Headline: Resolving Pressing Issues with the “Wisdom of Crowds”: Patrizia Nanz and Claus Leggewie Present their Book “Die Konsultative”

Patrizia Nanz, a future director of the IASS, and Claus Leggewie, director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities in Essen (KWI), call for greater representation and decision-making powers for citizens in their new book “Die Konsultative” (The Consultative).

The crisis of democracy. Widespread public disenchantment with political organs. Crowds of outraged citizens as seen at the protests surrounding the controversial urban development project Stuttgart 21. These phenomena represent just one side of the coin. On the other side, more and more people are reclaiming the scope for participation and action afforded by democracy. In many towns, for example, citizens are contributing to deliberations on the planning of routes for new transmission lines. “Large-scale projects like the German energy transition need everyone’s support and that means that we must all have the opportunity to contribute to debate from the outset,” explains Patrizia Nanz, a designated scientific director at the IASS and the former director of the transdisciplinary research area “Culture of Participation” at the KWI. While some progress has been made, broad and in-depth consultation with citizens before the drafting and adoption of legislation is still all too rare an occurrence.

The ‘wisdom of the crowd’, argue Nanz and Leggewie, continues to be undervalued. Politicians, civil servants and experts are on the whole unwilling to entertain the idea that a large entity, composed of independent members and which achieves consensus through careful deliberation, might be smarter than the individual. This, Nanz explains, is a mistake: “Experience shows that in successful citizen participation processes issues are explored from every possible angle, with greater attention to detail, and over a longer period than a professional politician alone could afford.”

In their book, the duo calls for the institutionalisation of Future Councils and the establishment of an extensive network of consultation bodies from the local to the European level. With this idea the authors have not only developed a pioneering model for participation, but have moved to actively support citizens who are reclaiming their place within the policy space by contributing practicable ideas for the solution of such difficult problems as the long-term storage of nuclear waste or the accommodation of refugees. In the Demoenergy joint project led by Patrizia Nanz, researchers from the KWI and IASS initiated and supported citizen participation processes in two townships in Bavaria and developed a set of Recommendations for citizen participation in the German energy transition on the basis of their findings.

Tomorrow’s most pressing issues can only be solved with the aid of the wisdom of the crowd, the authors argue. Our democracy can no longer do without their wisdom. The fourth estate – the Consultative – is their voice.

The authors will talk about their work together with Norbert Lammert, the President of the Bundestag, and Manfred Hellrigl, director of the Büro für Zukunftsfragen (Bureau for Future Affairs) in Vorarlberg,

on 15 March at 11.00 am at the Haus der Bundespressekonferenz, Room 05, Schiffbauerdamm 40 in Berlin.

Please register by 10 March 2016 with presse@wagenbach.de.

Please note that this event will be conducted in German.