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Network on Participation and Democracy in Europe
The idea of building up a network of individuals that work on the issues of participation, democracy and migration in Europe developed when representatives of the initiating organisations met and exchanged their vision of European society. Despite their different thematic backgrounds and working experiences, they discovered that they had much in common. They all understand that in today’s Europe the gap between institutions, politics and citizens has still not been bridged. They also agreed on the idea that enhancing political participation in Europe is a necessary condition to fill this gap, foster democracy, combat social divisions and create a more inclusive society. That’s why they started working together on the idea of a European network of individuals with different professional background committed to fill this democratic gap. By establishing professional relations among different actors that work in the field of political participation in Europe, they hope to create synergies, give more visibility to civil society, and by that to empower European citizens.
What is our motivation to organise the network meetings?
From our own project work we have experienced how powerful collaborations among different actors can be. Especially when these are based on trust, personal relation, common interests and a common philosophy of how to work together.
Such collaborations empower us to initiate projects and meet objectives which otherwise would be out of reach for a single actor. As “hard” resources (funding, personnel, work force, space, contacts) are generally scarce and “soft” resources (contacts, ideas, knowledge, competences, etc.) are generally abundant in the civil society sector, mature collaborations help us to better meet the goals of our organisations/projects by sharing these resources and creating synergies.
Therefore, our motivation is to bring together and get to know individuals, projects and organisations that work on similar issues and that potentially share common goals and visions. The aim is to empower all participants, us included, to build up long-term and mutual partnerships.
What is going to happen in the meetings?
To build up strong and reliable collaborations we need time and opportunities to lay the foundation for such partnerships. Hence, the two network meetings in Berlin and Denmark are considered as the occasions to provide both. Consequently, the main aim is to get to know each other concerning his/her fields of interest, activities, visions, competences, etc. For that, we will apply very interactive and open methods (non-formal education) that allow for an active participation of everybody. Thus the meetings will combine presentations, group works, debates, etc.
What is the thematic focus of the meetings?
This interaction, of course, will happen within a thematic context. All participants have been invited because they are concerned with political participation, migration, cultural diversity and democracy issues and mostly focus on the European continent. Hence, the meetings will not only reveal the personal and professional background of participants but also disclose questions, problems, solutions, wishes or strategies linked with these issues. As described in the concept, we would like to establish a network that collaborates on:
- raising awareness of existing political participation opportunities for young people, challenged ordiscriminated groups, and to empower them to identify and act as citizens
- extending political participation rights on different geographic levels for groups that are politically disenfranchised, such as third-country nationals, EU expatriates, asylum-seekers or undocumented migrants
- developing new opportunities and ways of political participation that go beyond classical participation forms, e.g. urban governance or Good-Local-Governance
- revealing the potentials of the cultural diversity of our European society and change the common perspective of a deficit-approach to a appreciatory-potential approach when dealing with integration matters
What are the advantages of such a network?
- access funding as a group of international partners
- exchange good practise examples and experiences
- broaden the scope of personal contacts
- share “hard” and “soft” resources for one’s own or common projects
- learn from each other and exploit synergies
- increase the scope and impact of one’s own projects by combining them with others
What is our mid-term plan for the network?
In mid-term, in 1-2 years, we would like to have established a group of individuals that are active in different structures and experts in different fields who work together on different projects on a regular basis. Besides, we want to offer at least two network meetings per year where the network members refresh their contacts, learn from each other or from external experts and find synergies among different projects. Besides, the 2014 European elections might be a time frame until which a common project could be realised.
However, we do not foresee to give the network itself its own (legal) structure as this would consume many resources, end up in difficult decision-making processes and restraint members to start ad-hoc collaborations on specific topics or urgent developments. Rather, the network is meant to be an opportunity for collaborations and sharing resources. The initiators take the responsibility to provide for such opportunities and to deepen these collaborations in the first months/year.
In the meetings in Berlin and Denmark, further details about the working mechanisms of the network will be discussed among all participants.
The two meetings in Berlin and Denmark are partly covered by the Youth in Action Programme and with resources from the initiators. For the upcoming year we plan to apply for funding to cover future network meetings with specific (educational) contents and also to provide some resources for common activities that evolve from within the network. Next to several foundations across Europe that work in similar thematic areas, support can also be generated from public funding such as:
Besides, our general activities provide opportunities for synergies that allow for collaborations based on specific topics or activities. The meetings in Berlin and Denmark already provide good examples for possible outcomes of such synergies.
What should I prepare for the meeting in Berlin?
We would just like to ask you to read the papers we send you and we would be happy to collect questions you might have concerning the network and the ideas and topics behind. These questions will help us to prepare a good presentation of the network idea.
During the meeting we will have a session where each participant will briefly present his/her work. Therefore, you are invited to bring with you any material you may find interesting for this purpose – flyers of your organisation, samples of work etc.
About the three initiators
www.citizensforeurope.eu is an initiative of the Fondation Charles Léopold Mayer pour le progrès de l’homme (fph) in partnership with other few organizations. It is the crossroad of key players, events and policy proposals from civil society. It aims to highlight and network European grassroot initiatives and to link them with the often distant European political and media worlds. It is organized around three spheres of action: It brings together citizen-led campaigns and civil society events in Europe to establish a citizen agenda, in order to facilitate citizen commitment; It gives visibility to citizens organizations while encouraging synergies between them; finally, It lists, highlights and disseminates the proposals of citizen organizations to give them visibility, especially to the media and European decision makers.
NaturFreunde is an organisation established in Vienna in 1895 and is one of the eldest and biggest environmental organizations worldwide. NaturFreunde Lower Saxony is part if this umbrella organisation and active in the fields of climate and environment protection, nature sport, free time and recreation, culture and politics. The fundamental idea at the core of the initiative is to provide workers with recreation and training activities in the nature with the aim of enhancing their active participation in the society and in politics. Its main objective is to create a more just and sustainable society by combining environmental protection, social justice and culture. NaturFreunde runs numerous campaigns and projects to different social, environmental and political topics, such as climate change, nuclear power politics, financial crisis and political participation among others.
The association Citizens For Europe e.V. is a non-partisan, nonprofit organisation, established by young Europeans from throughout the Union in the beginning of 2010 and based in Berlin. Its objective is to foster and support the European Union project by developing and promoting a new and modern form of a transnational EU citizenship that is independent of national and cultural attributes and empowers citizens in the EU to fully exert their desire for political participation. CFE focuses its thematic work especially on the topic of political discrimination of third country nationals in the EU and the right to vote. Projects of CFE include the development of the social and political network Vote-Exchange.org, the publication of Open Citizenship – The Journal and the realisation of workshops focusing on models of European citizenship and forms of political participation.