Citizens of Ankara: Re-Assemble!
All project objectives were achieved in less than a year including:
- the establishment of the Assembly with large supporting stakeholder groups (including 500 stakeholder universities, NGO’s, public institutions etc.)
- the enactment of policies defined by the Assembly in the municipal Council (unanimous approval of several very important policies related to climate change, transportation, bicycle use etc.)
- a dramatic increase in community awareness and solidarity mechanisms.
Working groups in the Citizens’ Assembly of Ankara organized mutual aid and call for solidarity campaigns for the poor to raise community awareness in the region. These efforts have coincided with the COVID-19 Pandemic and around 100,000 people were provided with food and health material support during the crisis, which was called a tremendous relief. The Assembly also disseminated community awareness campaigns throughout the crisis to foster neighborhood level solidarity and support among citizens of Ankara.
Context and challenges
The Citizens’ Assembly of Ankara, is a non-profit, non-governmental, autonomous community organization established according to the Turkish Law of Municipalities. It is a participatory organization that supports the elected metropolitan municipal Council and mayor:
- by consolidating community participation efforts and citizen initiatives at the street, neighborhood, district and metropolitan levels
- to define local policies and raise community awareness related to sustainable development, liveability and good governance.
The scale and the historical experience of the city of Ankara, the capital city of Turkey, makes it extremely difficult for the establishment of a Citizens’ Assembly to realize participatory local government and community awareness. Nearly six million inhabitants live in a vast metropolitan region, in Central Anatolia, divided into twenty-five district municipalities with thousands of institutionalized stakeholders. The population was extremely polarized in political terms because of the twenty-five-year reign of the previous mayor.
At the beginning of 2019, a new mayor was elected and one of his major promises was to provide channels of participatory governance to the people of Ankara. Establishing a Citizens’ Assembly was chosen as the fundamental instrument of this transformation. For this purpose, a project was launched under the name Citizens of Ankara: Re-assemble!
There were three objectives:
- Persuade and gain the trust of a significant sample of stakeholders in Ankara to become a member of the Assembly to re-establish the Citizens’ Assembly of Ankara.
- Define local policies and strategies for structural problems of Ankara Region with these newly recruited members and pursue enactment of these proposals in the metropolitan municipal Council
- Strengthen community awareness and create concrete solidarity examples among citizens, especially in emergencies.
The general approach was to devise an innovative facilitation methodology throughout all phases of the establishment of the Citizens’ Assembly to reach project objectives in a short time. The Project involved three key stages:
- Defining the framework for the organization and establishment of the Citizens’ Assembly.
- Developing the proposals for the Metropolitan Municipal Council.
- Developing solidarity mechanisms and solutions for community awareness.
Three types of facilitated processes were used:
- General forums in which all the representatives of the stakeholders participated and discussed the establishment process of the Assembly.
- Working group meetings in which different themes related to proposals to the Council were elaborated upon.
- Focus groups in which needs assessment and tools for improving solidarity among citizens and the community was tackled.
Working group meeting
Focus group meeting