The town council of Tolosa presents the responses to the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly in a public event


The response of the town council of Tolosa is the result of the collaborative work between the different departments and political representatives    

Process to deepen on health and emotional well-being

From October to December of 2022, the 32 citizens of Tolosa selected by a civic lottery have participated in the 40-hour deliberation process to write the recommendations and respond to the question posed by the Tolosa town council: What can the Tolosa town Council do through public-community collaboration to achieve a Tolosa that improves the health and emotional well-being of all?   

After the work carried out over five Saturdays, the 32 citizens presented a total of 14 recommendations to the representatives of the town council of Tolosa including: “Get to know the context of emotional wellbeing of the people in Tolosa”, “We all have a volunteer inside” or “Institutional trust: permanent participatory dynamics”. All the recommendations are available on the initiative’s website (in Basque and Spanish).  

From January 2023 until the first week of March, the Tolosa town council civil servants and political representatives have been working on the responses to the recommendations. The public presentation of the responses took place on 25 March in the plenary hall of the town hall. 

Olatz Peon, the Mayor of Tolosa, opened the session by highlighting the importance of meaningfully involving citizens in the design of public policies and reiterating her commitment to give continuity to the recommendations’ responses.  

Before hearing the town council’s responses, a video was shared showing the experience of the Assembly’s members during the deliberative process. The testimonies highlight the importance of the initiative, the positive experience lived, and the need to carry out more processes of this type. The 9-minute video is available in this link. 

The political representatives of the town council of Tolosa then responded to each of the recommendations: the mayoress Olatz Peon and the councillors Joseba Ormazabal, Andu Martinez de Rituerto and Jose Mari Villanueva. Each of the responses included the activities that will be carried out to implement the recommendation, what budget will be allocated to it and the timeframe for its implementation. The aim is to guarantee the positive outcome of this process, the empowerment of citizens and the impact on public policies.

Batzarkideak eta udal ordezkariak saioan

The public event held in the plenary hall of Tolosa Town Hall was attended by members of the Citizens’ Assembly, representatives of the town council of Tolosa, members of Arantzazulab (the Social Innovation lab promoting the process), experts in the fields addressed in the assembly and professionals working in the related sectors, as well as the groups that have participated in the design and implementation of the process. 

Process designed and developed jointly over 18 months by several stakeholders 

The Tolosa Citizens’ Assembly has been a process that has put deliberative democracy into practice. Also, it is the second initiative of this type promoted by Arantzazulab, together with the one carried out in Gipuzkoa in collaboration with the Provincial council of Gipuzkoa and the Telesforo Monzon laboratory.  

Based on the principles of good practice defined by the OECD, the town council of Tolosa and Arantzazulab have had the support of this organisation to launch the project, which began in January 2022. In addition, several local stakeholders have been involved in this process: Aztiker research centre, Prometea and the members of the Aktiba research group of the Basque Country University (UPV/EHU). 

Citizens’ Assemblies seek to build capabilities on deliberative democracy and involve citizens in a meaningful way in designing public policies on complex challenges. These processes allow us to deepen collaborative governance and democratic innovation and activate new models of relationship between public institutions and citizens. In the Citizens’ Assemblies, a group of people are chosen by civic lottery to ensure the diversity of the community is represented, analyse information, seek consensus and develop recommendations on public policy issues addressed to the institutions. 

Arantzaulab_Deboluzioa_Tolosa_02Arantzazulab’s ultimate goal with the Gipuzkoa and Tolosa Citizens’ Assemblies is to develop knowledge on deliberative democracy, generate local capabilities and create the conditions to institutionalise deliberative processes in Basque institutions; to permanently incorporate this deliberative democracy approaches to involve citizens in the public decisions of Basque institutions. 

Evaluation of the process and results 

Within the collaboration framework and agreement between UPV/EHU and Arantzazulab, the Aktiba research group has carried out an evaluation of the Citizens’ Assembly, offering an external and neutral view, and assessing the process from different perspectives: the design and implementation of the process, the experiences of the assembly members and the impact of the deliberative process. This evaluation has been done in parallel to the evaluation carried out by the Parte Hartuz group of the UPV/EHU in the Gipuzkoa Citizens’ Assembly. The evaluation reports of both assemblies highlight that the processes “have had a positive impact on people, who after participating show greater confidence in democracy and participatory processes”. Likewise, in the Tolosa Citizens’ Assembly the confidence towards political representatives has increased, and in the Gipuzkoa Citizens’ Assembly the confidence towards politics. Both reports will be available on the websites of these initiatives.

Batzarkideak saioan

Being involved in this process, Arantzazulab has also gathered several lessons learned, among which the following stand out:

  • These processes allow us to deepen collaborative governance and democratic innovation and activate new models of relationship between public institutions and citizens.
  • They have enabled spaces for deep learning, suitable for tackling large and complex challenges on specific issues.
  • They have been implemented through effective collaboration between many local actors.
  • They have influenced the internal transformation of public institutions.
  • It has positioned the territory of Gipuzkoa, the town of Tolosa and Arantzazulab in international networks of experts and governments working and researching deliberative democracy.