Democratically Distant Attitudes in a Local Community as a Challenge for Socio-Spatial Democracy Development

Project duration: 01/10/2017 - 31/12/2020

Principal investigators: Prof. Dr. Heinz Stapf-Finé, Prof. Dr. Michael Brodowski

Project staff: Andrea Metzner, Raiko Hannemann, Sven Gramstadt, Lars Conrad (Research Associates); Jeannine Löffler, Paula Moldenhauer, Carlotta Stockmayer-Behr, Daniel Geidel (Student Assistants)


  • Dagmar Pohle (Bezirksbürgermeisterin Marzahn-Hellersdorf)
  • Dr. Thomas Bryant (Integrationsbeauftragter Marzahn-Hellersdorf)
  • Tobias Peter (Stiftung SPI, Gechäftsbereich Stadtentwicklung)
  • Elisabeth Peters (POLIS* – Bezirkliche Koordinierungsstelle für Demokratieentwicklung)

The project aims to comprehend the causes for the emergence of democracy-distanced attitudes in a municipality, with the example of the Berlin district of Marzahn-Hellersdorf. In-depth qualitative interviews with people representing different types of attitudes towards democracy (satisfied democrats, critical apolitical democrats, critical political democrats, democracy-distanced) are being conducted to find out their subjective theories. Thus, it is intended to find out with which attitudes and strategies of action different groups react towards social questions and social distortions. Furthermore, it is presumed that there might be a contradiction between formal learning (in educational institutions that tell us how important democracy is) and informal learning (in these same institutions democracy is not really experienced). Concerning this problem, group discussions with educators at kindergartens and teachers at schools are led to find out more about experiencing and learning about democracy in education institutions.

Based on the findings of participation research and the analysis of procedures of democracy development in other cities and countries, a process of socio-spatial democracy development will be carried out in Marzahn-Hellersdorf with the aim of establishing it for the future. The goal is to complement processes of formal democracy with the active participation of citizens. Furthermore, the intension is to expand participation at kindergartens and schools and to establish democracy learning.

The findings of the project are to be evaluated and prepared for advisory services for other municipalities. In addition, the project intends to establish procedures of socio-spatial democracy development in Marzahn-Hellersdorf in a sustainable manner.

Funding: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)

Keywords: Democracy Development, Community Orientation, Democracy Learning, Participatory Democracy, Participation Research