"I thought we were doing citizen participation for rural health care, but I only really realised here how important this is for the development of democracy in our country in general!" These were the words of one participant in a reflection round at the kick-off training session of our pilot project "Shaping the future together locally". At the seminar, representatives from our five partner municipalities met in Berlin to learn the tools for organising municipal development councils. Over the course of a year, these cities and municipalities, accompanied by the Berlin Govenance Platform Municipal Development Councils for the first time with a focal topic. The aim is to institutionalise this new participation instrument in municipal structures.
The outstanding role of municipalities in strengthening a democratic culture was emphasised by the President of the Governance Platform, Gesine Schwan, at the opening evening of the kick-off training. This is because the very concrete answers to pressing future issues must be found locally, where people can experience democracy at first hand by being involved in local organisational processes. Lahn Böhm, Head of the Cohesion through Participation Directorate of the Federal Agency for Civic Education, which is funding the pilot project, emphasised the opportunity for joint learning in a pilot project and the great importance of local moderation in the participation process. During the four days of the kick-off training, roles and tasks were honed together with the Berlin Governance Platform team, the approach of working in dialogue was deepened and tools for moderation were taught. At the end, the participants went back to the five municipalities strengthened and motivated for the upcoming implementation.
Further information on the approach of the Municipal Development Councils can be found at here.