Bürgerwerkstatt Bad Muskau
Name / Title
Case Study Region
Direktionsbezirk Dresden (Germany)
Main activity / focus
– Enhance civic engagement in the rural town of Bad Muskau
Target beneficiaries / market
– Citizens of Bad Muskau and surrounding villages
Current Funding source(s)
Public: Saxon State Chancellery (Directive ‘Demography’);
Bad Muskau is a small rural town in the north of the County of Görlitz, at the Polish-German border. It has nearly 4,000 inhabitants and is widely known for its Muskau Park, the largest English garden of Germany and Poland (UNESCO WORLD Heritage since 2004). However, the town faces demographic problems. Development perspectives could not rely solely on the Muskau Park tourism. The extra-regional association VSBI e.V., professionalized in the development and implementation of social projects to counteract negative impact of demographic change, came to town in order to selfempower its citizenship and to support the City Council. VSBI initiated the Bürgerwerkstatt project in 2007, with funding of the Saxon State Chancellery’s programme line ‘Demography’.
A main goal of the Bürgerwerkstatt is to bring the citizens together and make them passionate about the future development of their town. The Mayor also looked for a possibility to integrate citizens into planning processes and thus supported the Bürgerwerkstatt as a platform to interact with the citizens. Later, it turned out that the City Council did not pay much attention to what the citizens in the Bürgerwerkstatt had to say. Nonetheless, it initiated a process of self-empowerment and civic engagement among Bad Muskau inhabitants, which ended in the formation an own association – Forum & Projekt Lausitz e.V.. This association supports the activity of the Bürgerwerkstatt and provides a legal framework for the post-funding period, when VSBI retracts.
The Bürgerwerkstatt seeks exchange with other local stakeholders, such as the entrepreneurs’ association BVMW, the Muskau Park association, different associations, etc. Today, the Bürgerwerkstatt consists of some core activists who sustain the integration of the wider citizenship into a variety of activities. The project Bürger-Internet-Werkstatt group carried out survey waves among citizens to study their opinion about City Council planning processes. The initiative group Bad Muskauer Kreis focuses on the establishment of a civic foundation (Bürgerstiftung) to support other social projects in the town. A creativity group meets regularly to learn handcraft techniques. In a club called ‚Geschichte und Geschichten’ contemporary witnesses describe their experience of historic moments to younger citizens in order to stimulate their engagement for the town.
A computer group edits the Bürgerwerkstatt’s website and teach other citizens how to use the PC. Regular debate circles take place with the Mayor as well as with invited guests from other organizations. Thus, the Bürgerwerkstatt Bad Muskau is a good example for the successful implementation of a self-empowerment platform in a rural town. With the help of the external actor VSBI and the funding of the Saxon government, a process was initiated which now became selfsustaining: citizens have identified own interests related to the public community and the town’s future development. They have been mobilized to set-up an active civil society in a rural town with a formerly rather pessimistic citizenship.
Mrs. Gabriele Schönfelder