This blog is about the history of the international conference Borders to Cross about democratic innovation and civic driven change, to be held in Amsterdam, 29-31 October 2013.
By Jan Schrijver
The Border Story
In 2000 I was among the civil servants who organised an international conference about innovative policymaking in Maastricht. We gathered examples from all over Europe and some even beyond, where we saw similar developments in horizontalizing relations between government and society.
The representatives of the selected projects were simply asked to tell their stories. In the Dutch context the subject had become topical out of experiences in building new large infrastructure. This could no longer be done without evoking a lot of resistance. So the public authorities should wisely take good notice of the local knowledge and opinions and even negotiate with stakeholders. We were naïve to think that all this might be a typically Dutch whim, a corrolary of our ‘Polder-model’.
Soon enough we discovered that other countries experienced even more radical system-changes. Also a few examples of grass-root initiatives were present (I remember artists developing an area in Britol and a large open space planning event in Essen) , but the main type of stories had to do with the influence of citizens into public policymaking. I remember that the Dutch examples appeared a bit bleak besides those from our neighbouring countries.
Although a booklet was composed afterwards titled “The Border Story”- of which I possess one of the rare copies. I do not remember that much academic reflection was devoted to the proceedings of the conference in Maastricht. The main purpose of this event was to be inspired, to extend the horizon of the participants beyond their own country. As such the conference was a success.