Learning for Local Democracy
A Study of Local Citizen Participation in Europe
“Learning for Local Democracy” presents the first results of a long-term study of citizen engagement in public affairs and decision-making at the local level in Europe. Undertaken jointly by the Central and Eastern European Citizens Network (CEECN) and the Combined European Bureau for Social Development (CEBSD), this study aims to provide a systematic picture of the wealth of local participation initiatives that have emerged across Europe over the last years, to map concrete experiences from a broad range of localities and in response to a wide spectrum of social challenges, and to compile a practical resource that can inform the further development of local democracy in Europe.
In a first stage, whose results are presented in this publication, eight countries were selected that reflect a broad variety of historical, cultural and social contexts: Croatia, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, and the United Kingdom. These perspectives from individual European countries have been authored by seasoned activists and experts of citizen participation, and they convey an action-oriented, rather than academic, view from the local grass-roots of European democracies. Brief country backgrounds are followed by case studies that portray concrete forms of civic engagement on the local level, and that discuss in detail the specific problems, approaches taken, obstacles encountered, and outcomes achieved. These country cases give a first glimpse at a fascinating variety of citizen participation, civil society work and new forms of democracy that has emerged at the local level across Europe.
The study will be further enriched and expanded during a second phase. Several countries, including Austria, Estonia, Georgia, Serbia und Ukraine, will be added to draw an even richer and more representative picture of citizen participation and local democracy on the European continent. In addition to practitioner perspectives, a set of crosscutting analytical chapters will be provided by scholars and will focus on historical, conceptual, institutional and social factors that condition civic engagement and democracy on the local level. The result will be a topical resource serving both those actively engaged in building democracy in their communities and countries, and those observing and analysing European democracy from academic angles. It is hoped that this will contribute to bridging the divide between practice and theory that often persists on questions of democracy, civil society and participation.