"The view of citizens for citizens"

In the city of Herzberg (Elster), randomly selected citizens will deal with the topic of "sustainable transport" on 28 May 2022. As the first municipality in Germany, the city has anchored the procedure in a statute. Stephanie Kuntze, head of the city's department for Central Control & Services and Family & Education, answers a few questions about this.

Question: Ms Kuntze, a citizens' jury entitled "Cycling into the Future#Villa" will begin in the city of Herzberg in May. What is it about?

Stephanie Kuntze: In the course of the state initiative "My City of the Future" of the state of Brandenburg and the Ministry for Infrastructure and State Planning, we want to look at the future of our city together with our residents of the city of Herzberg (Elster), represented by our randomly selected "city makers".

Under the motto "Cycling into the Future#Villa", we will focus on the issue of sustainable transport in Herzberg and develop a recommendation and position concept for a safe and attractive network of footpaths and cycle paths, which will be presented and handed over to the administration and politicians in a public-spirited manner.

The administration then has the task, together with an urban planning company, to develop a planning concept for the cycle and footpath network with the help of funding measures from the state and to prioritise the necessary measures together with our town planners in order to move on to implementation in a targeted and timely manner. To ensure that this scope for the city makers' brainstorming is given a realistic framework - because we don't want to promise anything we can't implement - an expert and experienced urban planning company will accompany us right from the start.

The view of citizens for citizens

Together with our city makers, we want to experience what it is like to be involved in planning processes from the very beginning, to start with a "blank" paper and to think first with the view of citizens for citizens. The Marx Villa and the Botanical Garden in the heart of our city offer the perfect place for this, where the wishes, ideas and thoughts about the future of the residents from the inner city and the districts come together in a targeted way.

On this journey, we are accompanied by the Netzwerk Zukunftsorte as a cooperation partner. The association from Brandenburg supports living and working projects in the countryside and creates analogue places of culture and education, of meeting and exchange - so-called "third places". For this project to succeed, it absolutely needs active participation that generates ideas and desire, that arouses curiosity and promotes awareness for a climate-conscious city.

Bringing different people together

Our city makers know the needs and wishes of their city and local districts better than anyone else. That's why we are happy to reach out to many who feel like actively accompanying the project for the first time for a day.

Ultimately, the "city makers" are about bringing together different people and their experiences. Chance ensures this diversity. Young and old come together to work out solutions to political and social issues and present them. The strength lies in the diverse composition, so that issues are considered from different perspectives and solutions can emerge from a variety of experiences and life circumstances.

Question: Why did the city of Herzberg decide to address the issue with a citizens' jury?

Kuntze: There has been an incentive for some time that we need to expand our participation processes and make them more citizen-centred in order to get better and more diverse feedback from our citizens. Every day we face the challenge of how and in what form we can best reach them, inform them, involve them and encourage them, and that we can also convey the appreciation that their opinion is important. To find this out, we want to try out new participation procedures and formats.

Through the initiative "Es geht LOS" we came across the procedure of personal outreach and were enthusiastic. We absolutely had to integrate this as a form of participation in our urban development and extend it to a wide variety of areas. The city of Werder an der Havel or the city of Falkensee have demonstrated this and implemented it successfully. If one delves deeper into the process, it is apparent that this is not actually a new procedure, but has unfortunately fallen into oblivion.

The Federal Republic of Germany has been using the form of citizens' juries for a long time, e.g. as a planning cell for the preparation of citizens' reports. Currently, this procedure of the citizens' jury is on the rise again, various countries and municipalities are using this procedure as the model for the future. It is important to us that it is not a fad, but a helpful means of targeted citizen participation. It is therefore to be introduced and tried out for the first time in the course of the project "Cycling into the Future#Villa".

Question: Recently there has been a regulation on citizens' juries in the city's residents' participation statutes. How did this come about?

Kuntze: It was important to us from the beginning that we did not want to establish a new participation process, that this was only carried out in the course of the project "Cycling into the Future#Villa". It is to be tested, established and optimised. Transferring this procedure into local law was the best variant for us to make politics, administration and citizens aware of it and curious about it. Moreover, it is always advantageous to establish new processes together with local politics in order to generate a better external impact and acceptance.

At the same time, we have thus created a legal basis for the sortition procedure and educated citizens about the procedure, what happens to their personal data and why it is collected, in order to also meet the requirements of data protection law. We are killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. This was very important for us in the strategic consideration and also decisive as a basis.

Thus, a new paragraph 6 was added to the residents' participation statutes of the town of Herzberg to include the personal outreach procedure for citizens' participation.

We were not aware that we are now the first known municipality to have enshrined this procedure in local law. Really cool!

Question: The upcoming citizens' jury will use the personal outreach procedure. How does it work and what do you expect from it?

Kuntze: The way it works and the procedure are described in detail in our residents' participation bylaws. The basic principle is to determine who is to be involved. This selection can be project- or topic-related: all residents, only young people or senior citizens and/or in a defined age range. It is also conceivable to select the residents of a street, a city, municipal or local district.

A random sample is drawn from the population of the municipality's population register. The size should be based on how many people are involved. It is assumed that between one third and one fifth of those selected will actually participate. In principle, as many people as necessary will be selected. If necessary, a second draw will be made.

The first randomly selected people will be contacted personally. The cover letter is signed by the chief administrative officer or the chairpersons of the political bodies. The cover letter clarifies what is at stake and why it is important that exactly the person contacted takes part. In addition, feedback is requested and help is offered in case of obstacles. At the same time, the letter points out that the person's consent for personal contact - in this case the outreach procedure - is desirable and also necessary.

Personal contact with citizens

Since it can be assumed that generally only a few of those contacted will get back to us, the decisive step of the personal outreach procedure is applied: personal contact with citizens at home. If the person cannot be found, the possibility is used with another letter to obtain an exchange by telephone or email.

In order to be able to develop the procedure further, it is considered to ask those who cannot come what they need in order to be able to participate. Various factors could be considered here, such as the time period of the event. If this is the case, another format for participation can be offered, for example in the form of a short survey. In this way, this opinion also flows into the overall picture. So this step has two objectives: 1. to receive feedback that makes the process better 2. to receive substantive feedback on the subject matter of the participation process.

After the outreach procedure or the personal contact, a second draw is made, if necessary, to expand the group of participants. The process starts again, so to speak, and can be continued at will until the desired number of participants is reached.

Citizens' juries are evaluated

In order to continuously improve the process, an evaluation must be carried out. At the end of the event, for example, a questionnaire is used. This can include demographic characteristics, but also feedback on the procedure, on the event itself or on how to get in touch. In addition, feedback rounds at the end of the event are useful, but these should not replace an anonymous form.

The results or recommendations of the citizens' juries should reach further parts of the public through accompanying media activities and, if necessary, also actively involve them. for example, through online input options for the interested population in the form of the digital participation platform.

A new form of participation

Through the participation of the "city makers", they make an active contribution to the development of democracy and can directly and sustainably contribute their personal wishes and ideas for our city. The framework conditions have been created for a new form of participation. The planning processes may not happen any faster, but what is important to us is that they will be close to the people and that from the very beginning. In this way, the shaping of the future will happen with the citizens and in a goal-oriented, needs-based and innovative way.

Read more: