Municipal Development

We bring together politics, administration, civil society, and local businesses in Municipal Development Councils, cultivating collaborative solutions for complex societal challenges. Our conviction: Inclusive and sustainable development is best achieved when all interest groups enter into dialogue with each other and develop strategies together.

We are currently supporting four German municipalities - the cities Cottbus/Chóśebuz, Duisburg and Frankfurt an der Oder-Słubice and the Joint municipality of Meinersen - in the implementation of Municipal Development Councils. In six other municipalities concrete recommendations for action have already been developed and implemented.

Fostering Inclusive Policy Making for
Sustainable Development

What strategies can be employed to achieve a just green transition? How do we tackle the repercussions of the pandemic and navigate migration and refugee movements? The pressing challenges we face require creative and inclusive strategies for sustainable development. In this endeavor, democratic structures must not only address societal polarization but also underpin the success of these transformative processes.

Municipalities play a pivotal role in this context. They are directly confronted with these issues, because this is where different interests and needs become tangible as conflicts. Municipalities therefore need strategies that are sustainable today and also meet the needs of future generations.

To support them in this task, we have developed municipal development councils. The approach is based on the research and many years of practical experience of Prof. Dr. Gesine Schwanwhich introduced the concept for the first time in Politik trotz Globalisierung. outlined. In close collaboration with our multidisciplinary team, the approach was further developed and put into practice.

What is a Municipal Development Council?

A municipal development council (KEB) is a format for municipal citizen participation. It is commissioned by local politicians to work on a specific issue affecting the municipality. Around 30 people representing local politics and administration, as well as the local economy and civil society, are selected as advisory board members. They are approached if they have specialist expertise, are involved in or affected by the topic or can represent the interests of a relevant or marginalised social group. Over the course of a year, they come together in four full-day meetings.

The approach is based on the conviction that municipal development works most sustainably when all key interest groups work together. Professional process support and moderation by the Berlin Governance Platform creates a framework that enables everyone to participate on an equal footing and at eye level.

A recommendation paper is produced in a joint effort. Depending on the mandate, this includes visions, guidelines and, if necessary, measures. This is then presented to the elected municipal or city council for evaluation and a decision on implementation.

Multi-stakeholder approach

Representatives from politics and administration, civil society and business consult together on an equal footing. They do not have an imperative mandate, but contribute the specific interests and perspectives of their stakeholder group.

Moderated dialogue

Professional process facilitation creates an open and trusting atmosphere. It thus enables genuine dialogue and the constructive negotiation of different interests.


Recommendation function

Municipal development councils draw up specific recommendations for the city or municipal council. The process is continuously fed back to political bodies; however, the decision on the implementation of the results is the responsibility of the elected politicians.

Future strategies for the common good

The Municipal Development Advisory Board deals with urgent, complex and also controversial future issues facing a municipality. The future strategies developed are orientated towards the common good.

How do municipal development councils differ from other formats for citizen participation?

Municipal development councils, unlike e.g. citizens' assembliesThe dialogue does not claim to be representative. Instead, representatives from politics and administration, civil society and business are invited to contribute the interests of their stakeholder groups. In this way, structural social conflicts of interest are explicitly invited to the Municipal Development Advisory Board: The various stakeholder groups follow different logics of action and sometimes have divergent goals that need to be negotiated. CEBs create a space for this.

Municipal development councils are also characterised by cooperation between elected and non-elected members. In many participation formats, citizens initially consult "among themselves" and politicians are only the addressees of the results. In KEBs, politicians (but also administrative staff) are involved on an equal footing from the outset. In addition to the learning and communication process between different logics of action and interests, this cooperation increases the likelihood of the recommendations being implemented. Challenges in implementation can be recognised and addressed at an early stage and decision-makers have a deeper understanding of and greater identification with the recommendations made.


What does it take to set up a municipal development council?

Municipal development councils require the explicit consent of local politicians. Participation formats can only be successful if the decision-makers are fundamentally interested in involving a larger number of perspectives. The city or municipal council must therefore formally authorise the implementation of a CDE.

Municipal development councils need a remit that is complex and controversial, but also workable. This means that the local authority must have decision-making powers in the chosen topic and that a CDE must be able to exert influence.

