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Citizen participation in urban conservation through the cases of Porvoo’s Old Town and Helsinki’s Puu-Käpylä

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Title: Citizen participation in urban conservation through the cases of Porvoo’s Old Town and Helsinki’s Puu-Käpylä
Author(s): Kuivalainen, Hanna
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science
Degree program: Master 's Programme in Urban Studies and Planning
Specialisation: USP Peoples
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2023
This thesis examines the themes of citizen participation and community co-production in the context of urban conservation. If we want to have more effective participatory processes, it is needed to identify how laymen can best supplement professional knowledge. The main research question “what can citizens offer to the process and decision-making related to urban conservation?” is approached through the qualitative research of two Finnish case studies: the Old Town of Porvoo and Helsinki’s Puu-Käpylä. For this purpose, a content analysis of selected newspaper articles was conducted. The results tell us that engaging with the media through writing opinion pieces is very popular, and the media plays overall a very important role in covering the whole conservation process. Strong and transparent democratic institutions remain vital for the fair participation of citizens, as the lobbying of decision-makers and filing official complaints are important ways for citizens to affect the process. Sometimes the conditions are favorable for an Urban Social Movement to form, which can have a strong impact. Overall, to ensure a fair and representative process, a variety of different ways and forums for citizens to participate needs to be offered. It was also noted that citizens can bring knowledge and perspectives to the conservation process that might not necessarily come to light in a purely professional assessment. It seems that contrary to popular belief, aesthetic values are important factors for laymen when evaluating their living environment, as are also historical and cultural significance. Citizens also hold valuable information on the user experience of a neighbourhood (related to e.g., the community feeling or “special character”) that cannot be assessed by an outsider alone. It was also found out that it is usually the same groups of people that take part in the public discussion around a conservation process: the local intellectual elite, civil organizations, and homeowners (as opposed to tenants or other users of the neighborhood). The voices of certain groups are usually left out, which poses a challenge to the representativeness of the discussion and thus to the democratic legitimacy of the whole decision-making process.
Keyword(s): Citizen participation; community co-production; urban conservation; Porvoo Helsinki; Puu-Käpylä

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