…., ‘change of philosophy for starting new projects’ and ‘interesting for long term career’ are just some of the comments from the participants of the training programme “Citizen Participation & Accountability” that took place at The Hague Academy for Local Governance in the last week of September. This training elaborated on the essence of trust and accountability aspects between governments and citizens, bringing together a diverse group of participants working for local governments, non-governmental organisations, as well as international organisations as the UN, GTZ, DFID and USAID. The participants came from the Palestinian Authorities, Syria, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Armenia, Croatia and Nicaragua.

Throughout the six-days programme the participants were introduced to a wide range of concepts and practices in the field of citizen participation and accountability: tools and methods of social and financial accountability, effective communication, roles and phases in citizen participation and the participatory development and implementation of a city vision and urban renewal projects. Apart from presentations of experts, participants applied theory to their own situation, shared knowledge and experience in case studies, and integrated new ideas in their Back Home Action Plan. Additionally, they experienced practices of accountability and citizen participation during field visits to local projects in urban planning, social cohesion, safety and communication.

One of the field visits was to Amsterdam district West. In the morning session the focus was on the role of citizens: what is their interest and added value in public policy making and implementation? After an interesting lunch meeting with alderwoman Hetty Welschen  about her political vision on citizen participation in Amsterdam West, a visit followed to two grass-root projects in the district. The participants walked around in the Robert Scott Neighbourhood, where government is tackling safety and social-economic problems with participatory projects in urban renewal and social cohesion. After this they experienced the importance of facilitating active citizens in their creativity for improving neighbourhoods in the projects from Connect Initiatives. With some technical support and space in a building problems with youngsters, disabled, and elderly could be solved, organised bottom-up by active citizens from within the community. New insights and ideas gathered by the participants during this intensive course will serve as a good inspiration for their current as well as future projects and programmes.