Students’ Helsinki is penned by students


Students have a strong and loud voice if they only decide to use it. Students have both power and fresh ideas to help build a fairer Helsinki.


Member of the Board of the University of Helsinki Tommi Laitio summed things up insightfully during a recent Think Corner Live discussion when he stated that participation should not come down to the question of what you want for yourself. Instead, the question in Helsinki must centre on how we can work together to build a fairer city for all. This is the question that the second round of participatory budgeting attempts to answer in Helsinki, with the proposal stage now open until 25 October.

Building a fairer city means, first and foremost, that the city is built for all its residents – not only for those who are the most skilled or most vocal. Despite this, you must use your voice when the opportunity arises for it to be heard. Helsinki has reserved 8.8 million euros for developing the city through participatory budgeting. After the development stage, residents of the city will vote on how the funds are used in autumn 2021.

The first round of participatory budgeting brought along several ideas for developing the city. Realised proposals included racks attached to trash bins for bottles and cans. The first test run was also criticised, and the city has tried to respond to this by increasing the funds and time reserved for the projects. In addition to this, particular attention has been paid to the further development of the projects as well as the voting process.

Participatory budgeting also provides an opportunity for students to develop both campus areas and their own neighbourhoods. During the first round, students did not seize the chance to a very large extent, which was in no small part due to the lack of knowledge of the opportunity to influence matters. With voter turnout in all of Helsinki around five percentage points, it is easy to see that there would be an extremely good chance for students to influence matters.

Participatory budgeting is built around influencing matters locally. Students have the ability to come up with bold ideas as well as the people power to influence matters. This is an excellent opportunity for student organisations as well as individual students to influence their immediate environment. Is a new neighbourhood sports site needed in Kumpula or an increase in pleasant park space in Viikki? Should traffic arrangements in Meilahti be improved or safe cycling routes on the City Centre campus ensured? Despite the difficult name, it is ideas and comments about the city that are now in demand, not irrefutable expertise on construction or spending.

Participatory budgeting provides all residents of Helsinki with the opportunity to come up with new ideas and highlight areas for improvement in the city. Students’ voice will not be heard if we keep out mouths shut. With neighbourhood associations and active residents in city districts loudly expressing their wishes, students should simply join the chorus.

Matias Takala

Specialist in educational policy