In order to strengthen democracy, we need a new discussion culture. To this end, we are creating public spaces where citizens can meet regularly to discuss social issues over coffee and cake and get to know each other better.

The project is based on three considerations:

  1. there are no longer enough platforms in our societies where citizens can meet to discuss social issues. As a result, democratic practice is limited: we have too few opportunities to exchange information and views and are therefore unable to develop informed preferences, which are essential for a democracy. We are learning less and less how to deal with complexity and opposing points of view.
  2. Furthermore, a rift is opening up between knowledge holders and citizens. Academics, for example, hide in ivory towers and citizens in the bubbles of their Facebook and Instagram streams. In order to re-establish the connection between knowledge holders – representatives of companies, universities, research institutes, civil society, certain professional groups, the press, politics and administration – and citizens and to strengthen the competition for well-founded ideas, we need platforms again where knowledge holders share their knowledge and invite people to exchange this knowledge with each other.
  3. loneliness is one of the most widespread problems of modern, individualized societies. Also for this reason we need new meeting-platforms.

For one year, we organize monthly meetings of around two hours at three locations. We give an introduction of around 25 minutes on a social topic. For another 45 minutes, we moderate a discussion between the participants. After that, people can continue to discuss the topic or any other topic among themselves.

Participants are asked what topics they would like to talk about. In addition to local topics, general topics such as loneliness, climate change, work-life balance, migration and integration, alternative energies, social media algorithms, political radicalization, social inequality, etc. are possible. We prepare the topics in such a way that they are easy to understand and so that everyone can join in the discussion.

We are therefore pursuing several goals with this project. We want to create a platform where citizens from different social, political, religious and cultural backgrounds can meet regularly to discuss important social issues. In doing so, we hope to strengthen social cohesion, mutual understanding, citizens’ political skills, the local political (debate) culture and local civil society.

In this context, we also hope to strengthen or re-establish the connection between the knowledge carriers in our society and the general population. This should also help to prevent radicalization, the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories, the development of echo chambers determined by social media algorithms.

Bringing people together also helps to combat another major social problem: people’s loneliness. Loneliness not only has serious personal psychological and physical consequences, but also significant political impacts (see: Loneliness, unhappiness, consumerism and its political consequences: observations and predictions of Robert E. Lane).

Our aim is also to form a group of committed citizens from the participants, who can take on more and more tasks from the SSW and eventually carry out the project independently.

In 2024, we will organize Citizens’ Dialogues at three locations. That’s a total of around 40 meetings. In cooperation with the local Friedrich Wolfe Theater, the first meeting took place on February 20 in Eisenhüttenstadt. You can find the poster for this series of events here: Miteinander reden Flyer. Preparations are also underway for a series of dialogues in Ludwigsfelde. Further information will follow at a later date.

More background information on the experiences, aims and content of this type of deliberation can be found here.



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