Strengthening civil society sustainability initiatives addresses two of the biggest challenges currently facing society. On the one hand, the fatal and multi-layered social consequences of advancing climate change, environmental degradation and resource consumption underscore the need to establish sustainability from the middle of society and place it at the top of the political agenda. On the other hand, the increasing polarization of society and disenchantment with politics are symptoms of a crisis of democracy that must be countered with a strong civil society.

This research and participation project identifies regulatory hurdles that impede the work of sustainability initiatives and develops appropriate solutions primarily aimed at administration and politics (from local to federal level). The solutions are designed to strengthen the effectiveness of sustainability work, enable the scaling of sustainability initiatives, and better engage citizens who are not yet engaged in sustainability.

At the same time, it is also a participation project that strengthens democracy, because the relevant actors – sustainability initiatives, stakeholders from science, politics, administration and civil society, as well as other citizens – are involved and develop the solutions themselves. To this end, a parallel networking and exchange process of different sustainability initiatives is to be initiated, which promotes mutual learning and provides practical insights for the project.

After a review of the scientific literature on the topic, promising and forward-looking civil society sustainability initiatives will be invited to participate in a thematic exchange. A selection will develop hurdles to sustainability work and corresponding solutions in five innovation workshops. These will be further developed by the above-mentioned stakeholders and finally presented to a citizens:inside conference for further evaluation. The resulting recommendations are then passed on to actors in administration and politics.

The great opportunity of this project is therefore not only that committed citizens can better implement and expand their previous efforts for sustainability and that the hurdles for currently inactive citizens are lowered. Ultimately, it is also about strengthening democracy.

Duration: 03/2021 – 01/2024
Client: Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und nukleare Sicherheit, Umweltbundesamt
Project partner: Initiative Karte von Morgen, Prof. Norbert Kersting (Lehrstuhl für Kommunal- und Regionalpolitik an der Universität Münster), Stiftung Mitarbeit
Team: Prof. Dr. Hans-Liudger Dienel (Project lead), Karlotta Schultz (Operational project management), Dr. Thomas Blanchet, Phoebe Fuhrmann

Photo: NeONBRAND / Unsplash