City: Saint Petersburg
Beautiful Petersburg (BP) is a movement of active citizens for the improvement of the urban environment quality. We instruct citizens using effective methods of making their cities better, providing them with a simple web tool and organizing regular educational and research events.
The project aims to make the city more comfortable and inviting for the people. We are convinced that it is necessary to sustain and increase the demand for the change to achieve this. It is quite obvious that everyone wants to live in a good-looking city, so we are trying to inspire people that they are able to make it beautiful with their own efforts. We offer the civil society a way to take control of their urban environment.
The local context
Saint Petersburg is one of the most beautiful cities in Russia. Its original European architecture, which dates back to 18-19th centuries, remained undamaged, however, it is combined with plenty of problems related to its urban spaces and undeveloped pedestrian infrastructure. Most of the citizens realize the necessity for change and are ready to take part in some activities that would improve their city, if a convenient opportunity was offered.
There are other projects offering tools for submitting claims for different kinds of breaches or malfunctions, for instance, «Дом. Двор. Дороги» (“House. Out-of-doors. Roads”) and «РосЯма» (RosYama, an abbreviation of “Russian Pit”), but these systems are not completely automatic: they just offer a template of the claim, and a user has to fill in the papers and send it him or herself. Additionally, the range of types of breaches considered is more narrow than the one on BP. There is also a well-known automatic service «РосЖКК» (RosZKH, an abbreviation of “Russian housing services and utilities”), however, it specializes in housing problems, not really in urban infrastructure.
We still haven't managed to effectively cooperate with local authorities, because they don't seem to be interested in civil projects that are making authorities work as they should. The processing of the claims is fulfilled according to the federal statute — officials are obliged to respond to citizens’ claims.
The starting point
The founder of the movement, Krasimir Vranski, had to start this activity because of a numerous environmental problems near his own house. There were dirty pavements, cars illegally parked and lawns damaged, but the authorities did nothing to fix it. So he decided to try a modern method to affect the officials — to submit claims to organizations responsible for these breaches online. After a while he started to get responses, and the breaches were repaired. Then, Krasimir started a social network where he told the community about his achievements. His friends and acquaintances were inspired with the success and trod in his steps. Thus, the project team was formed.
The main challenge that the movement had faced the challenge of convincing people that this approach really works and explaining the citizens that it is not useless to ask the authorities to fix specific problems in the city. Thanks to the simplicity and clarity of the movement ideas it managed to attract a lot of people of different political views and lifestyles.
The BP coordinators regularly organize various events, such as masterclasses and so-called «photo walks», carry out field research and develop the website krasimir.org. These things take a lot of time, however, all the participants are volunteers. So, nowadays the main problem is in securing sources of funding to give the BP team an opportunity to devote more time to the project and hold more events.
How does it work?
There are three main kinds of the BP activity: the improvement of the automatic system for submittal of posts for breaches, the organization of masterclasses and seminars and conducting research on the environmental situation. Initially, all the claims were sent manually via the authorities' websites, and was very slow and cumbersome. This made one of the volunteers create the system giving an opportunity to send claims in a fast and simple way. The increase in the number of followers led the coordinators to the launch of several researches, which further continued in constructive conversations on various topics relevant to the participants. Every event offers a unique content, so the BP events always attract numerous guests, who are excited to participate in new kinds of activities.
Governance and Participation
Ordinary citizens of Saint Petersburg make up the majority of the community. There are also several civil servants, mainly representatives of municipal offices, among them. BP gets informational support from the media and loyal environmental, city protection and other civil movements. In general, public officials do not support the movement, however, there were several events held by local authorities together with BP. It's sometimes a challenge to attract more followers, as not all the people believe that the movement can change anything to the better, even in spite of the numerous achievements of the community. However, the level of the public confidence in the movement is pretty high because of the openness of its activity and due to the clarity of the claim submittal mechanism. What’s more, everyone is welcome to take part in it.
Contribution to the Community
The project gives its followers a sense of social responsibility. The people become more active and more concerned about their rights and responsibilities in general. As a result, passive spectators turn into active participants who are ready to get involved in the movement’s initiatives.
The BP masterclasses are usually held in the places provided by loyal partners, which are always happy to support the movement. Also BP has tried crowdfunding to print and disseminate promotional materials and provide for some necessary logistical materials. Thus, we discovered that the citizens are ready to support and subscribe to the movement.
As we mentioned above, there are two main challenges the movement often faces. First of them is the lack of funding: now the project exists thanks to the activists' enthusiasm and the crowdfunding, but it’s not enough. Convincing people that the project does really work is the other challenge. However, the movement activity has already proved to be quite effective and everyone can see the real results, so the community doesn’t lack new followers.
Proposals for Change
The citizens are given the opportunity to influence different processes in the city. Besides individual claims, the citizens can unite to solve problems, which are important for the urban community and make the authorities consider these problems, both showing the public demand for the issue and putting pressure upon bureaucracy. If the authorities are interested in the urban environment improvement, the majority of improvements can happen much more rapidly.
The movement is going to become an effective link between the society and the authorities, conducting research of urban spaces, studying the requests of the inhabitants, collaborating with qualified specialists, and informing the authorities about problems of the urban environment. We have nothing to regret about, the project is successfully developing and growing and we are facing towards a bright future.
Links & Contact details
красивыйпетербург.рф/about https://www.krasimir.org/about https://www.vk.com/peterburg_krasiv https://www.facebook.com/SpbKrasiv https://www.twitter.com/peterburgkrasiv https://www.spbkrasiv.livejournal.com/ peterburg.krasiv à gmail.com https://www.vk.com/steve.kuddins https://www.facebook.com/steve.kuddins
Other cities in the network:
Velikij Novgorod: http://vk.com/novgorod_krasiv Vologda: http://vk.com/vologda_krasiv Voronezh: http://vk.com/voronezh_krasiv Novosibirsk: http://vk.com/novosibirsk_krasiv Lipetsk: http://vk.com/lipetsk_krasiv Petrozavodzk: http://vk.com/petrozavodsk_krasiv Krasnodar: http://vk.com/krasiv_krasnodar Volgograd: http://vk.com/volgograd_krasiv Balashiha: http://vk.com/krasbalaha Vyborg: http://vk.com/vyborg_krasiv
A powerpoint presentation about Beautiful Petersburg BP_2013_06_eng.pps