Marco Land and Sabine Rothe were randomly selected for the LOSLAND Future Council in the German city of Coesfeld. Over two days, together with other randomly selected citizens, they dealt with the question: What does it mean to live happily together in Coesfeld - and what do we need for this? In this interview, the two Future Councillors tell us what they experienced.
Question: What was your first thought when you found the invitation to the Future Council in your letterbox?
Sabine Rothe: At first I was perplexed. Selected from among 300 Coesfeld citizens - when I usually never win anything! I felt honoured and obliged. It was clear to me quite quickly that this was a democracy project about more citizen participation and that I would definitely like to take part. According to the motto "do instead of complain", especially since the sometimes nasty nagging about Pfauengasse really gets on my nerves! I immediately submitted my application.
Marco Land: I was very pleased when I was among the first 300 in the shortlist, but I didn't expect to actually be on the citizens' jury. When I was personally invited to the door, I was very happy. Since mayor Eliza Diekmann took office, I have noticed a certain spirit of optimism in Coesfeld, which I would like to be a part of. I thought to myself: now there is no turning back, now you join in!
Question: Had you already heard of LOSLAND?
Land: I have to admit that LOSLAND had completely passed me by until I received the first letter from the city. After I found out about it on the internet, I was thrilled that such a progressive project of citizen participation was taking place here in Coesfeld.
Question: How did you experience the first meeting of the Future Council?
Rothe: I was a bit nervous, but Eliza Diekmann gave us a warm welcome and made "her" town hall available to us for the weekend. Our physical well-being was well taken care of. The atmosphere was very pleasant and my fellow campaigners super nice. All of them! That's why we were able to work so trustingly with each other. With the support of the coaches Tina and Ralf, the ice was broken very quickly. In the afternoon we said goodbye to each other with smoking heads and looked forward to the continuation on Sunday.
Land: I really enjoyed it. The Losland facilitation team really did a top job. Within a very short time we were able to work together, discuss and also laugh together in an absolutely positive and constructive atmosphere. I have to smile a little when I consider that some councillors expressed fears of "outrage democracy" beforehand. In my opinion, this is a strange perception of the responsible citizens of Coesfeld.
Question: Many municipalities make efforts to involve citizens, conduct surveys, provide information and make their decisions and plans publicly available. Those who want to get involved can do so on a voluntary basis, in associations and parties. What do you think is special about this format?
Rothe: I see a special opportunity of this project in the fact that people meet, get to know each other, exchange ideas and work together who have never seen each other before and who most likely would never have come together in this constellation. Randomly selected! Very different people who think together about their city and work out goals for a happy life together. I see the second great opportunity in the fact that these elaborated goals and demands are to be taken into account in city politics through a steering group of the city council.
Question: Is it worth the effort?
Land: Democracy is a great gift that we can only preserve together. In my opinion, there is a certain political fatigue that the country's institutions must counteract. This probably works best through more citizen participation in the municipalities.
Party politics gives many young people the impression that individuals can't make much of a difference because factional constraints take precedence over substantive decisions. Low-threshold offers are needed here that whet people's appetites for more participation. And then there is demographic change: for me, this entails the danger that the justified interests of the ageing majority leave too little room for the concerns and development of young or new Coesfelders.
All people should again talk more with each other than about each other. Dialogue and communication were an important topic in the Future Council. In my opinion, the project does a very good job here.
Question: What are your wishes for the future?
Rothe: My greatest wish is that the city council sees our work and takes it seriously and lets it flow into political decisions. The second greatest wish is that this project continues and that next year randomly selected people can meet again who are concerned about their city and perhaps enjoy participating in the citizens' dialogue in the future.
Land: Since a project like this makes people want to do more, I would also think it would be great if the citizens' jury were repeated in ever different compositions so that as many Coesfelders as possible could enjoy it. Personally, I would like the council to deal with our recommendations in an open-minded way. Coesfeld is all of us together.
Marco Land is 46 years old, an occupational safety specialist, married and father of two children. He has lived in Coesfeld since 1985.
Sabine Rothe is 59 years old and a midwife. She has lived in Coesfeld for ten years.
The questions were asked by Charlotte Bernstorff from LOSLAND.
Read more: LOSLAND