Autumn school : a getaway to strengthen expertise and network
"Suddenly I was part of a movement and it felt good!"
With this sentence, Ellen Nusselder, a policy advisor in the city of Amsterdam, sums up the effect of the Autumn School perfectly.
At a time when the pressure on democracy is very high and participation and inclusion are sometimes strongly opposed, it feels good to strengthen one's practices and network among peers.
From 5 to 7 October, 52 experts and practitioners of deliberative democracy met in Eupen. The first to register for this 3rd edition of the G1000 Autumn School was a Japanese researcher. The last ones are our colleagues Louise and Ernst from Bureau Burgerberaad, G1000's Dutch partner. In between, political representatives, civil servants, members of civil society and researchers from the United States, Finland, Germany, but also from Brussels, Aalst or Mons. Each with their own project and experience and in common the will to increase participation and inclusion in the political management of their community.
It is a constant effort to bring everyone into the movement. Leila Ait Salah is committed to participation in the city of Charleroi: "We have a lot of initiatives for citizen participation at the city level. One of the difficulties we face is to get everyone involved. Young people in particular are difficult to reach. They remain distrustful or do not feel involved in the life of the municipality."
"The G1000 Autumn School showed us that we are witnessing a wave of deliberative democratic innovations. Good practices and guiding principles are now giving us the ammunition to turn that wave into a tsunami!
Eva Rovers, director of Bureau Burgerberaad, makes the same observation: "Many people are not even aware that they have the right to speak. The challenge of citizens' panels is to create or recreate social dialogue. This social dialogue is essential for crucial issues such as the climate transition, issues that affect everyone's life.
The conversation goes on during the walk that takes us to the Parliament in the upper town. The group gets to know the inner workings of the Bürgerdialog, the citizens' dialogue, institutionalised in the German-speaking Community since 2019. Liesa Scholzen, vice-president of the Parliament, explains straightforwardly how she experiences this deliberative process as a parliamentarian: "Citizen dialogue means more work for the parliamentarians involved in the assemblies. But it is worth it because you feel that it brings citizens and politics closer together.
In three years, more than 120 specialists in deliberative democracy have passed through the Autumn School. Several of them have launched pioneering projects in Bosnia, Israel, a small village in Sardinia or at the federal level in Belgium, all inspired by what they learned in Eupen.
The Autumn School was a great opportunity to update my understanding about deliberative democracy as well as inclusive policy making. I was very happy to spend two full days with leading practitioners in this field. It was also a valuable networking opportunity to meet a lot of people who are working on deliberative democracy in various fields.
The G1000 Autumn School showed us that we are witnessing a wave of deliberative democratic innovations. Good practices and guiding principles are now giving us the munition to turn that wave into a tsunami!
I feel motivated and inspired, but also well equipped with realistic expectations due to the nuanced presentations by the selected speakers.