New administrative practices in a participatory context.
The Amsterdam West experience (Netherlands)
Pierre Bauby, Mihaela Similie, 2014
Deploying participatory governance at the city level involves changing administrative structures, the practices of city officials and their interactions with citizens. The Amsterdam West district case study is an example of an adaptation of the municipal structure that brought municipal staff closer to the residents of the neighborhoods to enable greater citizen participation. Instead of focusing on participation procedures, they focused on creating opportunities for interaction between actors.
In the Netherlands, starting in the 1990s, a trend developed to pay more attention to the opinions of users and consumers. Citizens began to be involved either through surveys, consultative referendums or the development of more interactive forms of governance1.
A particular example is the city of Amsterdam, which has introduced a structure ('Greater Amsterdam' and seven districts - ‘Stadsdelen’) and methods of governance that aim to be as close as possible to the daily concerns of the inhabitants. These developments have taken place since the squatter revolts of the 1980s.
A practical case in the district of Amsterdam West is remarkable for the originality of its model of participatory democracy and the role played by public officials2. Since 2010 the area has been managed by its own local government. This former industrial area of the city has particular social difficulties (poverty and linguistic exclusion, weakened middle classes) that motivated the introduction of participatory democracy. The objective was to complement the centralized planning approach at the definition and implementation stages of local policies with a bottom-up participatory approach that develops the empowerment of the inhabitants. Citizen participation targets all local public services with a triple objective : « to give citizens a taste for « living together " ; to put sociability at the service of the development of self-managed services ; to limit and rationalize the intervention of public authorities »3.
The approach was as follows:
The degree of institutionalization and proceduralization of the participatory experiences implemented in Amsterdam West is very low and cooperative mechanisms are more important than elective ones.
The experience of Amsterdam West serves as a model for other experiences in cities in the Netherlands and elsewhere.
1 CEMR, 2006, Controlling, Cajoling or Co-operating? Central governments’ policy approaches towards local government on the issues of performance and cost-effectiveness, Brussels, May 2006, p. 18.
2 Based on the note by Martien Kruitenbrouwer and Christophe Sente published by the Fondation Jean-Jaurès in 2014.
3 Kruitenbrouwer M., and Sente C., 2014, Participatory democracy : the experience of Amsterdam West, Fondation Jean-Jaurès, Observatoire de l’innovation locale, Note n°27, 9 October 2014, p.3.
Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), 2006, Controlling, Cajoling or Co-operating? Central governments’ policy approaches towards local government on the issues of performance and cost-effectiveness, Brussels, May 2006, 32p.
Kruitenbrouwer M., and Sente C., 2014, Démocratie participative : l’expérience d’Amsterdam West, Fondation Jean-Jaurès, Observatoire de l’innovation locale, Note n°27, 9 October 2014, 6p.
En savoir plus
Kruitenbrouwer M., 2012, »Les conseils mutualistes comme antidotes au populisme« , Policy Network.net.
Niederer, S. et Priester, R, 2016, »Smart Citizens : Exploring the Tools of the Urban Bottom-Up Movement« , Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), juin 2016, volume 25, numéro 2, pp 137-152.