This practice-orientated case study explores a ‘visioning’ community engagement initiative at a Swedish local government in which the citizen participation activities have been about finding aspirations, rather than looking at operational problems and solutions. The municipality has little of its own business or industry base, and acts as ‘dormitory’ for citizens who commute on an excellent transport hub to be employed, educated or entertained elsewhere. Key people in the municipality’s political and managerial circles felt that consequently many people, and public officials, did not have a clear idea of what is important for the municipality; the Kommun had lost its identity - or at least gained the wrong one. The ‘disconnect’ of citizens with their local community and with their municipality was tackled through a program of focus groups and open public meetings that were designed to construct a vision and seek a shared identity. Another important driver for the engagement was a desire to wean citizens off the idea that the municipality has the necessary resources to find the bulk of citizens’ problems and deploy solutions. The study interrogates how the engagement initiative impacts on the notions of good decisions, sustainable government and stronger communities. The findings suggest that very central things can be transacted through community engagement, and the case illustrates how these initiatives can become a crucible in which key reference points are established to drive service delivery and infrastructure decisions.
|Keywords:||Visioning, Sweden, Local Government, Community Engagement, Identity, Service and Infrastructure Decisions|
Senior Lecturer, School of Accounting & CTSR, Victoria University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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