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Strengthening democracy with active participation – giving citizens a voice


Who is behind this?






Idea pitch

We will address the problem of democratic deficit in the second largest city Maribor, where citizens' voice in decision making process is not heard. We will organize citizens' local assemblies (17), develop a digital platform for organizing and communicating, suggest a reform of municipal charter to include participatory mechanisms and provide knowledge, know-how and advertising. Our message: democracy is what citizens make of it and we will provide the tools for them to engage and be heard.

Where will your project idea take place?

East Slovenia cohesive region, Podravje Region, Maribor municipality, 17 municipal city districts.

What is the specific societal challenge faced by this region?

Political participation in Maribor is among the lowest in Slovenia (50%) which coincides with a dangerous decline of trust in democratic institutions and democracy as such. Combined with lack of competence and know-how in the CSO’s to effectively engage citizens in decision making process, public discontent and anger fuel cheap populism and incompetent political decisions.

There is a lack of knowledge about what mechanisms of co-management and co-decision in public/community affairs are, whether in terms of development priorities, the needs of local communities or national policies. The problem is not only the lack of competences, but also the lack of organizational forms, networks and legal forms which citizens could use to become actively engaged.

Who are you doing it for?

The primary target group are all residents of the municipality (98.000). We strive to reach the largest possible number and involve them in a structured way (facilitated assemblies, moderated digital platform). Activities will be held in all 17 municipal city district with very different population - from well educated and situated upper middle class to unemployed, Roma, elderly and ethnic minorities from ex Yugoslavia (Macedonians, Serbs, Bosnians, Croats).

Our target group are also local decision-makers. We will make them aware of the positive impact citizen’s participation brings to public administration and municipal management and educate them of already existing legal possibilities for linking participatory democracy and public administration.

How do you plan to get there?

We will prepare the project's graphic identity which itself will be implemented as an open competition, where citizens will pitch ideas. Next we will implement a campaign to inform citizens about the project.Then we will the engage citizens' assemblies, whith special attention aimed at youths. In the second phase we will connect the assemblies with decision-makers, so they can jointly design solutions for the lack of participation and develop methods of participation and include them into the municipal charter. All proposals will be made in a participatory process in the citizens' ssemblies and in cooperation with decision-makers. The ultimate goal is to create an online platform for participation and communication, to reform the municipal charter with participatory mechanisms.

What are the expected results?

• A developed advocacy process for strengthening democracy in municipalites, which will be possible to offer to other municipalities.
• Citizens will become more politically active.
• A proposed reform of the municipal charter.
• An established online information and communication platform to connect decision-makers and citizens, which other Slovenian municipalities will also be able to use.
• An increased number of people engaded in local policy making, increased number of proposals to authorities and grassroots actions.
• Through the self-organized assemblies of citizens, the establishment of a stable mechanism that will enable effective communication between citizens and decision-makers
• A reduction of the democratic deficit in the Maribor Municipality.

How does your idea strengthen active citizenship at a local and community level?

By transmitting knowledge and know-how in direct/personal approach to citizens (citizen’s assemblies), by making processes of decision-making visible, transparent and organized (digital platform), by suggesting the reform of the municipal charter.

The key of empowerement is in citizens knowledge and know-how. It must be built on good information, evidence based and fact oriented, including participatory monitoring and participatory action research. Citizens action should be non-partisan, grassroot and bottom up. There is a close link between access to information and public participation/action.

We are certain, that these processes will also atribute to social cohesion, involve marginalized groups and thus reduce the citizens anger and discontent.

Why is this idea important to you?

Through our work we have seen the fall of democratic participation of citizens and the fall of trust in democracy on one side, but a need of citizens to find a way to become more involved in the democratic and decision making procesess. As an organization, active in the local community we are concerned with this developments and want to help at changing the tide. Our mission is to strengthen democracy in the Municipality of Maribor, to empower citizens and to devide prticipatory mechanisms for citizens. Furthermore, we want to connect decisions makers with citizens to establish an open, collaborative environment. We feel it is our mission to help in raising political participation levels in the municipality and to show people that they should absolutely take part in the democratic process.

€ 51400,-

Total budget

€ 48700,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

Major expenses

1) Personnel costs: 32,400 € (+ 2,700 own contribution)
2) Adopting a web communications / information platform for bringing together citizens and decision makers, aimed at empowering citizens:
- € 10,000
3) Promotional costs
- Graphic identity design competition: 1000 €
- Other promotional materials: 1500 €
- Online promotion: 2500 €
4) Travels costs: 300 €
5) Other: renting public add space in city districts: 1000 €

What do you need from the Civic Europe community?

We are very interested to connect with other organizations involved in similar activities.



Borut Osonkar

Idea created on May 27, 2020
Last edit on May 27, 2020

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