Citizen Action Labs (CAL) are pivotal in bringing citizens together on energy-related issues. In the DIALOGUES project, the Izmir CAL stood out among the nine CALs, hosting a focused workshop on energy citizenship and transition. The event emphasised diversity by bringing together citizens, NGO representatives, and mukhtars. This article delves into a significant outcome – the dynamic involvement of mukhtars in elevating energy awareness among citizens and creating a direct line between citizens and higher authorities regarding “energy citizenship.”
The Izmir CAL, conducted on October 26, 2022, was executed through collaboration between DIALOGUES partner Izmir University of Economics and implementation partners Izmir Metropolitan Municipality and Sustainable Urban Development Network. This citizen-centric initiative delved into participants’ perspectives on “energy” in their daily lives, fostering citizen engagement in the energy transition. The workshop was designed and conducted in a participatory approach involving citizens, non-governmental organisation representatives, and local authorities (mukhtars).
Türkiye has a citizen participation system rooted in the Ottoman tradition. At the neighbourhood level, each urban neighbourhood has a public office. These offices are led by resident officers, known as mukhtars, elected by the neighbourhood residents. Mukhtars play a crucial role in helping central government and local authorities by recording information about residents, addressing urban and social service needs, and informally handling family issues. Essentially, they serve as a bridge between the community and the government, ensuring local concerns are heard and attended to.
A standout result of the Izmir CAL was the active involvement of mukhtars in connecting the local populace with higher authorities. As the closest administrative units to citizens, mukhtars directly communicated with and mobilised citizens for behavioural changes, including adopting energy-saving habits. Their enthusiasm extended to conveying local needs and expectations to higher authorities, recognised by Izmir CAL participants as a crucial link between citizens’ energy awareness and enthusiasm and the decisive actions of authoritative bodies.
The participation of mukhtars as local policymakers in the Izmir CAL proved essential due to their ability to interact directly with citizens in their neighbourhoods. Several mukhtars expressed readiness to initiate energy-saving projects and sustainability workshops for primary school students through experts in their respective neighbourhoods. This involvement is an excellent opportunity for citizens to elevate their energy awareness and communicate expectations to higher authorities through mukhtars. Consequently, discussions in the Izmir CAL emphasised the significance of integrating local authorities as participants in future CALs.
Author: Mehmet Efe Biresselioglu, Muhittin Hakan Demir, Zehra Funda Savas (IUE – Izmir University of Economics)