Power to the people: Helsinki divides up more than €4 million on citizen projects

Local residents got to suggest projects for their neighbourhoods, and nearly 1300 suggestions were received.

File picture, exterior of Helsinki City Hall, August 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

The people of Finland’s capital have spoken: they want more trees, more benches and more trash cans.

And thanks to a new initiative, where citizens were able to suggest projects for which the city earmarked €4.4 million of budget funds, those wishes can now come true.

It’s part of a new initiative called participatory budgeting, where the city council gives residents aged 12 and over the opportunity to propose and decide where the money should be spent in their communities.

When the project was launched last year, the city received almost 1300 proposals, and about 800 of them were considered by experts. A final 296 plans were put to a pubic vote which ended on 31st October.

Projects were divided up by different regions, and by the city overall.

The top votes went to:

  • South Helsinki: Green city proposal €57,000 / 2052 votes
  • East Helsinki: Cleanliness project / €113,000 / 1755 votes
  • South east Helsinki: Aino Ackté Villa renovation project / €100,000 / 2727 votes
  • Central Helsinki: Artificial pitch next to Arabia elementary / €435,000 / 2870 votes
  • North east Helsinki: Exercise & wellbeing services for the elderly / €50,000 / 1182 votes
  • Western Helsinki: Urban campfire sites / €120,000 / 1272 votes
  • North Helsinki: More summer jobs project / €83,000 / 833 votes
  • Whole city: More trees for Helsinki / €35,000 / 9234 votes



File picture showing detail on exterior of Helsinki City Hall / Credit: News Now Finland

More than 45,000 votes were cast to choose the final projects, with 10,000 people voting on the final day of the competition.

“In some regions, it was really tight voting process. We are of course happy to see this has activated the citizens for discussion with the city and talking more with each other too” says Kirsi Verkka, Development Manager at the City of Helsinki.

“People were mostly interested in having a tidy and functional environment. One winning project for example hoped for more trees to Helsinki. It seems that most of the plans were somehow connected with the environment” she tells News Now Finland.

New forms of participatory government 

This was the first time that Helsinki had launched a participatory budgeting project, which aims to pave the way for a more open and clear dialogue between the citizens and city government.

“In general I hope this has raised awareness among the people to participate in talks about what happens in the city. The essence of the whole project was that we would have an open discussion with citizens” says Kirsi Verkka.

Mayor of Helsinki Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) said the city was one of the pioneers of this form of budget.

“We want residents to have a real and direct influence on the city. Participatory budgeting is a historic step towards a more inclusive and open Helsinki, and a more functional city. We are among the pioneers in the world” he said in a statement.

File picture of Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori in his office at City Hall, 27th August 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

So what happens next?

The results of the votes, and the projects, will be confirmed by the end of this year, with preparations for implementing the work set to begin early next year.

“Quite soon we wish to have a platform for the projects so that people can follow the timeline of the projects, which will probably happen in the beginning of next year” says Kirsi Verkka.

“For now we’re about to start discussions with neighbourhood leaders on how we should fulfill the process and before that there’s a step where the mayor makes a final decision” she adds.