Gleb Tyurin /
Koryazhma is a small industrial city in the south-west of Archangelsk region (about 43 thousand inhabitants) with a big pulp and paper factory.
“Development of the city means that the whole city has to be involved in the development process” that is the conclusion made by participants of a number events which took part in Koryazhma. People attended a series of round tables and seminars hold withinh the framework of Citizens Participation Week in order to discuss how to develop local initiatives and their community.
These events has rather meaningful results. The city has received new concept of its development by mean of involvement of the population and empowering local community. We can say that it the result of few years of our hard work which make it happen. Public territorial self-government was growing in the city step by step involving people in decision making concerning local problems. Nowadays there 8 self-government organs (organ TOS as they are called in Russian, which means territorial public self-government) and dozens of tenant cooperatives.
Now it is evident, that local activists united in active groups (TOSes and tenant cooperatives) can grow into mighty force. Now TOS leaders and activists decide that they can (and should) set up new goals aimed on new more complicated and tasks. And discussions of the future had such a consequence: it was decided that city TOS network should become one of the mechanisms of innovative development of the city. September 2008 has laid the milestone of new ideology in the city development and the mainstream is population involvement and community empowerment. It will be turned into special program.
Certainly public self-government (which means involved and motivated population) is not the main actor in the city development. The main actors are authorities and business. But self-government bodies can find solutions for the tasks often which can’t solve other actors. There spheres which can’t be developed without involvement of the population. For examples in such issues as keeping of domicile, landscape design, leisure time and hobbies, work with children, youngsters, elderly people, of cultural traditions, ecology, prevention of crime, individual and public security in the city, - can population can make significant contribution. "Development of the city" means that the whole city is involved.
This approach is rather new for Russia. And for many administration offices it was quite exiting to learn that civic initiatives can serve a locomotive which will promote innovations in the city. It cause interest. City administration render public self-government active support (including growing financial support). Valery Elezov, the Mayor of Koryazhma says: “We are very interested in the development of local community, and by all means we support peoples initiatives in solving concrete local problems. Mechanisms of civic engagement in Koryazma are working successfully; try to create the most favorable conditions for that”.
Koryazhma experience is quite unusual and it can be a case of interest for many other Russian cities. And the city has real ambition to become a meeting place at least for neighboring municipalities of Archangelsk region where issues of local development and innovations will be discussed.
And it is obvious that innovative city development (which is now planned in Koryazhma) can be much more successfully achieved in cooperation with partners in another cities (including foreign). And that why TOS activists are looking for partnership with local groups in Eastern and Central Europe. We are interested to spread information about Koryzhma experience and plans around Eastern Europe as wide as possible and at the same time to get as much as possible knowledge how citizens of Eastern and Central Europe are developing their cities.