How citizen participation strengthens a vibrant democracy

Citizen participation strengthens trust in democracy and brings politics and citizens closer together. Read more about where and how the Robert Bosch Stiftung is promoting citizen participation here.

People of different genders and backgrounds in rows of seats, viewed from the side, vote on something with cards held high

What role does citizen participation play in today's democracy? In an increasingly complex world, citizen participation is an opportunity to get more people involved in the democratic process and find good solutions together. We support projects that enable previously uninvolved citizens to participate in political projects and decision-making processes.

Questions and answers about citizen participation

Citizen participation refers to the active participation of citizens in political and social affairs. It is a complementary format to representative democracy that aims to involve more people in decision-making processes and make their voices heard on issues that affect their lives.

Citizen participation can take place at various political levels, whether municipal, regional, national, or even cross-border. At the international level, citizen participation is defined differently from country to country. Within the EU, we distinguish between different forms of citizen participation (see question: “What forms of citizen participation exist”?)

  1. Citizens’ councils: Representative groups of citizens are selected at random and develop recommendations on specific topics. The aim is to reach out to those who have previously not been involved in social and political activities. In addition to marginalized groups, these are often people who do not feel addressed by traditional offerings. For this purpose, procedures can also be used in which citizens are visited at home.
  2. Public consultations: Citizens have the opportunity to contribute their opinions and suggestions on specific topics or projects, for example, in regard to the municipality or city.
  3. Citizens’ referendums: Citizens' referendums take place at the municipal level and allow residents to decide on local issues such as construction or infrastructure projects. Referendums, on the other hand, refer to the state or federal level and usually concern fundamental political issues such as environmental and energy policy, financial issues, health policy, or education issues.
  4. Citizens’ forums and workshops: Events are organised to facilitate an open dialogue between citizens and decision-makers.
  5. Citizens' initiatives and petitions: Citizens can submit their own proposals or concerns about political procedures or decisions and gather support through signatures from other people.
  6. Online participation: Digital platforms enable citizens to submit and discuss their opinions and proposals online.

Citizen participation helps to involve more people in political decisions that consider their views and ideas. This increases the acceptance of these decisions, creates trust in democratic processes and reinforces a sense of community. Citizen participation is professionally accompanied: Participants receive factual information and are supported in their discussions by neutral moderators.

Our dossier-experts

Roi Silberberg

Roi Siberberg has worked for the School for Peace since 2006 and has been its director since 2020. He is also the founder and director of AMAL – Spoken Arabic for All.

Prof. Dr. med. Hans-Georg Kopp

Hans-Georg Kopp is head physician of the specialist department for tumor diseases of the lungs and respiratory tract (pneumological oncology) at the Robert Bosch Hospital.

Karin Strube

Karin Strube is the spokesperson for the Patient Advisory Board at Robert Bosch Hospital, whose task is to enable patients and their relatives to participate more.

Dr. Linus Strothmann

Dr. Linus Strothmann is one of two project leaders in the "Hello Bundestag" project, which brings together citizens and politicians.

Juliane Baruck

Juliane Baruck is one of two project leaders of "Hallo Bundestag" with the aim of creating a better relationship between the population and politics.

Silke Tebel-Haas

Silke Tebel-Haas works as a European Commissioner for the district of Emmendingen and is the initiator of the "R(h)einverbindlich" project.

Anke Ott

Anke Ott is the didactic director at the Integrated Comprehensive School Buchholz in der Nordheide, where democratic structures are integrated into everyday school life.

Ángela Franco-Calderón

The architect teaches in Colombia at the University of Valle and heads the research project "Observatory of Contemporary Architecture and Urbanism".

Citizen participation: "We need real participation"

Two experts discuss how citizen participation works in democracy.
October 16, 2023

Achieving green transformation through collaboration

Bioregional Weaving Labs bring people together to shape a regenerative future - locally.
December 21, 2023

Community spirit in Cali: Citizen Participation transforms an informal settlement

Brisas de las Palmas: A district fights for recognition and a future.
October 02, 2023

Citizen participation: The journey is also the reward

A joint German-French project is to create a paradise for plants, animals and people on an island. A visit.
August 11, 2023

For the Bundestag, dialogue between its members and their citizens is vital

"Hallo Bundestag" brings citizens and politicians into better exchange. The unique feature: A lot decides on the group selection.
August 11, 2023

An oasis for peace: This school aims to be a place of understanding

In workshops, Jewish and Arab population groups in Israel pursue peaceful coexistence in the face of climate change. A visit.
August 11, 2023

"Patients have a different take on things than doctors"

A voice in treatment: At the Bosch Health Campus, cancer patients have more say in their own treatment thanks to the Patient Advisory...
August 11, 2023

Learning democracy on a small scale

In the student parliament, students learn that their opinions matter. A school visit shows how having a say and being involved can impact our democracy.
August 15, 2023

When silent groups are no longer silent...

For a long time, people with a migration background were considered a silent group. But this is now changing, and it is a win for democracy. Nevertheless, hurdles remain...
July 19, 2023

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