Participatory Development in Lusatia (2019-Today)

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The phaseout of coal is linked to the need to make our society and our economy more climate- and resource-friendly. Surveys show that a large part of the population supports climate policy goals. But when it comes to actual implementation, individual measures are often perceived as unfair, too expensive and too elitist. How can we ensure that citizens also support this far-reaching transformation process in concrete terms – especially in particularly affected regions such as Lusatia?

Change With Structure

To this end, the Humboldt-Viadrina Governance Platform is looking at the opportunities and challenges of citizen participation formats, especially in municipalities that are strongly affected by transformation processes, such as in Lusatia. Increasing acceptance of the changes taking place locally cannot be achieved through financial support alone, but also relies on citizens being able to shape the transformation themselves. For this to happen, they must be able to participate in the decisions that shape it by contributing their own ideas and experiencing that their ideas are effective. At the same time, this is also an opportunity to overcome the currently deeply rooted skepticism of citizens toward “politics” as well as toward democracy, because it allows them to gain new, reliable experiences of their own.

In a first step, the project Participatory Development Strategy for Lusatia” (funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety) examined which participation formats for shaping the transformation in Lusatia can create trust through participation. It also explored how culture and identity can be mapped in structural change processes. During the nine-month project phase, a trialogue and two workshops were held with stakeholders from politics & administration, business organizations, organized civil society, academia as well as cultural practitioners from Lusatia. You can read the final report “Change with Structure” (in German) here.

The Role of Municipal Citizen Participation

In a further step, the current project “Municipal Citizen Participation in Lusatia” is examining municipal participation formats that have already been conducted and tries to systematize and visualize possible formats. After all, not all participation is the same. It should neither be a fig leaf for measures that have already been decided upon, nor should it raise unrealizable expectations. How have previous participation formats been received by citizens? What role does long-term municipal participation play, for example, in the creation of mission statements and visions? How do municipal processes and higher-level structures of the transformation process interact? How can the different levels be brought into harmony with each other? We seek to answer these and other questions in an interview-based study.