Vitalizing Democracy Through Partizipation -  - ebook

Vitalizing Democracy Through Partizipation ebook



Fewer and fewer people in Germany are casting their votes or taking part in politics. At the same time, Germans want to have their say and are lending their voices to a growing number of debates such as education reform or anti-smoking regulations. Throughout the world, there are several government institutions involving their citizens in processes of political decision-making. This publication introduces seven promising examples of democracy in action-the finalists for the 2011 Reinhard Mohn Prize and their approaches to "Vitalizing Democracy Through Participation." Whether involving the use of modern technologies such as SMS to facilitate participatory budgeting in La Plata (Argentina) or establishing a citizens' assembly for electoral reform in British Columbia (Canada), these projects attest to the power of civic engagement in solving problems-democratically. The projects presented here are therefore a source of inspiration for civic participation in Germany. The Bertelsmann Stiftung awards the Reinhard Mohn Prize to commemorate Reinhard Mohn the citizen, entrepreneur and founder by nurturing his ideas, beliefs and vision. In the spirit of these goals, the Bertelsmann Stiftung seeks out effective strategies worldwide from which we all can learn.

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Bibliographic information published by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek
The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in theDeutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic datais available on the Internet at
© 2011 E-Book-Ausgabe (EPUB)
© 2011 Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung, Gütersloh
Responsible: Frank Frick, Daniela Röß, Christina Tillmann
Translation: Barbara Serfozo, Berlin
Copy editor: Josh Ward, Bonn
Production editor: Christiane Raffel
Cover design: Bertelsmann Stiftung
Fotos: TRIERGON Bielefeld, Andreas Nowak, Patrik Neuberger; Veit Mette, Bielefeld; p. 164: Stefan Kaminski; p. 168: Steffen Kugler; p. 170: Deutscher Bundestag/Lichtblick/Achim Melde
Typesetting and Printing: Hans Kock Buch- und Offsetdruck GmbH, Bielefeld
ISBN : 978-3-86793-386-5

Table of Contents
Title Page
Copyright Page
The Reinhard Mohn Prize 2011 Process
Phase 1—Proposal Submission, Discussion and Evaluation
Phase 2—Selection and Evaluation of Projects to Create a Short List
Phase 3—Selection of Finalists
Phase 4—Choosing the Winner
Adapting to Change Instead of Heading for Crisis—Challenges and Opportunities ...
Challenges for Democracy in Germany
Opportunities for the Further Development of Democracy in Germany
Works Cited
Enhancing Citizen Participation in a Representative Democracy
1. Elections Alone Are No Longer Enough to Legitimize Political Action—Citizens ...
2. Trust in the Political Process and System Has Declined Sharply—But Trust Can ...
3. The Principle of Political Equality Has Not Yet Been Achieved—Socially ...
4. Democracies Are Adaptable—Politics and Administration Must Become Accessible ...
5. The Gulf Between Politics and Citizens Is Large—New, Legitimate ...
Case Studies
Co-Governance in Belo Horizonte
The British Columbia Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform (BCCA)
Geraldton 2029 and Beyond: Developing Civic Deliberation and Collaborative ...
Hampton, USA: Deliberative Governance
La Plata Multi-Channel Participatory Budgeting
Portsmouth, USA: Portsmouth Listens
Recife’s Participatory Budget
Lessons—What We Can Learn from the 2011 Reinhard Mohn Prize Finalists
Common Features: High Levels of Commitment and a Top-down Approach
Themes of the Seven Finalists: Establishing Development Goals, Budget ...
Instruments and Procedures: A Broad and Diversified Range of Opportunities for Participation
Mobilization: Both Broad and Intense Participation
The Projects’ Impact
The Road to Successful Participation: Five Lessons for Participatory Projects ...
Works Cited
“Democracy is not just a system; it must be lived. It relies on the democratic participation of people taking responsibility for shaping their own communities.”
Reinhard Mohn
In recent decades, representative democracy in Germany has proved a stable and successful model of governance. At the same time, every society is subject to constant change, and the circumstances in which we live and work undergo continuous transformation. These dynamics have an effect on our democracy and political decision-making processes. Indeed, the political and social environment of the early years of the Federal Republic of Germany can hardly be compared with today’s circumstances.
One of the major changes observed across the globe in recent years has been a significant growth in the amount of influence citizens wield. In an era of daily opinion polls, their views and attitudes are gaining currency. Populations as a whole, as well as the individuals who make them up, have become more important in contemporary politics, and the interests of specific groups no longer necessarily dominate. We are encouraged by the fact that an ever greater number of citizens are trying to get involved in decision-making and consensus-building processes. This development reflects an increasingly confident population, and it clearly signals people’s desire to play a more active role in our democracy. This is a fundamentally positive development that demands an open and constructive response. Indeed, greater civic engagement, participation and involvement are consistent with a representative democracy. All elements within a society must work together and complement each other in order to expand and strengthen their shared democracy. Engaged citizens can be extremely helpful to the government and public administration bodies in securing a broader and more sustainable foundation for political decision-making.
As traditional forms of participation lose ground, citizens are searching for new ways to get involved. Since many feel that parties and politicians no longer represent their needs, there is a widespread sense of discontent with political parties. However, there is little evidence to back up the frequent claims that disenchantment with politics—or even with democracy itself—is on the rise. On the contrary, people are simply looking for new forms of participation. In fact, in Germany alone, there have been more than 6,000 petitions calling for a referendum in its municipalities and federal states since 1990. Many of these initiatives and the activities accompanying them are born not of a reaction against something but, rather, of a reaction for something, and they are characterized by positive and practical goals. Indeed, people get involved when they believe their actions can have an effect on their immediate environment. They approach issues and problems constructively and with a level head, frequently suggesting creative and unconventional solutions and strategies.
Our founder, Reinhard Mohn, was profoundly influenced and impressed by the matter-offact way in which people in the United States shape and contribute to their communities. During his time as a prisoner of war there, and on many return trips, he observed several examples of this kind of civic engagement—and he always kept an eye out for ways to plant similar seeds in Germany. For Mohn, citizens represented not only the thing that makes up a society, but also its driving and binding force. For these reasons, I am very pleased that the first-ever Reinhard Mohn Prize is devoted to civic participation.
The prize was established to commemorate Reinhard Mohn as a citizen, entrepreneur and founder and to nurture his ideas, attitudes and vision. It is within the spirit of these goals that we have sought out effective strategies across the world in order to learn from the ideas and approaches of its inhabitants.
For this premier edition of the Reinhard Mohn Prize (2011), “Vitalizing Democracy Through Participation,” the Bertelsmann Stiftung searched the globe for government-affiliated programs or institutions that have successfully involved citizens in political decision-making. Through their example, the finalists testify to two things: first, that participation increases the acceptance of policy decisions and the quality of political decision-making; and, second, that it also engenders a greater sense of responsibility and identification among citizens. What’s more, these developments in turn help to significantly reduce the gap between citizens and government.
The first Reinhard Mohn Prize has been awarded to the city of Recife in Brazil for its outstanding efforts in vitalizing democracy. At the heart of the Recife project is a participatory budgeting process granting citizens comprehensive decision-making powers. Every year, more than 100,000 individuals, young and adult, are actively engaged in decisions affecting the future of their schools and city. Now ten years old, the project involves citizens in shaping the Brazilian city’s development through meetings and by using the Internet. Citizens, who bring suggestions and help set priorities, have initiated nearly 5,000 measures and influenced the direction of some € 220 million public expenditure over the past ten years. Compared to many of the participatory budgeting processes in Germany, the Recife model stands out for the ways in which it facilitates civic engagement. By involving citizens of a major city in its budgetary decision-making process, the Recife project powerfully demonstrates how civic leaders can effectively diminish the gap between government and citizens through broad cooperation and participatory measures.
The Reinhard Mohn Prize will be used to identify innovative solutions to contemporary challenges facing societies around the world. The finalists of this year’s competition demonstrate the value of looking beyond our own backyard. Representative democracy can be vitalized, citizen participation in the political process can be strengthened—and Germany can learn from these examples!
Gunter Thielen
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Bertelsmann Stiftung
The Reinhard Mohn Prize 2011 Process
Sarah Brabender, Alexander Koop, Daniela Röß, Christina Tillmann
The Reinhard Mohn Prize 2011 is awarded to a government institution whose projects serve to stimulate democracy, incorporate underrepresented groups and involve citizens in political decision-making through innovative activities and techniques. “Vitalizing democracy through participation” is our guiding principle and one we wanted to remain faithful to in our search for and selection of the Reinhard Mohn Prize 2011 winner. In a deliberate departure from traditional processes (e.g., having expert panels make decisions behind closed doors), we actively involved citizens in scouting out potential prize winners. Indeed, all phases of the process were transparent and took place with full public participation—from the submission of proposals to the discussion, comment-gathering and evaluation phase for nominated projects, to the decision on the final winner.

