Germany: Community Reporting as a tool for citizen participation

Foto1As the project coordinator for Cologne within the EU Horizon 2020 project Grow Smarter  it is the city administration’s business to offer the required citizen participation activities. We decided to use the Community Reporting format as the adequate method.

What is Grow Smarter about?

Grow Smarter is an energy efficiency project in which existing technical solutions are combined to prove that it is possible to reach energy saving goals and to function as a best practice example. The project area is mainly the Stegerwald Settlement, part of the Cologne district Mülheim, situated near the Cologne fair and surrounded by railway tracks, a main road and an industrial zone. The housing blocks are mainly owned by one housing company. Sub-projects are for example the energetic renovation of the blocks with new insulation and installing of photovoltaic and heat pumps, the set up of a mobility hub with car sharing and rental bikes and a new way of car parking management. These will be combined in a smart home scenario for an easy use by the tenants.

The challenges we have to face:

This sounds quite exciting, but what we learned from the tenants during a first information event in November 2015 was – despite their approval of the rising living standard – their partial concerns about rent increase, electro smog and misuse of data.

So the question is how to get the tenants to acknowledge the various options of previously unknown new possibilities and to value the positive aspects of the project.

(C) Stadt Koeln

(C) Stadt Koeln

Our answer is to get the people living in the Stegerwald settlement to engage themselves in the project, to deal with the new technical and infrastructural offers and to get in dialog about their experiences with us (the project partners of the Grow Smarter) and amongst themselves. We are going to encourage and support this by offering Community Reporter workshops. The workshops will not only deal with the “regular community reporter stuff”. In addition we want to give the participants a deeper inside into the project for example by inviting project partner for interviews and by trying out the new technical offers. Participants will also be encouraged to come up with their own ideas for a change to a more energy efficient lifestyle.

Thus far in theory! At the moment we are promoting our Community Reporter workshops that are run by the Adult Education Centre. We don’t know yet if we find enough interested participants to implement a Grow Smarter Community Reporter group.

Another challenge we have to face is the concern of project partners about negative reporting. What if Community Reporters focus on – from their point of view – negative aspects of the EU-project? As long as Community Reporters stick to the editorial guidelines we – the project partners of the Grow Smarter project – have to accept this. And furthermore it is a chance for us to learn about the opinions, attitudes and concerns of the people who are affected most by the EU-project Grow Smarter – the tenants of the Stegerwald Settlement.
Therefor we open and offer a dialog between the involved parties. Since the beginning of this year the project coordinator offers a fortnightly open hour in the office of the housing company, situated in the Stegerwald Settlement. Citizens and residents can ask questions and come forward with suggestions concerning the project. These are passed on to and discussed with the project partners under the aspect of implementation.


In one years time we may know if the idea of using the Community Reporter format worked as a tool for citizen participation in our case. We’ll let you know!

Meanwhile we are very interested in your experiences with negative reporting and if it happened how you dealt with it. Please get in touch with us!

City of Cologne
eGovernment and Online-Services

Harald Gellhaus

Dirk Blauhut

Ute Dreiocker

Institute of Community Reporters to train 100 Community Reporters in 10 countries in Europe

People’s Voice Media Institute of Community Reporters will be training 100 Community Reporters across 10 countries to capture the stories of people’s experience of social investment and social innovation. The reporters will join the European Network of Community Reporters.

The Innovative Social Investment: Strengthening communities in Europe (InnoSI) project is a consortium led by the Policy Evaluation and Research Unit based at Manchester Metropolitan University. They are joined by nine other universities from across Europe and a group of impact partners led by the Euclid Network.

The consortium is embarking on a major research and innovation project looking at how innovative social investment policies can strengthen communities in Europe. The project, funded by the European Commission and lasting 30 months, asks important questions about how European welfare systems designed to protect against twentieth century social and economic risks need to change in the twenty first century.

The project director, Professor Chris Fox, stressed that this is not a traditional research project:

Understanding the experiences of people across Europe who are on the receiving end of social policies is key to our project. That’s why we will be working with People’s Voice Media recruiting 100 community reporters from across Europe and training them so that they can report the experiences of their communities.

