In August 2013, Bauersachs Foundation started implementing project “Active citizenship – the Bauersachs approach” with the support of the European Economic Area Financial Mechanism. In 14 months, Bauersachs Foundation conducted six “citizens’ jury” meetings. Жителите на Пловдив формират мнозинството от посетители с 79% или 24 500 човека.
In Bulgaria “Citizens’ jury” is a new and pioneer method for active citizen participation. Its goal is to foster the civil society participation in the decision making process, by giving citizens the opportunity to create recommendations and share them with representatives of the local authorities.
The project addressed weak civic participation and active citizenship in Bulgaria due to lack of information, low trust in the authorities and missing civic participation mechanisms. The project aimed to solve these issues by providing information, improving the dialogue and trust between citizens and local authorities and setting up civil participation mechanisms thus contributing to more efficient democracy. First, “citizens’ jury” were set up and promoted as a mechanism enabling citizens to make collective recommendations to the authorities. 12 voluntarily selected jurors had sessions once per 2 months. Second, the Bauersachs Approach was used to promote the citizens’ jury by live streaming online. Next, information meetings at Economics Forum were held on topical issues to raise public awareness.
During the past one year, “citizens’ jury” has managed to establish itself as a popular and effective method for active citizen participation. The mechanism has gained significant media popularity and has attracted the attention of citizens and local authorities. As a result, part of the proposals formed during the “juries” have been taken into consideration and implemented by the local authorities. For example, part of the actions provided under the “Strategy for the development of culture in Plovdiv 2014 – 2024” are based on citizens’ recommendations formed during citizen jury discussing the topic “Creative industries and festival tourism”.
The project helped facilitate the dialogue between citizens and local authorities, thus allowing the participating citizens to formulate over 90 recommendations. The project team developed and put into practice (for the first time in Bulgaria according to data available) a mechanism for active civic participation of the type of “citizens’ jury” in the process of decision-making at the local level. The “citizens’ jury” method was modified to include greater publicity, video recordings and polls that allowed a larger group of people to support the formulated recommendations and observations. Mainly independent experts and representatives of the private sector participated as “witnesses” in the “citizens’ jury” meetings. The main target group was able to get involved in the project, having formulated a large number of recommendations to the local authorities, with some of them taken into consideration in the local policies’ formulation. The videos and direct broadcasts of the activity of the “citizens’ jury” can be found on the platform developed.