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 is 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 will be examined in three subprojects 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 Federal Voluntary Service (BFD), the Voluntary Social Year (FSJ) and the Voluntary Ecological Year (FÖJ) are also open to international volunteers. The aim of this project was to identify the potential and impact of "Incoming" for Germany and to draw up recommendations for a possible expansion of these programmes.

Contact: Dr. Georg Mildenberger