The InnoSI project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

And in case you missed the webcast…fear not!

So, last week I attended the Social Link conference in Budapest. There were some fantastic speakers – I particularly enjoyed Michael Sinclair Stewart from UCL talking about their MyStreet project. 

If you weren’t able to follow the webcast live then FEAR NOT friends! Grab a cup of tea and a biscuit and you can enjoy the presentation that we gave about the European Network of Community Reporters here:

And view the supporting slides here:

ENCR Presentation


Stimulating line up at Social Link conference in Budapest 18/09/12 Join by webcast!

The Social Link Conference is nearly upon us, with a fantastic line up of speakers, including Michael Sinclair Stewart from University College London, Jon Kingsbury from NESTA…and Teresa from People’s Voice Media!

The one day conference which takes place in Budapest on 18th September tackles some interesting and challenging topics such as collaborative digital social science, the power of social media in shaping society, Roma film school and the story of MyStreet.

The conference also marks the culmination of the two year ISABEL project, a project that saw Community Reporting rolled out across six different countries. The results are reflected back, along with details of the European Network of Community Reporters.

If you you’re not going to find yourself in Budapest next Tuesday morning then fear not – all of this fantastic content will be made available through a live webcast which can be viewed HERE or HERE

But for now, why not sit back and enjoy these fun infomercials made by young Community Reporters in Budapest.

Social Link

Competence Cafes – a tool for having conversations that count

Really love this video made by our German partner Perspektivwechsel. It documents the process of learning and sharing that has been used throughout the ISABEL project, called Competence Cafe. Based on the teachings of The World Café Community Foundation, it is a really simple but extremely effective way of helping people to share and learn, knowledge, skills, experiences…and more.

We used the Competence Cafe in Manchester to draw out views on dissemination and valorisation, with some interesting conversation on how to measure impact recorded here.


Launch of the Institute of Community Reporters

People’s Voice Media will be launching the Institute of Community Reporters (ICR) today at the University of Salford premises at MediaCity in Salford. Gary Copitch Chief Executive of People’s Voice Media said:

“We now have over  1000 Community Reporters on the database from across the UK and a further 600 across Europe so it seems to make sense to develop the network and recognise the achievement  of the Community Reporters.”

Gary went on to explain how he feels that Communty Reporting is different to citizen journalism. “Community Reporting is a community development tool with individuals producing the content/stories they want to in order to encourage dialogue and discussion and establish online and offline networks. We feel this is different to citizen journalism where the emphasis is more often on individuals reporting on other people’s news.”

The Institute of Community Reporter (ICR) will be  the accrediting body for the Community Reporter programme. It will accredit courses, issues certificates and manage the Community Reporter badge scheme. The ICR will also:

  • Provide access to online training resources and support for running local meet ups
  • Host Community Reporter content on the web site
  • Curate content at a European, national, local and organisational level to feed into policy and consultation

There will be three types of membership, Bronze, Silver and Gold.  Platinum members will be for authorised trainers who have completed the ICR training programme. For more information on the Institute of Community Reporters see here or contact .

Launch of the European Network of Community Reporters

People’s Voice Media will be launching the European Network of Community Reporters today at the University of Salford premises at Media City. Partners from across the UK along with partners from Italy, Hungary, Spain, Turkey and Germany will be there to support the launch.  The network’s aim  is to develop a European-wide network of Community Reporters based on the principle of developing local voices and distributing local views.

Its  goals are  to:

  • Develop dialogue and discussion between communities and  agencies in order to ensure that communities have a voice across Europe
  • Support the creation of content that is relevant and locally produced which is then distributed through online and offline channels
  • Distribute good new stories about the community in order that communities can learn from each other, support each other and better understand each other
  • Share knowledge about Community Reporting, its content and good practice

Gary Copitch, Chief Executive of People’s Voice Media said, ” Community Reporters are  prodcuing content from  across Europe. Not only do we have reporters in the countries represented today but we also have interest  from Sweden and France. So it seems the right time to launch the Network.”

If you are interested in joining then please contact Gary by email