The United Streets of Amsterdam
Serious experiments with alternative forms of representative democracy are being conducted worldwide, like citizen councils, people’s deliberation and citizen juries. And it's not only Cities for Change that aspire a city of, for and by everyone - the United Streets of Amsterdam investigates democracy from the bottom up. What if we have a people’s assembly with representatives from all streets and neighborhoods of the city?
There are thousands of neighborhood app groups and hundreds of Facebook groups in Amsterdam where local residents report what problems in their streets need to be tackled and the wishes they have. Suppose we had a public meeting in Amsterdam with representatives from all streets and neighborhoods of the city? In which they consult and decide together on matters that they find important?
In the Netherlands alternative forms of representative democracy are not well known yet. Hence the experiment The United Streets of Amsterdam - for democracy from the bottom up.
The United Streets of Amsterdam is an experiment in which the old people’s assembly is revived. It is inspired by the popular assemblies in Switzerland, the drawn citizens 'panels in East Belgium, many G1000's, the online citizens' council in Madrid and the city-state of Athens.
The idea: someone from every street or neighborhood in Amsterdam is appointed, alloted or nominated and can be approached for issues that matter to the neighborhood. This instantly provides an infrastructure for involvement and control. For local residents to put forward plans, complaints and wishes. For the municipality to find out what local residents think of some plans. For subjects that go beyond the level of the neighborhood, the representatives at the level of the neighborhood or city district come together. They discuss the perspectives of the neighborhoos on these subjects and present possible solutions.
Once a year, all thousands of neighborhood representatives come together with the city council in a large assembly: the United Streets of Amsterdam. A happening where the representatives and the city council discuss one or more decisions and decide on topics that concern all neighborhoods. The citizens themselves define which subjects they will consider. The city council is asked to ratify the decisions of the United Streets. Conversely, the municipality can also submit questions to the neighborhood representatives. Watch here (in Dutch) the introduction of The United Streets of Amsterdam:
Democracy in the 21st Century
Meer Democratie, Pakhuis de Zwijger and a group of active Amsterdammers have been working on this idea of the United Streets of Amsterdam for some time. From the questions: What does our democracy need to face the 21st century? What is the role for citizens and residents? What is needed to give a major boost to mutual contact and a shared vision about how we want to live in the city? In a number of meetings and online sessions, they developed an action plan together with citizens, local politicians and experts from all over the Netherlands. Watch here what insights the research into the United Streets produced. Or take a look into Pakhuis de Zwijger's entire Democracy and Social Innovation dossier. And read what Meer Democracy does to give citizens a stronger voice in politics and society. (all in Dutch)
Democracy at the Cities for Change Forum
- from 24 May until t/m 28 May Transition Talks on the big transitions in every domain
- Wednesday 2 June Neighbourhood Democracy Movement from 14h till 15.30h