Archief Agora-Europa
“Burgerdeugd, rechtvaardigheidszin en respect voor de publieke
opinie zijn voorwaarden voor het bestaan van een samenleving”

-  Socrates

A choice of national and international projects that Agora Europa has executed since 1996

In the interactive processes that we organize it is essential to have the agenda of the citizens as well as the agenda of the government as a starting point of a phased interactive process. The agenda of the citizens can be found via an opinion survey or so called ‘opiniewijzer’ and/or via a website in which the citizens can formulate their priorities. We also invite members of the city council or provincial council to telephone their citizens as the start of developing opinions and the preparation of the decision making process.

1999 – 2000 The Fifth White Paper on Urban and Regional Planning in Holland
For the Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning we have organized, together with The Institute of Public and Politics (IPP), the national discussion ‘Geef mij de Ruimte’ (Give me my own space). Themes in the White Paper are: living, working, agriculture, transport, nature, recreation.
Methods and means that we used are: opinion surveys in newspapers, interviews by telephone or face-to-face, discussion meetings, workshops and a final manifestation with cultural elements.

2001 – 2002 Panorama Krayenhoff – The New Dutch Waterline for Defense
In cooperation with the IPP we organized the public debate for the starting points of the development. The New Dutch Waterline for Defense ? runs through 5 provinces with a length of 80 and a width of 5 kilometers. By means of an opinion survey, citizens in 5 provinces could give their opinions about the Waterline as a whole and specifically for their own region.
Citizens have made their own Citizens Advise. Citizens and members of local and provincial councils worked together on the planning development. The longterm project will be executed in a public-private partnership.

1996 – 1997 Mainport Rotterdam
By order of The Ministries of Transport, Economic Affairs, Housing and Urban Planning and Agriculture we organized a national discussion about the benefit and the necessity of the expansion of the Mainport Rotterdam. Besides Schiphol the second most important mainport of Holland.
More than 5.000 Dutch citizens took part in the discussions in live debates, workshops and discussions via internet. The results were offered to the national government.

1997 and 1999 Zaanstad and it’s citizens in 2015. 1st and 2nd Future Festival
What do inhabitants of the city of Zaanstad think about the future of their community,
A large number of themes was discussed: living, nature, transport, economy, work, educations, senior citizens, social welfare, leisure activities.
On two so called Future Festivals a variety of debates and cultural elements, fortune tellers and an internetlaboratory were present.

1998 – 1999 Amsterdam, Open Plan Process – Wibaut-as.
Agora Europa organized the open plan process about the development of the Wibaut-as, which starts at the building NEMO above the IJ-tunnel and runs through one of the major city streets with numerous newspaper and education buildings. A masterplan should provide more coherency and quality.
The process started with city-walks, lectures and public meetings. Citizens, shopkeepers, interest groups and other participants developed in three groups during workshops three perspectives that have been offered to the city government.

2003 The village of Leersum and its communityservices.
‘Different and Better’ was the name of the interactive project that we managed in cooperation with the IPP, in which the local government invited the citizens of Leersum to participate in formulating their starting points of the discussion about the necessary adjustment of a number of community services in their village. By means of inquiries (opiniewijzer), public meetings and workshops the agenda of the citizens was formulated and the opinions of the different solutions with their advantages and problems were exchanged. The civil servants provided the workshops with facts and figures that were necessary for a fruitful discussion. The final report of the process gave a clear overview of the dilemma’s and the financial consequences of the decisions that the members of the village council had to make in the decision making process that followed.

2003 The village of Woubrugge – reconstruction of De Batehof and surroundings
In cooperation with the IPP and a town planner we helped develop a plan for the renovation of a shopping center and the surrounding living area in the center of the village of Woubrugge. A continuing unsuccessful story for 6 years for different reasons so far. The challenge was to get all participants at the table, collect the wishes and problems and have the results in deliberation with those involved translated by a town planner (with a moderate ego) into a high quality plan, that also stays within the financial limits of the local politics, the entrepreneurs and the housing corporation.
We were fortunate enough to find such a town planner in Foke de Jong, who helped us to get the politicians and the participants come to an agreement on the major issues of the plan.


