Informal citizen participation

Informal citizen participation (also called "voluntary" citizen participation) is not prescribed by law, but it is freely decided when and how citizen participation is to be carried out. In informal public participation, citizens are invited by the administration to participate, e.g. when the development of the city centre is at stake or the mobility offers in the city are to be improved. Informal public participation often takes place early in the planning process, when there is still scope for ideas and different planning variants to be discussed and weighed up together. This can be events, online dialogue opportunities, a discussion booth in a passageway, or workshops in schools. There is often a facilitator or moderator and creative methods are used to encourage productive discussion.

Areas of application of informal participation

Informal citizen participation is possible in Jena in principle for all areas of responsibility of the own sphere of influence which lie within the competence of the city council and the mayor. Thus, a variety of topics in the fields of culture, social affairs, sports, housing, traffic planning, urban planning and others can become the content of citizen participation.

Citizen participation is not possible if the public good or the protection of minorities requires non-publicity or if (e.g. due to legal framework conditions) there is no room for manoeuvre in a project. For this reason, a citizens' petition or citizens' referendum is only possible in the case of tasks that fall within a person's own sphere of action.

Concrete regulations on the scope of application of informal citizen participation are contained in the Citizen Participation Statute (BBS).

Important elements of informal citizen participation are explained below.

The guidelines were developed by the administration, politicians and citizens in partnership in order to bundle the previous experience with citizen participation in Jena. This creates a foundation for a lively culture of participation, which should ultimately be expressed in more (desire for) citizen participation. A common understanding was developed of what characterises good citizen participation, what can be achieved with citizen participation and how decisions are made on when to carry out citizen participation.

The guidelines should especially contribute to the active participation of young people, even if they do not yet have the right to vote or are only temporarily living in Jena as students. Their perspectives must not be missing when shaping the future of Jena.

Jena is one of about 40 cities in Germany that has taken on a pioneering role and established guidelines for citizen participation. Citizen participation is not only seen as a requirement, but as a key factor for the future viability of the city. If important decisions for the development of Jena are made transparently and citizens find their ideas reflected in them, then the identification with their city also grows.

The guidelines will be evaluated in the second half of 2019.

All municipal projects in which a greater interest on the part of the public is assumed are documented by the administration as early as possible in a project list which is publicly accessible on the Internet. The list of projects not only makes clear for which projects informal citizen participation by the administration (or the municipal undertakings) is planned, but also for which projects informal citizen participation by citizens can be additionally encouraged. Finally, the list also indicates for each project whether formal public participation is required by law.

The list of projects is updated regularly. If informal public participation is already provided for in the administration's list of projects, there is no need for citizens to suggest public participation for this project. For the suggestion of informal citizen participation, it is irrelevant whether formal participation is already prescribed for the municipal projects or not. In the former case, informal public participation can be carried out in addition (usually at an early stage) to formal public participation. In the latter case, informal public participation can also take place without formal public participation.