This time last year I was facing the final push before the launch of the Helsinki Climate Watch. I was training the city employees to use the platform, answered questions, and tried to hold all the strings in my hands. I could not have guessed that the following autumn I would have resigned from my job in the City of Helsinki, founded Kausal and scaled Kausal Watch as an international service for all interested cities.
It has been very interesting to get to work with the city of Lahti and guide the first new city to start using the platform. Lahti launched its own Kausal Watch service on October 19, 2020 under the name Lahti Environmental Watch (Lahden ympäristövahti), and it contains 100 actions. The actions are part of the SECAP (Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan) program and the Environmental City Lahti action program, and include actions under the responsibility of the city organisation in 12 different themes from sustainable land use to biodiversity.
“The city of Lahti has a comprehensive and ambitious program to curb emissions, but a clear tool was needed to coordinate and monitor about a hundred actions. Recording the actions on the platform was already a great exercise, during which many new indicators were devised, which will be updated in the near future for environmental monitoring”, says environmental coordinator Aino Kulonen.
Contact person network makes objectives happen in practice
The city has set up a network of contact persons for Lahti Environmental Watch. Network members keep the information on the actions up-to-date and available to everyone. We organised two training sessions for the contact persons, where they got acquainted with the activities of the Environmental Watch and also had an opportunity to express their wishes and development suggestions. It was fun to see how users quickly invented new potential applications for the platform during training, for example for urban planning or traffic actions.
“The Environmental Watch has already helped to identify actions whose responsibilities were unclear. In the future the division of tasks will certainly be improved and the actions will be implemented more quickly”, Kulonen comments.
I have learned a lot during the time when we produced Kausal Watch for Lahti. Kausal Watch is not only a reporting system but also an opportunity to lead climate and environmental work more efficiently. While the focus of the platform deployment phase is on technical issues, layout, and accessibility, users will decide how much benefit the new service will have.
Users include the contact persons for the actions and all visitors to the site — hopefully as many interested city residents as possible. When introducing Kausal Watch, it is important to think about how the contact persons will be supported in the implementation of the actions and encouraged to be open about their progress. I believe that the service is most useful when it creates dialogue between citizens, businesses, officials and decision-makers — it is good to have a plan in place how to support this.
“In Lahti, the Environmental Watch will certainly be used as a communication tool for decision-makers and stakeholders in the future, and we see a lot of potential in the visualisations of the platform”, Kulonen continues.
Opportunities for learning when working with the European Green Capital
I am particularly pleased that it was City of Lahti that took Kausal Watch in use. Lahti is known for their environmental work since long, so they are familiar with practical challenges in green strategy. They are a demanding customer for us and they know what they want. Also, Lahti will be in the spotlight when next year they take on the title of the European Green Capital. We want to help the city succeed in this task.
I hope that Kausal Watch gives its users the feeling of accomplishment when the content stays in order, information flows smoothly and any problems are noticed and fixed in a timely manner. At Kausal, we have been thinking a lot about how cities can customise the site, yet are guided to use the key features according to best practices. We believe this will foster better collaboration and spread new ideas when more cities share a similar base of experience and see each others’ progress on Kausal Watch platform.
It has been a pleasure to note that the division of content into actions and indicators has been perceived as clear and workable. Our efforts to find up-to-date sources of information for continuous monitoring of indicators have also been praised by both cities and citizens. The idea of open information sharing, which is important to us, has been surprisingly well received in cities. Many workers have clearly thought that there is no time to be shy about climate issues when emissions need to be reduced quickly.
Kausal Watch’s future development targets are to improve opportunities for participation and cooperation. We do not just want to provide content management platform, but an active network where cities and other actors share information about best practices — and failures — encouraging each other to take more effective climate action. We want to keep the door open and the threshold low for new climate-active cities.
How about your city, will it be the next one to join?