Citizen initiatives, ideas that can become a reality

14/12/2020 - 19:03

Participation. By collecting signatures of support, local residents recovered the popular name of a street and reclaimed the neighbourhood’s historical memory.

Just when reurbanisation work was being carried out on the former Avinguda del Príncep d’Astúries separating the districts of Gràcia and Sarrià - Sant Gervasi, in 2018 a local residents’ platform launched a citizen initiative for the avenue to recover the popular name it used to have, Riera de Cassoles, and which it lost in 1939 with the entry of Franco’s troops into the city.

“This was about a demand from local residents going back several years that had been put on hold, despite there having been numerous documents and historical studies on the matter”, explains Francesc Rosell, the promoter of the citizen initiative through the Riera de Cassoles Platform.

“At the same”, he continues, “a group of us who had experienced the 1 October referendum at the Escola Oficial d’Idiomes [Official School of Languages] located in the avenue, decided to resume the demand for permanently changing the name of the street”.

“We went to the Gràcia District’s headquarters for advice and were told to launch a citizen initiative”, he asserts.


Financial and technical support for citizen initiatives

At the time, as established by the Regulations for citizen participation, the City Council provided resources and technical support for the initiative through the Department of Active Democracy Services.

“We supported the platform to see what their needs were and we put a page at their disposal, where they could publicise the initiative and upload materials”, explains Eva Albaladejo, an Active Democracy expert in the Les Corts and Sarrià – Sant Gervasi districts.

“What is more, it helped with the processing of permits for occupying public space when signatures were being collected”, she adds. “They were also provided with tables and marquees when they needed them, in addition to financial support, through a subsidy, of one euro per signature collected and validated once the threshold of necessary signatures had been reached”.


From Príncep d’Astúries to Riera de Cassoles: a successful initiative

During the two-month period set down by the regulations, 5,356 signatures were collected, practically quadrupling the number required for going ahead with the initiative.

“We set up fixed collection points thanks to collaboration from associations and shops in Gràcia and Sarrià – Sant Gervasi”, explains Francesc Rosell, “and we made the most of important dates such as Sant Jordi / St George’s Day, which really helped us reach the people”.

He also highlights the publicity achieved thanks to the digital citizen participation platform, given that it “is a tool that lets you provide an initiative with publicity and visibility”.

Once the signatures had been collected, the platform had the avenue’s change name put to the vote, by getting the motion to be included in the respective agendas of Gràcia and Sarrià – Sant Gervasi Full District Council Meetings. The initiative was approved at both meetings and forwarded to the City’s Street Naming Commission. The avenue’s name was finally changed in March 2019.

Francesc Rosell holds a very positive view of the initiative’s process, which lasted a year and a half, though he acknowledges the need for spending many hours on it. “It’s excellent news that there are participatory mechanisms enabling citizens to go ahead with bringing about changes in the city, although the process can be exhausting at times”, he recognises, while asserting too that “it was worth the effort as we finally succeeded in getting the name changed”.


Fancy starting up and promoting a citizen initiative or finding out more?

Would you like to launch an initiative? We at we tell you how to do it step by step and how you can consult open initiatives, follow them or resume others currently closed.

Citizen initiatives are a way for citizens to promote a municipal action, by collecting signatures. They enable you to: get a point included in the agenda in a Full City or District Council Meeting; carry out a participatory process; request the establishment of a new participatory body; initiate the approval of or amendment to a municipal rule; request the holding of a specific consultation or convening of a neighbourhood council or public hearing.

The basic process involves presenting requests and documents for the initiative, complying with the requirements and collecting signatures over a period of fourth months.