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Burgers als trustees

Participatie, informele vertegenwoordiging en representativiteit

Tijdschrift Beleid en Maatschappij, Aflevering 1 2013
Auteurs Dr. Bas van Stokkom, Dr. Marcel Becker en Teun Eikenaar MA MSc
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    The involvement of citizens in discussions about policy arrangements has been growing in the past decades. These forums of decision-making often provoke criticism because of a so-called ‘lack of representativeness’. Often a small group of active citizens takes the lead and decides which problems have to be dealt with. Some active residents primarily focus on improving the neighbourhood, regardless of whether their activities have everyone’s consent. This raises many questions related their representativeness. Do these participants form an adequate cross-section of the population? Are they speaking on behalf of others? Maybe passive citizens feel fine with the opinions of active citizens and agree that a small group of citizens is taking the lead. In this paper these active citizens are viewed as ‘trustees’: informal representatives who take responsibility to look after the neighbourhood’s interests, expecting that passive residents would support their efforts. The paper has two central questions: First, which ideas do active participants have about representation and representativeness? Second, in what respects can active citizens be characterized as ‘trustees’? In the theoretical part we contend that the notion ‘trustee’ may function as a theoretical framework to understand present-day citizen participation. In local policy networks many informal representatives express views and interests that are recognizable for many citizens. They are trusted, as long as their activities can be checked. The second part of the paper focuses on three projects of citizen decision-making within local safety policies (The Dutch cities Amsterdam, Deventer and Rotterdam). Within these projects, participants prioritize what kinds of activities and interventions police officers and other frontline workers should carry out. A main finding is that many active citizens function as contact persons who are continuously available for other residents. They do not wish to speak ‘on behalf’ of others but they are bestowed – often reluctantly – with the role of representative, as they demonstratively express neighborhood interests (‘clean, intact and safe’). Their reputation seems to be decisive.


Dr. Bas van Stokkom
Dr. Bas van Stokkom is medewerker bestuurswetenschappen aan de faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen aan de Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, b.a.m.van.stokkom@vu.nl.

Dr. Marcel Becker
Dr. Marcel Becker is universitair docent ethiek aan de Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, M.Becker@ftr.ru.nl.

Teun Eikenaar MA MSc
Teun Eikenaar MA MSc is onderzoeker aan het criminologisch instituut van de faculteit Rechtsgeleerdheid van de Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, t.eikenaar@jur.ru.nl.
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