The 25 popularly elected politicians in Ballerup municipality decided to formulate a strategy for local democracy and citizen engagement. As a part of this process, the politicians initiated a dialogue with the local citizens on the possible content. In cooperation with The Danish Board of Technology Foundation, Ballerup municipality conducted a citizens’ hearing with 106 randomly chosen citizens from within the municipality. They were asked to contribute their ideas and suggestions on how the municipality could develop the dialogue between citizens and politicians on important matters concerning the future development of the municipality.
Developing local democracy in Ballerup – how?
Saturday, the 2nd of February 2008, 9.30-17.00 in Skovlunde
- How do we strengthen the local democracy in Ballerup Municipality?
- How do we advance the dialogue between citizens and politicians on important matters which concern the development of the municipality?
- What does it take to make citizens want to participate in the municipal decision-making process?
These were some of the questions which the municipal council of Ballerup wished to put to the citizens. All the messages debated at the citizens’ hearing in February 2008 were compiled into “The citizens’ catalogue of ideas”. This made up the foundation for the continued work on designing the strategy for local democracy and engagement of citizens; a strategy which is to be a guiding principle for any future dialogue between politicians and citizens, and in addition to this, it is to insure the co-influence and co-responsibility of the citizens. The final strategy is expected to be approved by the municipal council in December 2008.
The mayor Ove E. Dalsgaard greeted the participating citizens and politicians and then a string of presentations intended to inspire and spark a debate had been arranged. After this, the participants were divided into smaller groups and asked to debate and further articulate which challenges they foresaw for the future development of local democracy in Ballerup. Furthermore, they were asked to contribute possible solutions to these challenges.
The citizens debated without any interference from politicians, experts or others, although the municipal politicians were present. Simultaneously, a workshop for politicians was being held. Here members of the municipal council started their work on a strategy for local democracy. As such, everyone was summoned for a shared working Saturday on local democracy in the municipality. At the end of the day, citizens and politicians met for a joint task: selecting the most important elements to be included in the strategy.
The results were continuously collected throughout the day and published in “The citizens’ catalogue of ideas”, which contains all the suggestions and ideas of that day. A first edition was handed out to all participants at the end of the day and most importantly to the politicians.
During the day, the work of the participating citizens was exhibited and the municipality offered refreshment. The results from the politicians work was made public as well.
The citizens’ hearing was held by Ballerup municipality in collaboration with The Danish Board of Technology Foundation who was responsible for planning and conducting the actual hearing. The Danish Board of Technology Foundation is an independent institution commissioned by the Danish Parliament to help council popularly elected politicians in the Danish parliament, the regions and municipalities.