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Area committees in remote parts of Rovaniemi

Rovaniemi, Finland

The City of Rovaniemi has established area committees in its most remote areas as a way to improve of close-range democracy. The committees are responsible for service provision in their areas with the aim of providing services in rural areas based more on the needs of residents. The motivation for the approach is that, given the population is aging and the distances are long, local knowledge needs to be used to create solutions that suit the preconditions.

Close-range democracy promotes better services based on local needs

The first area committee was established in the City of Rovaniemi in the 1990s. The idea behind the committees is that knowledge of local preconditions and needs are required to develop effective approaches to service provision in rural areas with aging populations spread across long distances. The area committees are responsible for provision of certain public services (comprehensive education, culture, sports, youth services, health care information, day care, home care and local development) and the associated budgets. They also have budgets and responsibility for rural development in their areas. In 2013, the model was scaled-up to cover other rural areas of the geographically vast City of Rovaniemi.

Local influence and innovation

According to an evaluation, the area committees have produced positive results on many development measures and created opportunities for local involvement and influence. Over the years, local innovations have also been born within the committees, for example, home service coupons for elderly people and people with disabilities in Yläkeminjoki.

Key learnings for municipalities

Research (e.g Pihlaja & Sandberg, 2012) shows that, in order to establish area committees, the municipal leadership, authorities, decision-makers and inhabitants need to have an open and positive attitude towards trying out new ways of working. In addition, the approach requires active residents who are prepared to participate in the committees and take responsibility for developing their local area. One challenge has been to clarify the role of the committees in relation to the municipal organisation, particularly with respect to which elements of decision making each party is responsible for.

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Page last updated September 2016.