Civil Society and Civic Engagement

Current research projects

About the project: The project „GIs – Strengthening Societal Innovation Capacities“ analyses societal innovation capacities in less developed regions. It aims at developing explanations and models to understand how innovations that promote a successful regional transformation are generated. Furthermore, the project develops instruments and measurement approaches for an innovation policy that integrates and promotes societal innovation capacities. Against this background, GIs analyses three overarching research questions:

  • What are the characteristics of complex and systemic innovation processes at the regional level?
  • How can less developed regions make use of innovation to shape structural change and development?
  • How can societal innovation capabilities be utilised to facilitate sustainable transformation in less developed regions?

Completed research projects

About the project: The real laboratory asylum seekers in the Rhine-Neckar region was dedicated to the investigation of success factors for the quickest possible social integration of asylum seekers in the cities of Heidelberg, Sinsheim and Wiesloch. The following topics were examined in three sub-projects and one cross-sectional project:

  • language acquisition,
  • labour market integration,
  • decentralised living and
  • civic engagement.

About the project: Although a majority of citizens feel directly affected by major construction projects such as Stuttgart 21 or the construction of power lines, only a minority feel personally involved for or against it. However, since most of those affected see a moral obligation to civic participation, they delegate a large part of their commitment and responsibility to civic initiatives, for example. This is shown by a study by the Centre for Social Investment and Innovation (CSI) at the University of Heidelberg. The scientists interviewed a total of 200 residents of three exemplary infrastructure projects in different regions of Germany. They came to the conclusion that the majority of citizens are "activists in spirit", so that one can speak of an age of "pseudoparticipation".

For the study, which was conducted in cooperation with the Hertie School of Governance (Berlin), women and men were interviewed equally. They lived in the immediate vicinity of urban development, energy system transformation and regional economic development projects. They were concerned with the partial development of the former Tempelhof airport in Berlin (Tempelhofer Feld), the expansion of wind energy in the Stuttgart region and the construction of a furniture store on an allotment garden site in Kiel. The researchers concentrated on those citizens who did not become active despite being negatively affected, which was the case for almost two thirds of the 200 respondents. In the Tempelhof field, the share of this group was even more than 90 percent. Representatives of citizens' initiatives and local political actors were also interviewed.

Contact: Dr. Georg Mildenberger

About the project: The two-year research project "Internationalization of the Voluntary Services FSJ, FÖJ and BFD: The Potential of Incoming for Germany" pursued two research goals. (1.) to record and systematize the hitherto hardly researched incoming in Germany. (2.) the project investigated the experiences with incoming programs and their impact from the perspective of both volunteers and host organizations. For this purpose, the following surveys or analyses were conducted between April 2013 and March 2015:

  • 24 qualitative expert interviews with stakeholders in the incoming field
  • 18 focus groups/individual interviews with a total of 126 incoming volunteers
  • 12 focus groups/individual interviews with a total of 24 employees of host organizations in Germany
  • Standardized survey at federal training centers with a total of 165 incoming volunteers
  • Digital pre- and post-service surveys with a total of 39 and 37 incoming volunteers, respectively

Read the final report here

Contact: Dr. Georg Mildenberger

About the project: The research project was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) and investigated until the end of 2010 where unused potential for civic engagement can be found and exploited. The project focused on identifying measures and projects to provide incentives for civic engagement through qualification. We were particularly interested in innovative approaches that could be used, for example, to involve groups of people with a previously low level of participation. The project recorded, described and systematically evaluated the available instruments.