Discussing New Modes of Neighborhood Governance: Evidence from Lithuania on Mayors Support to Local Community Involvement to Decision-Making Processes

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 6D P (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Jurga BUCAITE-VILKE, Vytautas Magnus University, Department of Sociology, Lithuania
In this presentation we discuss mayors’ notions on the local citizens’ inclusiveness in local democratic decision-making processes. The idea of more transparent and accountable local government is often related to broader understanding of participatory democracy (Dahl, 1994; Heinelt, 2014). The argument also implies the discussion on how local government support and maintain neighbourhood participation which gives the power to act for public interests and increase the quality of life on neighbourhood level. On the other hand municipalities’ power under the control of financial recourses, services and community assets generates the tension among local citizens’ voice and complexity of mayors’ perceptions on civic engagement and communal solidarity.  Consequently this pressure causes the mismanagement of public services, growing fragmentation of socially excluded local communities and the threat of politicization of local issues. We are focusing on changes in the nature of relationship between local municipalities and local communities in terms of establishing inter-communal networks, encouragement of citizens’ participation and greater responsiveness to local decision-making. Furthermore the discussion includes the new forms of interaction among local authorities and local citizens which open the new innovative spaces for communication, debates and interests negotiation.  We are using empirical evidence from research on mayors in Lithuania which is a part of a broader “Political Leaders in European Cities (second round) 2014-2015” survey. The main empirical questions are how mayors perceive the opportunities to foster local community engagement, what are the main empowered channels to foster participatory action for local citizens, what communication forms are used by mayors to enable effective interaction with social stakeholders of municipalities. It also opens the space for a broader discussion on innovative tools fostering the mutual understanding of public interest among the broad variety of local actors.