In recent years, citizen participation has become an important issue for municipalities. Several forms of citizen participation are possible to involve citizens in political-administrative decisions (e.g., noise-action planning or participatory budgeting). For this purpose, some municipalities increasingly use the internet.
So far, there has been no overview of how many municipalities use the internet for which kind of participation processes. The NRW-Fortschrittskolleg “Online-Participation” has taken on this task. Based on a survey of municipalities and counties in North Rhine-Westfalia (NRW), a database of all Internet-based participation procedures of the last ten years has been set up.
In addition to the scientific research on online participation in NRW, this database serves to bring together municipal actors that are interested in internet-supported citizen participation. Primarily, the database can enable an exchange of experience. The information collected in the survey is being presented in an interactive participation map. It can be found here: www.monitor-online-partizipation.de (in German) The data can be retrieved for each individual municipality under an open license.
In November 2015, the survey phase had started by sending the questionnaires to all 396 municipalities and 31 counties in NRW. It was successfully completed in March 2016. In total, more than 90% of all cities, municipalities and counties in NRW took part in the survey. According to our survey, in 130 municipalities as well as in seven counties in NRW, at least one Internet-based citizen participation process has been carried out so far. Thirty-three municipalities have already carried out such procedures before 2010 and thus are quite experienced.
The project was carried out by a team of PhD-students of the NRW Fortschrittskolleg from different disciplines:
- Malte Steinbach (Business Administration)
- Sabrina Schöttle (Sociology)
- Nadja Wilker (Political Science)
- Theresa Witt (Law)
- Peter Gladitz (Political Science)
Dr. Katharina Gerl
Board, DIID-Team, Political Science
Katharina Gerl is a postdoctoral researcher at the Düsseldorf Institute for Internet and Democracy (DIID). In her PhD thesis she analyzed the effects of digitalization and mediatization on party organizations in Germany.
Her research focuses on the implications of digital technologies for political institutions, political communication and participation. She conducted several studies evaluating the usage of onlinebased tools by political organizations. At the DIID she is also in charge of the unit that focusses on the evaluation of online public participation and the development of evaluation criteria to measure and compare the input, output, outcome and impact of digital tools for public participation.
Dr. Malte Steinbach
Alumni, Business Administration, Sociology
Dr. Malte Steinbach supervised the DIID as scientific coordinator from April 2019 to April 2020. He wrote his dissertation at the Chair of Business Administration, in particular Labor, Human Resources and Organization at the Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf within the framework of the NRW Progress College Online Participation. At the University of Bonn he studied geography with the subsidiary subjects urban planning and economics.
In his master thesis he investigated the topic of e-participation in urban development using the city of Bonn as an example. His research deals with the providers of online participation processes from an organizational theory perspective. In his PhD, he investigated the diffusion of online participation in public organizations based on neoinstitutionalist organizational theories.
Since 2020, Dr. Malte Steinbach is project manager at DIID cooperation partner Zebralog in Bonn.
Dr. Nadja Wilker
Nadja Wilker holds a Bachelor of Communication and Political Sciences from the University of Muenster and a Master of Political Communication from the University of Duesseldorf.
In her master thesis she analysed the participative and representative dimensions of ‚Liquid Democracy‘, an online-based concept for democratic decision making made famous by the Pirate Party. At the end of 2012, she started working as a research assistant at the department of political sciences in Duesseldorf. Since 2014 she has been working on her PhD project as part of the NRW Graduate School Online Participation. Her research and teaching focus is in political (online) communication and theories of political participation and representation. In her research, she deals with questions of acceptance and legitimacy of public participation from the perspective of legislatures and political parties.
Theresa Witt is a research assistant at the law faculty at the Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf. She studied law in Düsseldorf and passed the first state examination in May, 2015. Her major field of study was international and European law. During her studies, she worked as a student assistant at the Chair of Public Law, Legal Theory & Legal Sociology (faculty of law, HHU) for two years. In this period, especially being involved in the process of writing, editing, updating and commenting on juridical texts deepened her affinity to constitutional and state law.
In her doctoral thesis, she addresses top-down initiated, legally non-binding online-participation processes. Her main research question is whether – and if so, in which extent – such processes need to meet legal standards or should be regulated, although they do not produce legally binding results.