Municipal Development Councils consist of politics (including administration), organized civil society, and business. They advise on a topic relevant to the future of the municipality and suggest actions for local decision-making bodies. They are based on the principle that inclusive, sustainable development of cities and communities works best when all relevant stakeholder groups are involved.
The urgent challenges of our time, such as the the socio-ecological transformation, the pandemic, or the controverses about migration and refugee movements need innovative, inclusive strategies for sustainable global development. How can we shape democratic processes so that these transformations succeed?
Municipalities have a central role to play in answering these questions – with which they are confronted directly. It is at the local level where social life takes place and different interests and needs collide. Municipalities have to develop strategies that are sustainable today and also meet the needs of future generations. To support municipalities in this task, the Berlin Governance Platform has developed the approach of the Municipal Development Councils.
Municipal Development Councils discuss what makes the municipality worth living in and how it should develop in the long run. This requires a clear objective, a diverse composition, professional preparation and facilitation, and long-term anchoring in the community.
The process needs a clear objective so that participation becomes relevant and worthwhile for all participants, and also politics and administration can continue to work with the concrete results. Therefore, special attention is paid to formulating a concrete question for the Council at the beginning together with the preparatory steering group, which should be specific, realistic, relevant and novel.
Municipal Development Councils are formed from all key stakeholder groups in the community to promote collaborative development. These include: politics (and administration), businesses, and organized civil society (incl. citizens). Representatives from elected municipal bodies, responsible persons from the administration, and non-elected participants work together. Representatives of companies, organized civil society, and interested citizens are invited to participate by a mixture of direct approach and lottery. Particular attention is also paid to groups of people who have had little access to local participation processes until now.
Municipal Development Councils need competent faciliation that creates an open, trusting atmosphere. This allows all participants sufficient space for their points of view, and creates a constructive framework for the exchange of controversial perspectives and interests. It brings a dialogic rather than a confrontational approach to meetings to the fore. Well-networked and trained moderators from the municipality or the region are qualified for this task through the program and facilitiate within the KEB, together with the team of the Berlin Governance Platform.
With the Municipal Development Council approach, we promote the development of local participation expertise. The process is coordinated by a local coordinator from the administration. A local or regional moderator is trained in the approach and moderates the process together with a process facilitator from the Berlin Governance Platform. The goal is that the KEB approach is continued independently by the municipality beyond the funding period and matures into an institutionalized supplement to the elected bodies. The composition and topics of the KEB can vary, as long as the sustainable overall development of the municipality remains in view. In this way, the municipal democratic structure is supplemented by a body that can find multi-perspective answers to the complex challenges of the municipalities through intensive deliberation.
A Municipal Development Council comprises around 30 representatives of local politics, administration, organized civil society and business. The council meets for at least four sessions on a specific topic in the course of a year.
A Municipal Development Council can cover different topics. Generally, it is about exploring possible developments of a municipality that have relevance for society as a whole. Past Municipal Development Councils covered topics such as mobility, health care in rural areas, social cohesion, and green urban development.
For the implementation of a Municipal Developmenr Council, the municipality provides a person who coordinates the Municipal Development Council on site and works closely with us as a team. In addition, a local moderator is selected and introduced to the approach, who moderates the Municipal Development Council together with a facilitator from the Berlin Governance Platform.