The Tolosa Citizens’ Assembly is underway. After months of work, Tolosa Town Council launched this innovative deliberative process on the 16th of September, promoted by Arantzazulab. A group of 32 Tolosa residents will be chosen by civic lottery in order to deliberate on the following question: What can Tolosa Town Council do through public-community collaboration to achieve a Tolosa that improves the health and emotional wellbeing of everyone?
The chosen theme reflects a pressing collective social challenge that Tolosa is facing as a municipality. Furthermore, it has been framed by a wide consensus between all the political representatives in the Tolosa Town Council, this is one of the singularities of this “pioneering” process. In the press conference addressed to the public, Naiara Goia, Arantzazulab’s Managing Director emphasised that “the Tolosa process allows us to go deeper into collaborative governance, promoting new models of relationship between public institutions and citizens. Building a space for shared deliberation with citizens not only gives them a leading role in certain public decisions that will condition our future, but also contributes to increasing their confidence in public institutions”. Along the same lines, Goia explained that “together with the Tolosa process, we have set up a new Citizens’ Assembly promoted by the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa to create the conditions for the development of knowledge, the construction of local capabilities and the institutionalisation of this deliberative process in our institutions”.
Innovative and complex
The Town Council of Tolosa and Arantzazulab, with the collaboration of the OECD, have been working for several months on the design of this process to set up the Citizens’ Assembly. At the end of 2021, both institutions signed a collaboration agreement and since then, different capability building and working sessions have been held prior to sending out the invitations to citizens to participate in the assembly. The process, besides being innovative, it is also complex, as it must be carried out following a series of specifc guidelines captured in the OCDE good practice principles (civic lottery, constitution of different committees, selection of experts to introduce the theme to the Citizens’ Assembly, communication, etc.). For instance, one of these learning sessions is the one held in the Topic space (Tolosa) last June. Led by the experts Claudia Chwalisz and Ieva Česnulaitytė, the event analysed the possibilities of institutionalising deliberative processes and different inspiring models existing in the world were presented.
The Mayor of Tolosa Olatz Peon explained that the aim of the Citizens’ Assembly is “to involve citizens in the deliberation on an important public issue and challenge such as the emotional health and well-being. This City Council is committed to following up and responding to the recommendations made by the people of Tolosa”.