The implementation of a Municipal Development Advisory Board requires intensive support. In addition to process support from the Berlin Governance Platform and local moderation, a responsible person in the municipal administration is also needed to coordinate the CDE. Sufficient financial resources are required for all of these roles.

Who decides on the topic?

In most cases, municipal administrations already apply with a topic that is currently urgent and lends itself to being dealt with by the Municipal Development Advisory Board. This topic is concretised and formulated by a local steering group. Six to eight representatives from politics and administration, business and civil society are already working together in the steering group. They clarify the specific issue and weigh up the potential influence of the advisory board.

What does a steering group do and how are the advisory board members selected?

At the beginning of the process, the Lord Mayor selects the topic for the Municipal Development Advisory Board and defines the possible scope for action. However, in order to enable an open-ended and independent discussion of the topic, the Lord Mayor is not a member of the advisory board.

The advisory board members are selected by a steering group, which is chosen and mandated by the administrative management from representatives of politics, administration, business and civil society. A stakeholder mapping process, which is supported by the Berlin Governance Platform team, forms the basis for this. The aim is to select around 30 committed individuals from different interest groups within the municipality. These should represent as many different perspectives on the topic as possible. In addition, some municipalities decide to give committed citizens the opportunity to apply for additional places on the advisory board.

At the end of the planning phase, the steering group is dissolved. Its members then have the opportunity to participate in the Municipal Development Advisory Board as councillors.

Why is good moderation so important?

The Municipal Development Advisory Board brings together people with different backgrounds and previous experience. Social power asymmetries and structural discrimination are therefore initially reflected in the CDE, even without malice. Elected politicians are more accustomed to exchanging political opinions than citizens, while people with a non-German language of origin initially find it more difficult to get involved. Professional moderation can initially help to build trust through a variety of methods and then ensure equal participation for all.

As the Municipal Development Advisory Board explicitly invites divergent interests and positions, conflicts inevitably arise. These are often challenging, but can also act as a motor for change. To ensure that these conflicts are experienced as positive negotiations and can lead to a sustainable understanding, a moderator is needed who can draw on experience in conflict transformation, mediation or similar.

Are the recommendations actually being implemented?

The recommendations developed are passed on to the municipal or city council, which discusses their implementation. As members of the municipal council have already participated in the Municipal Development Advisory Board, the transfer of these results is easier than with other external recommendations. Politicians as well as the administration, which plays a central role in implementation, were involved from the outset.

In the partner municipalities of the pilot project, the prospects for implementing the recommendations look very promising a few months after the conclusion of the Municipal Development Councils (February 2024). Several municipal councils have already passed resolutions to implement (parts of) the recommendations this year. In Hoyerswerda, a municipal implementation advisory board has also been set up to involve the various stakeholders in the implementation process. However, a long-term evaluation of the implementation is not yet possible at this stage.


Why we would like to see institutionalisation

In our partner municipalities to date, the recommendations adopted by consensus have made a substantial contribution to the issues agreed in advance. At the same time, numerous responses from the advisory board members show how new connections and networks have been created, that the exchange has been experienced and that the advisory board members have been able to experience self-efficacy.

However, the Municipal Development Advisory Council will only become an effective force for strengthening a democratic culture of participation and for sustainable development if it does not remain a one-off project. The vision of the Berlin Governance Platform is to permanently anchor municipal development councils as a supplement to existing democratic institutions and committees in the municipalities. The composition and mandate of the development advisory board in a municipality should change regularly, but the format itself should remain a familiar and reliable structure. In this way, future issues that repeatedly arise can be "pre-negotiated" within a fixed framework, thereby supporting political bodies and helping to strengthen democracy.

Publication Municipal Development Councils

"In order for people to regain trust in democracy, they need reliable experiences of success and the ability to actively shape their own living environment."

Publication: Municipal development councils - concept and practice
February 2024

Partnering Municipalities, Funders & Supporters

Awarded the "Bewährt vor Ort" seal of approval for municipal innovation by the German Association of Towns and Municipalities and ProjectTogether.

Supported by:

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Partner municipalities