Example project Participatory Action Research for the Public Sector
Samen Duurzaam Zeist (Sustainable Zeist)
An example of Participatory Action Research for the Public Sector. In 2016 the city council of Zeist adopted the BMV, a global environment vision document. In this document, very ambitious goals are set, e.g. climate neutrality in 2030, a fully circular economy etc. This vision document was compiled with the cooperation of many inspired citizens.
Realising the Sustainable vision (BMV)
In 2017 the council has started implementing the BMV. Soon the council found out that the only way this was going to work, was if a substantial number of citizens would be involved. In the end, members of the public and civic servants started working together, focusing on two things. First, finding an organisation form that would allow citizens to participate, with their own ideas, in the BMV (this has lead to the Sustainable Zeist initiative). Second, finding and implementing an approach that would allow as many citizens as possible to participate. 7Senses was asked to support the latter.
Getting citizens involved
The traditional approach of planning and executing the BMV goals would be too broad, but by combining all the efforts existing in the community, these goals will be easier to achieve. Therefore Participatory Action Research will be used to get citizens involved. The following steps have been taken:
- An inquiry was taken among the citizens of Zeist, asking the question of what they thought is important in the domain of sustainability and of what they would be willing to participate in. Approximately 1600 citizens answered the inquiry and it was striking to see the high level of the answers. Which lead to the conclusion that sustainability is a priority for the citizens of Zeist. This is a fertile breeding ground to get co-creation going.
- Co-creation gatherings were organised, for which involved citizens were invited. The answers given in the inquiry were used as a template and citizens were invited to further discuss and come up with solutions. Out of this a great number of committees were formed, in which citizens together with civil servants, will work on finding solutions to sustainability problems. Because citizens have been given the opportunity to come up with solutions themselves, ownership envelops, which is a great predictor for success.
The BMV is a vision for the next 10-15 years. The development until now is just a starting point. Meanwhile between 50 and 100 people are active in Sustainable Zeist. This is just the start. On the one hand, enthusiastic people attract new involved and caring people. It has a ripple effect. On the other hand, Sustainable Zeist will keep developing new initiatives (based on Participatory Action Research) to attract new people, with new ideas. In this way Sustainable Zeist will grow out to be an initiative that includes all citizens of Zeist!
Evert Jan van Hasselt of 7Senses is one of the architects of Sustainable Zeist. Together with Alderman Johan Varkevisser (sustainability), he wrote this article in VNG Magazine
For more information on what 7Senses can do in your city council, please contact:
Evert Jan van Hasselt