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Co-creating the Town - Innovative Solutions to the Stimulation of Civic Engagement in the Context of Demographic Change – The Case of Weißwasser/O.L.
Client:Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
Partner(s):The Mayor’s Office Weißwasser; Stadtverein Weißwasser
Time frame:06/2016 – 05/2019

Weißwasser in Upper Lusatia ranks among Germany’s most shrinking and ageing small towns. In the last two decades, the composition of the town’s population has massively changed and the town administration faces major challenges to maintain its services. These challenges can only be met with the collaboration of the town’s administration and its inhabitants. Furthermore, the administration’s financial scope of action has recently been reduced by massive business tax refunds to its largest industrial employer, who also cancelled optional payments into the administration’s budget.

In the light of these demographic and financial changes, the administration had to cut on the provision of voluntary services (e.g. youth and social work, cultural initiatives). The town administration is increasingly dependent on its inhabitants as co-creators and providers of these voluntary services. As such, Weißwasser is indicative of a great number of German small towns that need to find innovative solutions to the stimulation of civic engagement of poorly involved social groups. For example, the few newcomers who recently arrived to the town hardly articulate their perspectives on the town’s social life; teenagers seem to prepare their migration to other regions in Germany instead of co-creating Weißwasser as their future home; and young women and their ideas are underrepresented in the dominant local organizations of civil society. From a scientific perspective, information is missing in two relevant fields:

Which specific needs and ideas do the above mentioned social groups have and what type of constraints for co-creating do exist from their point of view?

What measures can be used by the town administration in order to stimulate more civic engagement among these groups and to appreciate their efforts?

For an improvement of the local situation, the research team at ILS will collaborate with the Mayor’s Office and the local association Stadtverein in their efforts to integrate more citizens into the co-creation of a vital community in Weißwasser. Empirical research will be carried out to gather knowledge on the specific motives for or against stronger civic engagement of relevant social groups. In addition, innovative solutions to a stimulation of these social groups´ engagement will be developed and tested in a way that they are transferable to other small towns with similar problems.

You can find more information on the project website:

Project Movie at Foresight Filmfestival 2017

Our project movie "Eine Stadt schmilzt" will compete in the category "Stadt, Land, Zwischenräume" . Please vote for us during the online screening on 26 Oct 2017, 6:30 pm at The movie was produced in the frame of the Science2Movie Academy 2017 at Martin-Luther-Universität Halle/Wittenberg. The festival jury nominated 2 out 7 science movies from the academy to be screened at the festival. See also:

Project leader:
  • Dr.-Ing. Olivia Kummel

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