Brief summary

  • Objective: Encouraging people’s local engagement
  • Target group: citizens at the local level
  • How: local workshops
  • Where: Germany and Spain

Bridges – Puntes – Brücken set out to encourage local citizens to engage with their neighbourhoods and give them the skills needed to solve local issues in Berlin and Ronda. Local citizens came together in two workshops in each city, where they identified local problems that could be overcome by joint participation and decision-making.

Team

group 2
From left to right: Héloise, Martin and Alba

Why this project?

Low numbers of voter turnout, especially among young people, are a growing threat to European democracy. Citizens’ apathy towards elections is often accompanied by a retreat from their communities into their own private spheres. But community problems have common and local solutions. Democracy should be revived at the local level by connecting the dots to solve people’s issues locally and proving that by connecting the right people any problem can be solved. Promoting local activism can spark a process in which citizens and communities become more aware of their capabilities, that they can do more than just rely on pre-existing structures of state authorities. The team wanted to build bridges within two communities to enable citizens to see that their engagement does really make a difference and to feel that in any democratic process, the power lies in their hands.

“We strongly believe there is a need to honestly listen to people, to really understand their concerns and start building bridges from there. We know people are in power. By making them believe in themselves we empower to create solutions.” Martin Schneider

The activities

The project consisted of two phases. In the first one, the team identified, with the help of surveys, local issues that citizens wanted to address. In the second one, the citizens who took part in the survey were invited to come to workshop and debate with the local administration to address the issues that emerged from the survey.

In the first phase, the team launched an online survey to reach out to disengaged citizens living in two neighborhoods of Ronda and Berlin, and an offline survey, aimed at the respective local administration and civil society organisations. Both surveys were designed to identify local issues that survey respondents wanted to address. The survey launched in Berlin received a higher number of respondents than the one in Ronda, but what emerged from both was that people didn’t see themselves as responsible for solving local issues but rather see this was an issue for local administration and authorities.

Survey respondents and institutional representatives were invited to join one workshop in Berlin and one in Ronda. Contrary to expectations, it was remarkably difficult to ensure a high turnout from citizens and the participation from the local administration in both locations. In Berlin, people sat together to discuss the two local issues they identified as problems: burglaries and waste of paper in Berlin’s administrations. The discussion that ensued revealed that citizens do not see themselves in power to solve those issues because of a lack of resources like money, skills, and a proper network. Taking into account the results of the workshop in Berlin, the workshop in Ronda focused on debating why people don’t want to engage in solving local issues. After three surveys, two in Ronda and one in Berlin and one workshop in each city we realised three key issues.

First, that there are a few really engaged individuals with great ideas, but they don’t know how to put their ideas into practice and so their impact is, so far, limited. Second, by talking to the people during our workshops we got the impression they are happier and more satisfied with their situation than we expected them to be. Even though people liked to complain, they were not willing to get engaged. Third, in case they want to see improvement, people either feel enabled to really change something and want to commit and contribute to change or they just want somebody else (government or local administration or companies) to solve their issues because they don’t feel they can be the ‘change maker’ (because of lack of resources like money, skills, proper network).


Concrete activities

Calendar of activities

Partners

The civocracy.org community and MenschBank foundation supported us with their network of people getting further throughout the whole process.