Phase 1—Proposal Submission, Discussion and Evaluation

In June 2010, the Bertelsmann Stiftung began its search for a winner of the Reinhard Mohn Prize 2011, which includes a prize sum of € 150,000. This search took place worldwide, with the participation of the public. Up until August 22, 2010, interested parties could use an Internet-based platform ( to submit, discuss and evaluate proposals for potentially prizeworthy projects. More than 123 projects from 36 countries were submitted, reviewed and vigorously discussed. Since they were often very detailed and accompanied by background materials, these high-quality project proposals provided a solid foundation of information leading into the next phase. Overall, this was an incredible response, allowing us insight into a huge diversity of exciting and informative projects.

Phase 2—Selection and Evaluation of Projects to Create a Short List

In August 2010, the Bertelsmann Stiftung collaborated with a group of international experts in selecting 20 of the project proposals to be placed on a short list. As a basis for selection, the group used the citizen evaluations submitted via the website and the following seven criteria:
• Problem-solving capacity and impact: How did the project contribute to solving a specific problem? To what extent did the project have an impact on decision-making processes?
• Scope and representativeness: Did the project involve a diverse selection of people that was representative of all intended target groups?
• Democratic capacity: Has the project encouraged democratic conduct among citizens, politicians and other stakeholders?
• Inclusion of disadvantaged groups: To what extent was the project able to involve disadvantaged groups in the process?
• Efficiency and sustainability: Was the project implemented efficiently and sustainably? Could it be repeated?
• Degree of innovation: How innovative was the project?
• Transferability: Is the project’s approach transferable to Germany?

Phase 3—Selection of Finalists

In October 2010, a working group made up of members drawn from the German political, academic and civil-society communities nominated seven finalists. These finalists came from five different countries and had successfully engaged citizens in a variety of subject areas and ways. The finalists were:
• British Columbia, Canada—Citizen’s Assembly on Electoral Reform: The provincial government in British Columbia successfully involved citizens in the processes of formulating and approving a new electoral law.
• Belo Horizonte, Brazil—Participatory budgeting and cooperative governance: Every two years, Belo Horizonte carries out a comprehensive participatory budgeting process. In addition, the city regularly organizes conferences, forums and citizens’ councils on issues such as health, education and the arts.
• Geraldton, Australia—A vision for a sustainable city: The city council in Geraldton used an innovative, deliberative process to develop a sustainability strategy and strategic plan for the region.
• Hampton, United States—Deliberative governance and citizen participation in all areas: The city council in Hampton created a comprehensive participation process that is particularly aimed at engaging young people in political decision-making.
• La Plata, Argentina—Participatory budgeting through SMS: As part of La Plata’s participatory budgeting process, citizens can submit urban-development proposals and vote on them at polling stations or via SMS (text-messaging).
• Portsmouth, United States—Portsmouth Listens: In Portsmouth, citizens convene in so-called “study circles” to develop solutions to controversial and complex issues, which are then published in the local newspaper and communicated to the city council for consideration.
• Recife, Brazil—Town and school development through participatory budgeting: In Recife, citizens introduce urban development proposals, monitor their implementation and define priorities in various policy areas.

Phase 4—Choosing the Winner

In the fall of 2010, a team from the Bertelsmann Stiftung visited each of the seven finalists on location. As part of this in-depth research, the team interviewed representatives of all groups involved in the particular project as well as numerous citizens—including both advocates and critics—in order to develop the most comprehensive picture possible of each project. Working with scholars and a film crew, case studies and documentary film portraits were created for each of the finalists. This information was then provided to a representative selection of 12,000 representatively chosen citizens in Germany. In this way, the citizens were able to develop a balanced view of each of the seven finalists. The citizens were also asked a number of questions, and address various questions such as which projects offered approaches that could help vitalize democracy in Germany and which project they might themselves participate in if implemented in Germany. It was the votes of these citizens—and these citizens alone—that determined the winner of the Reinhard Mohn Prize 2011, who was then honored at a formal ceremony in the Theater Gütersloh.
Adapting to Change Instead of Heading for Crisis—Challenges and Opportunities for Democracy in Germany
Jörg Dräger, Roland Roth
“Democracies are not permanent orders but, rather, are better thought of as experiments that institutionalize a process of ongoing change.”
James Bohman, 2007
First, the good news: Since antiquity, democracy has been considered a stable yet especially adaptable form of political rule. Political equality—the equal chance for all to participate—is its normative center. Civil liberties (freedom of assembly, expression and association) and periodic free elections create a political public that elected governments must answer to. This keeps governments sensitive to new social challenges and the changing demands of its citizens. While democracies can claim to rely on the “wisdom of crowds,” authoritarian governments place trust in repressive instruments of power ultimately guaranteed by military force. For them, it represents the opportunity to ignore the need to promote institutional learning or participatory processes. The consequences of this aloofness became impressively clear in some North African and Middle Eastern countries in early 2011.

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!