Ministry of Transport and Public Affairs, 13 november 1997 Panorama-day
Seeing clear again was the motto for the Panoramaday about scouting the future. We worked together again with the department Q with which we had made 4 video films about the future.
The conference had the form of a living magazine, which gives opportunities to exchange ideas between providers and clients, with presentations of internal and external surveys and the question whether they are useful in practice or not and debates about the (not planned) use of scenario’s.

The Three-day Event of Local Democracy, 5 – 6 – 7 february 1998
Agora Europa and the IPP were the initiators and worked together with the Association of Dutch Municipalities and The Ministry of the Interior to organize three days in three different cities. The program was meant for local governors, civil servants, citizens, non governmental organizations, scientists and other people who are involved with or are interested in local democracy. The caravan went from one city to another presenting a festival of debates, performances, interviews, cultural acts, TV and radio broadcasts and theatrical intervations.
The metaphor for the festival was dancing; as in politics the question was: who leads and who follows?

Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Sources and Fishery, 11 november 1998 Day of the Signals
The Ministry says that it wants to be the connections between Holland and Europe and that is why it is necessary to spot the national and international signals from society. The signals should be strengthend and than lead to new policy making. Together with the IPP we invited farmers and citizens from urban and rural areas to give alarming and/or hopeful signals.

Ministry of Transport and Public Affairs, 17 may 1999 Day of the Agenda of the Future
Together with the civil servants of the Ministry the themes for the day were chosen and prepared. The Ministry of Transport and Public Affairs sees three different roles for themselves: the role of butler concerning the themes logistics ands organization. The role of broker in the field of communication with society and last but not least the role of professional.

Amsterdam – a marathon of debates, interviews and performances about the future of the inner city, 10 february 2001
Together with the colleagues of Gerrichhauusen and Partners we organized a 24-hours program that started with a night-walk along and a visit to different aspects of living in the inner city of Amsterdam and was followed by a breakfast. The day-program was filled with a media-lab, columns, stand-up comedy, DJ’s, video impressions by youngsters, street dance, theater by children, a photo exposition, debates and interviews.

Ministry of the Interior, 14 june 2001 XPIN Start meeting
In cooperation with other organizations a conference was organized in the form of a living magazine as the starting day for the Expertise bureau Innovative Policymaking . It is a common effort of all ministries to collect and share the knowledge about innovative policymaking in the public sector.

Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Fishery
27 november 2001 Conference on Impulse for New Policy

Together with the IPP we have supported The Ministry a number of times in their efforts to receive signals from and sent signals to society. See The Signals Day in 1998.
A great variety of workshops illustrated the way we organize conferences; for example:
Creative writing, sculpture lessons, storytelling, juggling, watching video or film, interactive role playing, debates or ‘diners pensants’, visioning, looking for innovations and experiments, initiatives for coalitions and networks etc.

Projectbureau Belvedere. A coalition of several Ministries to strive for Preservation by Development regarding Cultural History and Regional Planning quality. 11 june 2002 Symposion Cultural History and Regional Planning Quality
In this project an inventory was made of the way cultural historical values can be embedded in town and country planning processes. And not any planning process but interactive ones in which all those involved (initiators, governments, designers and stylists, interested citizens, public and private partnership) can contribute.
During the symposion the fruits of practice have been compared with the opinions of the experts and recommendations have been formulated for an interactive way of developing plans and projects.

Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Fishery, 12 september 2002 Conference Business as Usual?
Can the Ministry go on with Business as Usual or are recent developments crucial for the task, role and working-method of the Ministry? This was the main issue on the conference.
At the same time we produced together with a number of civil servants a publication with critical essays on the developments related to the Ministry, which was presented to the Minister.

The Ministries of Finance, Transport and Public Affairs, Urban and Regional Planning, Agriculture, Nature and Fishery. 3 december 2002 Conference The Agenda of Public Private Partnership.
This conference which was organized by the four Ministries that have a lot to do with Public Private Partnership. The question is: how do you put it successful into practice. The conference had the structure of a parliament. Debating, negotiating, proprosals, agenda setting etc. were at the order of the day.

