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Espoo tests new ways to involve international residents in local decision making

Espoo tests new ways to involve international residents in local decision making

The goal is to increase the influence and sense of belonging of foreign nationals living in the city

The City of Espoo is experimenting with new ways to encourage international residents to participate in the development of city services. The participation of the foreign-speaking population, in particular, is often low because they lack information on how they can influence the affairs of their hometown.

Espoo Town Hall Meetings are interactive events in English that deal with changing themes related to the development of the city of Espoo. The events aim to increase the influence and sense of belonging of international residents. The events will increase the city’s understanding of the needs and aspirations of the foreign-speaking population.

Facilitating dialogue with people of different backgrounds

The first Espoo Town Hall Meeting was held in early 2020 with the theme of measures to promote the employment of international residents. The event was attended by about 60 residents who met city experts face to face.

Residents reported employment-related concerns that particularly affect residents with an international background. The feedback was used to improve the city’s employment services and services designed for the foreign-speaking population.

The series of events culminated in December, when international residents were invited to discuss with the city’s experts the city’s strategy, the Espoo story, which will be updated for the next term in 2021–2025.

The Town Hall Meeting events give Espoo's international residents the opportunity to make their voices heard in matters related to the city's public services. Residents' participation has long been promoted in Espoo through various methods and tools.

The coronavirus pandemic, however, put a slight bump in the road, forcing many of the events to be moved online, effectively severely limiting their impact. Yet officials are not dismayed, as explained by Hanna Eskelinen, International Affairs Coordinator for Espoo, who stated that “We are currently planning events for next spring. We hope we can return to face-to-face events as soon as possible. For the time being, the events will be held online. We encourage all interested international residents to participate so that the City of Espoo better understands the wishes and needs of the residents. The importance of dialogue between international residents and city professionals really increased in the autumn of 2020.”

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