Urban communities as local government subjects: a sociological analysis
Citizens as finite “consumers” of the urban environment have significant potential for effective control of its quality. For this reason, the development and strengthening of urban communities is a reasonable alternative to the growth of the state municipal apparatus and a real opportunity for citizens to exercise their right to local self-government. However, it is urban communities that often show the least activity in addressing issues related to the quality of the urban environment, which leads to a distortion of the entire city development strategy. The most effective mechanism for activating local communities, their integration into the life of the city is the involvement of citizens in the practice of "creating places" (improvement of the urban environment), which allows citizens to realize common goals and objectives, formulate mutually beneficial solutions, reduces the likelihood of conflicts and disagreements. The results of the study (a telephone survey conducted in Minsk (Republic of Belarus) showed that about a third of the residents of post-Soviet cities are still outside the zone of activity, in fact, they are excluded from the number of subjects participating in the creation of the urban environment. The most significant motives that motivate citizens to participate in public life are efficiency motives (the opportunity to see concrete results of their activity) and demand motives (feeling the significance of their own actions, their necessity for the common good). At the same time, among the entire set of factors influencing the participation of city dwellers in the improvement (features of communication with neighbors; type of housing development and form of service organization; socio-demographic characteristics of city dwellers), the most significant influence is exerted by communicative ones. Overcoming communication barriers between neighbors, improving their interaction can significantly increase the level of activity of citizens. Summarizing the analysis of the factors influencing the readiness of the urban population for local self-government, we can distinguish three different groups of citizens: patternists (full trust in the state), supporters of the market approach (willingness to legally formalized participation in local self-government) and community supporters (equal distrust of both the market and the state, willingness to rely on one's own strengths and social ties in everything).