Countryside-development, 1998 – 1999 – 2000 – 2001 – 2002
In cooperation with the IPP we have developed activities in the countryside-development, apart from the conferences we mentioned above.
It started with an interactive process in the village of Eibergen in the eastern part of Holland, called De Achterhoek, which by the way was the result of our 3-day event of the Local Democracy in 3 Dutch cities (Emmen, Den Bosch, Amsterdam). The mayor of Eibergen was inspired by what she had seen there and invited us to come and do it in her village.
15 Initiators of concrete initiatives in countryside-development have made their initiatives as regards to content and finances into solid projects. They were cooperating with and supported by civil servants and the House of Countryside-development, in workshops under the chairmanship of council members.

As a follow-up of that interactive process, we organized a conference on countryside development for the 29 municipalities in De Achterhoek en Liemers to inform local governors, council members and civil servants about good practices in Holland. Information was given about concrete experiences, as well as the financial conditions and possibilities on a provincial, national and international level.
Professor Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, an authority in this field gave a lecture, including the results of a survey and the recommendations that came out of it, about the relation between municipalities and groups of initiators in countryside development.

Because of the good cooperation and contacts we had developed with the Province of Gelderland and the House of Countryside Development, we were able to develop methods for 6 training sessions in Country Side development for council members, local governors and civil servants. The training sessions were based on every day practice of the participants and those were the examples that were used and discussed and prepared to present as a project in the provincial program.

An example of the combination of countryside development and a conference of council members can be found in june 2003 for the municipalities of Beuningen, Druten, West Maas en Waal and Wijchen.

2001 – 2002 – 2003 Conferences with Councillors
Councillors and Local Governors have to deal with changes in structure and culture of the local democracy as a result of the law on dualism that was implemented in march 2002.
In 2001 we were invited by the IPP to assist in conferences with councilors in the municipalities of Alblasserdam, Alkemade, Amstelveen, Krimpen aan de IJssel, en Texel and in 2002 in Didam, Doetinchem, Epe, Lelystad.
During these conferences that last 2 or 3 parts of a day the following themes were discussed:

  • The relation between the Local Council and the Board of Governors
  • Public account
  • Aldermen who are no longer members of the local council
  • The role of council members as representative of the people
  • The right of initiative of council members and citizens
  • Interactive policy making
  • The functioning of political parties


In the first round of discussion recommendations are formulated. The recommendations that receive the broadest support of the plenum are provided with practical agreements for the near future.
This combination of giving information about the changes that are obligatory by law and to formulate practical working arrangements appears to work well, provided that an informal atmosphere is created and interrupted or followed by a nice meal.
In Texel there was a follow up in the form of an inquiry of the citizens about the functioning of the council members and the board of local governors. The results have been presented on a festival of the Local Democracy and Culture.


2001 Direct democracy in the Inner City of Amsterdam
In june 2001, in the year prior to the election of a new council for the Inner City of Amsterdam, 6 concrete proposals for direct democracy (peoples initiative, neighborhood budgets, citizen consultations, referendum) were developed and discussed during a people’s meeting in the Amstelkerk.

1999 – 2001 Talkshow Agora TV
On the local Amsterdam network called Kleurnet, Niesco Dubbelboer interviewed active citizens from different cultures about their passion for (direct) democracy. The program was
broadcasted during 1,5 year.

The Referendum Platform
The Referendum Platform makes an effort to develop a citizen friendly referendum on all levels possible. This is done by means of lobby’s in politics, campaigns and events, advice for groups of citizens and governments that want to implement referenda and last but not least the website that presents systematically the knowledge about referenda.

The Initiative
A project of that name started in 2003 to bring together various organisations and governments to enlarge the possibilities for individual citizens or citizen groups to develop initiatives. The initiatives can be developed in different fields of society: sustainability, safety, countryside development, quality of life, community development, etc.
Three main activities will be undertaken by the initiators of the project:

  • citizens initiatives will be supported with advice.
  • Research will be done to know more about the success and failure factors of citizen
  • A campaign will be started to promote the introduction of citizen friendly regulations for
    citizen initiatives and offer the necessary facilities.


