Survey Design Workshop and Online Public Engagement Process for Helsinki’s National Urban Park Project

The national urban park is a concept that aims to bring up and preserve the most remarkable cultural and ecological values of a city. We helped the City of Helsinki organize their online public engagement process for exploring what the general public thinks about having one in Helsinki.

In addition, we helped Helsinki’s planners collaborate with the members of pressure groups who had been actively campaigning for the establishment of a national urban park in Helsinki. As often in discussions around urban green areas, also the debate around having a national urban park in Helsinki had been characterized by a tension between urban growth pressures and the conservation of adequate recreational areas.

In the consulting project, we first facilitated a workshop for the city’s planners and the park activists to co-create the structure and questions of a survey that would be shared to the general public. Once everyone was satisfied with the contents, we finalized the survey and delivered it to the city for them to share it with the public.

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“There is certain controversy attached to the national urban park project, so it was good that there was a third party involved in the process. Also, the workshop that gathered together the stakeholders and participants of the project was very useful – we were able to compile questions for the questionnaire that everyone agreed was good, and this way the credibility of this project was perceived to be higher.”
— Juha-Pekka Turunen, The City of Helsinki

Ultimately, more than 1000 respondents shared their insights on what the national urban park of Helsinki could be like. We went through the responses and summarized the findings into a report. In the report, people’s place-based responses were presented as heatmaps that highlighted where answers clustered. Each map question category was also accompanied by reoccurring or otherwise interesting comments.

The survey findings showed that Helsinkiers love the sea and urban forests, delivering important information about the core contents of the possible park. Moreover, people’s ideas about the borders of the national urban park proved to be a high-quality data set that has been useful in later stages of the planning process.

 
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The concept of national urban park was unclear for many citizens, but thanks to the questionnaire, we could open it up for the participants. The questionnaire was implemented in the beginning of the process, so it was possible to form an image of the possible borders with it. The borders were projected on the map quite well, and it has also had the biggest impact on the project going further.
— Juha-Pekka Turunen, Participation Coordinator, the City of Helsinki