Borders to Cross

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On democratic innovation and civic driven change

Type of activity
Date of the activity
October 2013

Location of the activity
Pakhuis de Zwijger
Borders to Cross is an international conference was held in Pakhuis de Zwijger, Amsterdam on October 29-30th, 2013 bring together civil servants, citizens, social entrepreneurs, and scientists to reflect on the innovative ways in which democracy is being practiced and civil society, market and government are working together to address shared problems in Europe.

The opening was delivered by Mr. Andree van Es, Alderman of the Municipality of Amsterdam, “Through Borders to Cross, Leading figures from the field of grassroots change will delve into topics ranging from new forms of joint decision-making, inclusive participation, innovative social business models, everyday democracy and new approaches to ownership and the civic economy.” he said. The conference continued with a round table discussion that brings representatives from government, civil society and academic institution. The discussion was based on four burning questions which question owners at Border to Cross are seeking the answer. The last program was the speed date match by the dynamic group over three time changes and discussed different issues such as solution on bridging the gap between practitioners and civil society; what is the action to stimulate citizen’s initiatives and case study statement by participant’s perspective in regards to each role (Government, Civil Society and Academia). This program aim to create a common sense, bring the solution ideas and most of the important is building networking.

The second day was more intense on cross talks and workshops, divided into three rounds, each round deals with the transition from different angle; the first round was about cross talks by different sectors; sharing experiences with “de Meevaart” a community enterprise, as an example of Do-It-Yourself community power; also talked about the Network project, a journey to nourish a new, engage and fresh look on Europe through supporting a dynamic network of local cultural change makers. This event allow us to also see how to lead the community ownership, community asset management and community enterprise agendas as well as providing a voice for the members - raising their concerns, promoting the interests and influencing policy and practice of government and other strategic agencies. One of the Economists from College of Europe & KULeuven shared the vision on the ways the political realm and government needs to change to facilitate and stimulate democratic innovation and civic driven change.

Second round was about the used methodology, brings out the bottom up initiatives within local societies, nationally visible. It connects these initiatives and by doing so helps to create a new top sectors. Top sectors that focuses on new local or civic economies, on smart use of resources, cooperation and action. During the transition workshop, we learn more on what is expected from a citizen in bottom-up society. With the citizens initiatives as showcases, the event further develop the profile of the active citizen in a bottom up society, in this matter on reflecting on the changing society and the implications of active citizens of the future. The self governance workshop was focus on the changing role of governments and citizens and the changing relationship between them. The cases shows citizen themselves are taking matters into their own hands again, take the examples of Tenever in Germany and the Peel en Maas region in the Netherlands shows that citizens themselves are very capable to govern certain issues.

The third round was focused on what is needed to enable long-term democratic innovation and bottom up social change. Innovation in the relation between public service providers and their users/citizens are characterized by more attentions for the user or the citizen’s perspective. These innovations have in common that professional institutions get more responsive to the ideas and needs of citizens. The organizational and institutional arrangements to reach this result may differ each with its own merits in different contextual settings. Each workshop was built on the practices and dilemmas of two initiatives and it continued to a fruitful discussion and knowledge exchange. The conference allows us to learn how civic initiatives and other innovations are reshaping the practice of democracy within and across borders.

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