Initiatives for Sustainability, 2002 – 2003
In cooperation with IPP and IVN, Organisation for Nature and Environment Education, we have supported the national campaign Initiatives for Sustainability. In 6 provinces individuals and groups of citizens have been invited via local papers and internet to come with local initiatives. Initiators are invited on a conference where council members and aldermen are asked to support the initiators. After the conference a number of meetings is organised for mutual information and support. After ca. 9 months another conference is organised, where the initiators present the results of their efforts.
What we have found is, that a better support system is necessary to make more initiatives develop to be successful projects. A first step is made by the booklet that is published by the IPP and IVN and written by Arjen Nijeboer: Ideeën en Tips voor initiatiefrijke burgers en raadsleden. (Ideas and tips for citizens en councillors with lots of initiatives).

International Activities

Agora Central Europe-Society for Democracy and Culture, since 1998

Our sister-organisation, the ACE Civic Association, was founded in 1998 with the aim of helping to enhance communication between local governments, central government bodies and citizens. Its founder and first director Eric Berman was building on experience with citizen participation projects from the Netherlands. The founding of ACE was assisted by Agora Europa and the Dutch Institute for the Public and Politics.

In its activities ACE builds on a time-tested seven-step participation model. If these rules are adhered to, more people (counsellors, citizens, townhall staff, non-governmental organisations) can take part in the planning and decisionmaking to achieve the most efficient results. This enables the local government to invite citizens to take part in the decision-making proces even before it comes up with its own proposals.


7 steps towards citizen participation

  • preparing the project
  • setting the rules
  • motivating and involving the citizens
  • choosing priorities- the first public meeting
  • drafting plans and preparing activities
  • decision making
  • implementation of action plans

Borders to Cross I - Maastricht, 5 – 6 – 7 october 2000
The conference was an initiative of six Dutch Ministries to discuss in an international group of professionals, which different opinions and practices exist in political, governmental and social domains. But also to see which common experiences there were to share. How do politicians, citizens and civil servants organize modern relations in decision making processes. In the conference good practices were presented of new, contemporary democratic relations.

Borders to Cross II - Brussels, 8 – 9 october 2001
A European conference on citizen participation and urban policy. On the first day 20 projects have been presented in workshops in the form of story telling. The projects have been selected at their aim to change the relation between the local government and the citizens. On the second day experts, who have attended the workshops, have presented their observations in the plenum and they have given recommendations for the urban policy.
The results of the conference were offered to the interministerial council of Europe.

Initiative & Referendum Institute Europe, since 2001
This European organization was founded in 2001 for research and education about referendum and people’s initiative in Europe. Agora Europa has been the secretary for the Initiative & Referendum Institute Europe, up until 2005, when it was transferred to Marburg, Germany.
IRI Europe assembles expertise about referenda, organizes conferences, makes publications and gives advise to governments how to make good referendum regulations. IRI Europe is involved in formulating recommendations for a European referendum in the Convention about the future of Europe. Website:  

Sustainable selfmanagement of multi-family building in Ukraine, 2005-2008

This is a project that is being funded by the MATRA (Maatschappelijke Transformatie) program of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. The overall objective is to help Ukrainian co-owners of multi-family buildings create better and sustainable housing conditions for themselves.
Project goal: To establish new home-owners associations (known as Resident Condominium Co-owners Union’s; RCCU’s) which will create and implement realistic long-term maintenance and investment plans. Other municipalities and co-owners will be made aware of the advantages of establishing and empowering RCCU’s.

Project results:

  • At least twenty associations of co-owners (representing ca. 1000 households) will be formed in the cities of Nizhyn and Berdichev
  • At least twenty RCCU’s will develop a maintenance and investment plan
  • At least ten RCCU’s will apply for a soft loan to be provided by the Dutch International Guarantees for Housing foundation
  • Municipalities throughout Ukraine will be better informed about organizing associations of co-owners.


The project will be executed by a project management group consisting of Eric Berman of Agora Europa as team leader and a local coordinator and leading expert of the Ukrainian Housing and Municipal Reform Support Center.
Agora Europa works in close cooperation with the stichting DIGH (Dutch International Guarantees for Housing and PRC Bouwcentrum