Data

General Issues
Governance & Political Institutions
Specific Topics
Citizenship & Role of Citizens
Location
Netherlands
Scope of Influence
National
Ongoing
No
Targeted Demographics
Youth
People with Disabilities
Racial/Ethnic Groups
Facilitators
Yes
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Face-to-Face
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Public Report
Public Hearings/Meetings
Traditional Media
Staff
Yes
Volunteers
No

CASE

In Action with Citizens! Learning About New Forms of Citizen Participation in the Netherlands

First Submitted By Kevin Um

Most Recent Changes By Kevin Um

General Issues
Governance & Political Institutions
Specific Topics
Citizenship & Role of Citizens
Location
Netherlands
Scope of Influence
National
Ongoing
No
Targeted Demographics
Youth
People with Disabilities
Racial/Ethnic Groups
Facilitators
Yes
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Face-to-Face
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Public Report
Public Hearings/Meetings
Traditional Media
Staff
Yes
Volunteers
No

Note: the following entry needs assistance with content updating and editing. Please help us complete it.

Problems and Purpose

The problem in the Netherlands, as in many European countries, is to bring about a shift in the relationship between government and citizens. The balance concerning the ownership of the common good has te be restored. Most citizens had for a long time been leaning back, awaiting all solutions for public problems from the state and governments and politicians assumed responsabilities which in practice could not be.

History

New policy agenda for the Dutch government (Ministry of the interior) on the challenges of Democracy and Citizenship. A.o. this policy produced an educational project (House for Democracy and Rechtsstaat) but also the challenges of citizens participation are a major issue, mainly on the local level.

Originating Entities and Funding

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Participant Recruitment and Selection

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Methods and Tools Used

The programme consisted of 17 learning communities, in which 12 new experiments were executed and followed. In total 100 (of the 430) Dutch communities took part in the programme, with 180 civil servants. The 17 groups tackeled themes as different as

  • The active role of the Council in citizen's participation
  • Participatory Budgeting
  • Empowering initiatives from the civil society,
  • Communication-professionals and citizens' participation

Each learning community was guided by a leading expert in the field.

Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction

The Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG/ALB) approached all its members, organised a starting conference with those who responded, subdivided them into 17 theme-groups and selected expert-guides to facilitate the meetings of these learning communities. VNG/ALB produced a regular Newsletter, which was sent to all municipalities. The ministry gave guidance in an advisory board.

The theme-groups made their own programmes around experiments or collective excursions. E.g, one of the groups went to Berlin to visit a project on participatory budgeting; another group took part in a conference with politicians discussing the role of councillors; most groups visited projects 'on location'.

Influence, Outcomes and Effects

  • Experimenting and other municipalities got practical results in their search for new methods and approaches.
  • The topic citizens participation was effectively put on the agenda of local government. See #12.
  • At the same time new challenges came forward: the anchorage of the systems-transition within the municipal organisation, the relationship between citizens participation in financial cutbacks, etc.

Analysis and Lessons Learned

The programme was evaluated very positively by those who took part, especially because it managed to bring together the struggling professionals from different local governments on state of the art approaches and methods to engage citizens in the public good.

Specific Effort Made to Include Disadvantaged Groups

Some effort to address disadvantaged groups. One of the themes was specifically about the effective approach of citizens who are often difficult to reach (minorities, youth, disabled, less literate).

Specific Effort Made to Strengthen Democratic Capacities

Especially democratic structures. The project in general presupposed the potential of ample democratic capacities among the public, but focussed on more responsiveness and trust by governments. That is what is needed most now.

Links

In Actie met Burgers

In Actie magazine article

PDF Article

Vereniging van Nederlandse Gemeenten

Note

The original version of this case study first appeared on Vitalizing Democracy in 2010 and was a contestant for the 2011 Reinhard Mohn Prize. It was originally submitted by Jan Schrijver.