Participation of Citizens in the Improvement of Public Spaces through the ‘Urban Pockets’ Project

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In the first year, after winning the ‘European Capital of Culture’ title, the ‘Novi Sad 2021’ Foundation focuses on the participation of citizens, i.e. their active participation in the decision making process and in creating the culture of dialogue. The ‘Urban Pockets’ project has initiated mapping and activation of creative and cultural potentials of different parts of the city, as well as survey of citizens. The goal of the survey is to give opportunity to citizens to express their thoughts regarding the reconstructions of their neighbourhoods, while the long-term goal of the project is to improve cultural and social life in local communities of the City of Novi Sad, through improvement of public spaces.

In order to align the activities with the needs of local communities and local context, as well as to ensure sustainability of implemented activities, the priority in all phases of the project is active participation of citizens. In the process of improving small public spaces in four local communities, which is the first step in 2017, we conducted surveys in local communities in order to identify public spaces, as well as the content that is needed, according to the opinion of citizens living there. In addition to surveys, citizens can participate in drafting proposals for improvement of public spaces through focus group discussions, as well as in voting for the best solution.

In the process of selection of public spaces, we also consulted representatives of the Council of Local Communities, using questionnaires and interviews in June 2017. The survey was conducted during 15 days in July of 2017 in 7 local communities – Detelinara, Južni Telep, Kovilj, Sremska Kamenica, Podbara, Banatić – Omladinski Pokret, and Satelit at selected locations with the help of IDEA supermarket chain. In this sense, a sufficient sample has been obtained, which is necessary to get the estimates. It is not a research method based on probability, and it is used when it is necessary to obtain the highest number of responses. In addition to the sample, i.e. survey of the citizens who were at the above mentioned locations, citizens were informed about the time of the surveys via social networks.

In four local communities we surveyed 895 citizens, of which 47.5% were men and 52.5% were women. The highest percent of the surveyed citizens has heard for the ‘Novi Sad 2021 – European Capital of Culture’ project – 85.2%, of which 15.8% were not sure what it exactly entails. The total of 14.8% citizens has not heard about the project. Expectations of citizens are mostly related to improvement of the city, as well as to increasing number of cultural manifestations and affirmation of cultural and artistic content. The citizens who are living far from the city centre spend most of their free time in the neighbourhood they live – this is predominantly true for Kovilj and Sremska Kamenica. These data show that there is a need to decentralise cultural content in order to make it more available in different parts of the city, and especially in suburban areas – which is one of the main legacies of the ‘Novi Sad 2021’ Foundation.

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