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The future of democracy in Europe: young politicians are becoming participation professionals

Newly elected mayors from Ukraine, Italy and Slovenia, presidents of local parliaments from Portugal, Latvia, and Austria, and members of regional and local parliaments from Cyprus, Bulgaria, Serbia, France, and Luxembourg: we received over 100 applications and are now training 45 young politicians from 25 EU and European countries to become experts in citizen participation.  

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Foto Anna Renkamp
Anna Renkamp
Senior Project Manager
Foto Christian Huesmann
Dr. Christian Huesmann
Senior Project Manager


Together with the European Committee of the Regions, the New Democracy project has launched the "Becoming a Participation Professional" initiative. The aim: to provide young politicians from the EU and Europe with the skills needed for good citizen participation and shape the future of democracy in Europe in a more citizen-centred way. 

Political will is the key to the success of citizen participation. This is where our initiative "Becoming a Participation Professional" comes in, providing motivated young politicians with the tools for good citizen participation.

Anna Renkamp, citizen participation expert at Bertelsmann Stiftung

In four online training sessions and three days of meeting face-to-face, the project teaches the theoretical foundations of good citizen participation and the very practical tools needed to make participation projects a success on the ground. The aim is to anchor participation sustainably in European regions. The two workshops held so far in November 2023 showed a great interest to acquire skills in citizen participation at regional level in Europe. 

Many different topics - but the challenges are the same across Europe

How can people regain confidence in politics again? How can participants be recruited for specific projects? How can we convince people within our own ranks or in the administration? And above all: how do we achieve concrete and lasting integration of citizen participation into local representative structures? 

"Despite the wide range of issues that young politicians bring with them, the challenges they face are the same. Across Europe and across political parties," says Dr. Christian Huesmann, who is responsible for the project at Bertelsmann Stiftung. This is why the programme also offers sufficient opportunities for exchange among the participants. 

From good arguments in favour of citizen participation to methodological skills and the participants' own projects

In terms of content, the workshops cover the entire spectrum of citizen participation. Experts from the Bertelsmann Stiftung, practitioners and specialists from all over Europe offer their expertise to participants. They examine the role that participation can plan in a vibrant democracy – but also offer specific methodological skills for applying citizen participation. The focus is on the participants’ specific needs, such as providing good arguments for citizen participation that can be used to convince sceptics in politics and administration. 

What particularly stands out is the fact that all of the young politicians are planning or already implementing specific participation projects. Their topics are wide-ranging: from infrastructure projects, such as the redesign of public spaces, to educational topics such as the restructuring of training programmes, participatory budgeting, youth participation or the question of how EU foreigners can be included in regional policy-making - the topics of concern for the European people are diverse.

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About the initiative

Building on the "From local to European" project from 2021 and in the run-up to the 2024 European elections, the European Committee of the Regions and Bertelsmann Stiftung have launched this new initiative. The aim is to promote citizen participation with modern and innovative concepts, specifically for those topics that are relevant on the EU-level, such as energy, climate, or health. The initiative supports regional and local politicians in developing skills for the implementation of citizen participation projects. Particular attention is paid to the young generation of politicians, at whom the "Becoming a Participation Professional" initiative is directed.