Vision impossible - One is allowed to dream a little…

Why always go straight to the doctor when the couch at home can do the trick?

About visioning and visualizing. The imPOSSIBLE. News from the Active Citizens. 

(Special thanks to Thomas Pieperhoff for translating.)

Active citizens... What was that again?

Active Citizens. A while back, I reported on this 
group that is developing a program for more citizen participation in Dinslaken. Likeprettymuch all projects set up across Europe, the pandemic has forced us to work differently. Where mostly physical meetings, analog collaboration and lots of post-its were planned, now most of theworktakes place in video conferences and other digital ways. For us, too, this meant rethinking and relearning, as well as changes in the "roadmap." Part of the reason why I have not yet reportedagainon Small Scale Actions, for example. But: We are still busy. And it is also becoming increasingly clear to us what added value we [can] create.

So why do we hear and read so little about it?

Yes, why do we read and hear so little about something that deals with how more people can be involved? That sounds again like decisions made in a closed room. 


As I mentioned in the first article on this subject, that's a bit of a bland taste on our tongues. This also becomes clear time and again when we deal with possible objections and the subsequent acceptance of the citizen participation concept. But someone has to make a start. And even though we've already had five working sessions and countless hours of video conferencing: we've really only just begun. Nothing has been decided. We're still working out how we‘re going to work, to put it that way. Or in other words:


"No decision about us without us," said Christophe Gouache, Lead Expert at URBACT. In matters that affect the citizens, no decision should be made without their participation and involvement. We are currently working on the possibility of this more direct participation [provided that the city council then decides positively on it].

Ah. So you guys are bumming around.

Nooooo. Anything, but not that. However, if you want to get something going with 12-20 people who have a wide variety of skills, ideas and ways of working, you first have to look at where the journey is going, how and with what you can accomplish it, and who can contribute what at what time. The only moment we ever closed our eyes was the thirty seconds in which everyone had to imagine Dinslaken in the year 2031. I swear. 


All right. So: what's new?

I have a dream.


Don't panic, I'm not going to talk to you about the stuff that keeps me awake at night. And I won't presume to compare myself with Martin Luther King and the March on Washington. But when you read that sentence, you immediately have that distinctive voice in your ear and that determined face in front of your eyes. At least, I do.


King was advised in advance not to say "I have a dream." That was clichéd and worn out, they said. 



Yeah. Um. Good. The speech may be without a masterpiece of rhetoric, but in order to convey his vision of the future in an authentic and tangible way, he made use of the allusion to the "American Dream, which, due to the lack of equal rights for Afro-Americans in all areas of society, excluded a large part of Americans.



Now, thanks to the German Constitution (Article 3, Paragraph 1), we are all equal before the law. We have, among other things, freedom of opinion, assembly and belief, may freely choose our profession and may not be forced to do a particular job. All state power emanates from the people. 


This is not new.

Wait for it.


Thank you.


Because I'm trying to establish the concept of vision here without someone immediately bawling out: "If you have visions, you should see a doctor“. We have to thank former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt for this dreadful phrase, which he snarled along as casually as if Martin Luther King had never existed.

What does one have to do with the other?

Well, in order to become aware of how a lack of citizen participation can be turned into a vibrant culture of participation, one must, on the one hand, analyse the causes and effects of the lack. We dealt with this in detail in the first sessions of Active Citizens. Were there too few offerings? Why did only "the usual suspects" participate? What does it lead to when only a privileged, ever-same group makes decisions for everyone? And so on. 

You could fill evenings with each of these questions. Let me just say.


But what do you do with the knowledge of where the deficiency comes from and how it affects us?

Instead of getting straight down to work, launching projects and just getting on with it, the project management's guideline was: "Dream. Allow yourself to dream. Think about how you would like to see this problem in ten years. Ambitious, but realistic. Think about the year 2031, look around and look back. Where are you now, how did you get there? Develop a vision of the way you could go [to achieve more citizen participation]. Mentally put the cart before the horse. Come up with ideas.


Well. In the paragraph before, I hid the term vision. Read it again.


Really that bad that I should be on the couch? 


By the way, it's not bad there at all. And also such a braindoctor likes to use the exercise of describing how/where you see yourself in a few years or in a certain situation. 



Now the term dream is not one hundred percent congruent with that of vision. But if you analyse King's speech in which he describes his dream, he draws his vision of a better America in the mind's eye of his listeners. Today, waving this vision off ludicrously occurs only to those who need a few remedial lessons in history anyway and definitely wouldn't stray onto this blog.

Okay, okay. Vision is it.

Alrighty. Thanks. 



I'm quickly getting to the point where I share mine with you and you can make fun of it. I'm already lying on the couch, so what should happen?  



To make a vision tangible for others - you, for example - you visualise it. In other words, you package it in such a way that everyone can experience this vision. Be it through a film, photos, something read aloud or something to read. 



I packed my vision of how the citizens of Dinslaken in 2031 will be actively involved in urban planning, spatial development, events, culture, etc., and how they will not only have a say in these, but also help to shape them, into a fictional newspaper article. 



(The participation center mentioned in the text is so far only "my" idea and not subject of the Active Citizens project. I hope our social media manager Michelle Müller will forgive me for simply "transferring" her to a new job.)

That's nice. And?

I was about to ask exactly the same question.


What are you missing in order to get actively involved? For example, to engage in the topic of Hünxer Straße, in the development of the horse race track and other urban areas, in digitalization, in housing or sustainability projects, and so on. What prevents you from getting involved? 


Even more important:  


What should participation look like for you to want to get involved? What would you like to stand up for? What would motivate you?

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