks to social platforms where the institution publishes up-to-date information and where Rigans have the opportunity to express their opinion.
Interest groups have been created for each of the neighbourhood residents’ points on Facebook. It is an effective tool for the operative exchange of information, as well as for the development of discussions on the development and improvement of neighbourhoods.
There will be neighbourhood coordinators to whom you can submit practical questions about the placement of the bench; providing lighting in a specific park; the need to build a road; organizing neighbourhood festivals and events. It will no longer be necessary to try to reconcile this idea between the four departments and the same number of companies. It will be the neighbourhood coordinator who will take care of moving these plans forward. One idea, one driver and one, a real result, not an endless process.
The project was carried out through reorganization in the municipality and therefore the establishment of the Neighbourhoods Residents Centre did not require investment of additional financial resources. The project focuses not on opening new budget programmes but on a more rational use of existing financial resources and on putting emphasis on increasing public engagement.