Onderdeel van de tour 'Wat het nieuwe kabinet zich moet realiseren'

Met o.a. 
Harm van den Heiligenberg – Policy advisor innovation and sustainability (province of Utrecht) and PhD student (Utrecht University)
Rogier van der Wal - Strategic Policy Advisor Science (VNG)
Ilhan Tekir – Financial advisor (City of Utrecht)
Karin Visser – Staff advisor of the Knowledge Center of Participation and Initiatives (City of Utrecht)

Practitioner’s lab

Citizen initiatives directed to the improvement of neighborhoods, living environments and social conditions are booming. Governments often welcome these activities, and not only because of budget cuts. There is a growing conviction that the involvement of citizens often results in better solutions of local problems and more support of citizens. We know that an increasing number of societal issues cannot - and must not be - solved by government action only. It would be too much top down.

There are, however, a number of serious questions and paradoxes in the interactions between local governments and citizen initiatives. Aims and interests between government and ‘’people on the street’’ can widely differ. For instance, because of policy aims, governments tend to be mainly interested in those initiatives that fit into existing policy plans. As such, often policy agenda’s and local rules decreases the passion and energy of initiators, instead of the other way around. It is all about the difference between the top-down policy world and the community world. The difference between a supply-oriented approach and a demand-driven approach. Are local governments really capable to support the initiatives of the community?

And how do we deal with initiatives that conflict with other governmental core responsibilities, such as equality before the law, democratic legitimation, topics in diversity and inclusion or safety and insurance matters? How do we try to find solutions for the overrepresentation of specific societal groups among participation and initiatives? And the fact that often the same active individuals raise their voice?

How can governments, citizens, (social) entrepreneurs and initiators deal with these questions and paradoxes? Local contexts differ often too much to design a one fits-all solution or to develop clear blueprints guaranteeing workable answers. This lab, organized by the Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG), Studio Goudswaard, the municipality of Utrecht and the province of Utrecht, will present various practical experiences in the districts of the city of Utrecht. You learn more about experiences with initiatives-cafes, a transition lab, privatization of playgrounds and housing cooperations:

  • Initiatives-cafes are a approachable way to bring active citizens, entrepreneurs, experts and advisers together in a café-setting to talk about their ideas and initiatives. And to get advice for the next step.
  • The transition lab is an innovative experiment to empower and to scale-up citizen initiatives on sustainability, with the support of creative interventions.
  • Playgrounds: from being run by social welfare organizations and the local government, the neighborhood can take over and run the playgrounds themselves.
  • Housing cooperations and real cooperative urban area development profit from an engaged real estate sector in relation to the upcoming Environment and Planning Act. The common purpose is a healthy and happy city Utrecht.


Out of these experiences some participation paradoxes will be derived, and brought into the discussion. Play the ’Paradoxgame on feet’ that facilitates and stimulates the conversation between active citizens and local governments. You will learn more about the paradoxes in Utrecht and how the civil servants in Utrecht learn to recognize these paradoxes and changed their attitude & behavior. It is about ’more room for rules’, transparency of information (open data and open budgets), the right to challenge, working with internal networks in a big organization as the municipality of Utrecht, tools to advise active citizens, equal relations & cooperation with citizens, social impact and overall being a reliable partner who is clear and open in her communication.

So, get inspired of creative, equal and innovative solutions and learn more about your personal vision to participation paradoxes and how you want to deal with it. The organizers invite policy makers, civil servants, initiators, practitioners and scholars to bring your own dilemma to this lab and to formulate your own questions,  which can be used in the lab as concrete cases.

Het evenement vindt plaats in het Academiegebouw Utrecht, van 09:00 uur tot 12:30 uur.

Deze bijeenkomst is onderdeel van de VB/VOM-tour 'wat het nieuwe kabinet zich moet realiseren', een reeks bijeenkomsten tussen de Tweede Kamerverkiezingen en Prinsjesdag waarin de wetenschap in dialoog gaat met de bestuurspraktijk over actuele thema's voor het openbaar bestuur.


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