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Democracy Award was handed out to promoters of local democracy

Ministry of Justice
Publication date 14.10.2014 7.22
Press release -

The Democracy Award of the Ministry of Justice was this year given to four actors that have promoted local democracy: VERTAISarviointi of Aspa Foundation, Asukkaiden Lappeenranta, Leppävirran kyläneuvosto and Nopola News. The award ceremony was held today on 14 October, National Democracy Day, in connection with a seminar arranged in Helsinki.

The objective of the Democracy Award, handed out every second year, is to increase the public awareness of the civil society and to find good practices in order to support active citizenship. The Award is 10,000 euros and it is divided between the four winners.

- Well-functioning forms of local democracy play an important role in a constitutional state, and aware citizens are the force that keeps democracy alive, Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson says.

There were 60 nominees for the Award. One of the winners was selected by a public vote and the three other winners by a jury consisting of athlete Nooralotta Neziri, Deputy Mayor of Helsinki Pekka Sauri and media and film worker Suvi West.

The Democracy Award winners are:

VERTAISarviointi of Aspa Foundation
(selected by Pekka Sauri, Deputy Mayor of Helsinki)

VERTAISarviointi (“peer review”) is a quality assessment method for the accommodation services that Aspa Foundation provides for persons with disabilities and persons recovering from psychiatric problems. The focus is on the residents' experiences and expertise in matters concerning their everyday lives. The purpose is to take the residents' experience-based proposals into account when planning the accommodation services.

Justification by the selector:
VERTAISarviointi has been successful in activating people whose abilities and possibilities to participate in the common decision-making are more restricted than usual. It is important from the perspective of democracy that also those who easily fall outside the scope of democratic processes can be engaged in the decision-making.

Asukkaiden Lappeenranta
(selected by athlete Nooralotta Neziri)

The purpose of the activities within the project Asukkaiden Lappeenranta ("Residents' Lappeenranta") is to secure the city residents' possibilities to influence matters related to their immediate surroundings. The city of Lappeenranta has for example hired a contact person for residents and set up seven regional panels that convey the residents' messages to the decision-makers.

Justification by the selector:
The city has a lot of fresh ideas on how to engage the residents in the activities of the municipality. There are diverse possibilities to influence, and the regional panels set up for the different neighbourhoods make the activities sensible. The hired contact person for residents brings the administration closer to the municipal residents.

Leppävirran kyläneuvosto
(received 44 % of the public votes given on the Internet)

Leppävirran kyläneuvosto ("the village council of Leppävirta") functions as a forum for cooperation and discussion between the villages and the municipality. The council brings out matters that the villages consider to be important and, when necessary, makes proposals to the municipality. The council also aims to develop the activities of the village council and organises training and guidance. The meetings of the council are open for everyone.

Nopola News
(selected by media and film worker Suvi West)

Nopola News is a web service developed in the municipality of Kyyjärvi. The official and to some extent also more unofficial communication of the municipality, parish and other authorities are published on the website. The meetings of the local council are also broadcast live on the website. More than ten per cent of the municipal residents actively participate in the creation of the contents of the website.

Justification by the selector:
Nopola News is a user-friendly website that has succeeded in engaging the community members. In addition to the official announcements of the authorities, the website also contains other information concerning the community, such as who has been hired as a new kindergarten teacher, who have got married and where to find apples for voluntary workers. It is also a big plus that anyone can write on the website.

Video interviews of the winners were shown at the award ceremony. The videos can be watched on the YouTube channel of the Ministry of Justice.

This year, the Ministry of Justice coordinated the Democracy Award in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance, the Finnish Slot Machine Association, the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, the Finnish Federation of Settlement Houses and Yle Morning TV. President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö is the patron of the Democracy Award.

Further information:
Senior Officer Maria Wakeham-Hartonen, tel. 02951 50416
Senior Planning Officer Niklas Wilhelmsson, tel. 02951 50348
e-mail: [email protected]

Anna-Maja Henriksson
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