• Peter Matzen
4. term, Learning and Innovative Change, Master (Master Programme)
Municipalities in Denmark increasingly put energy into creating spaces that allow individuals to participate in active citizenship. Previous studies have explored what societies gain from participation, however, the knowledge about gains at a personal level remains scarce. Thus, the aim of this study was to explore personal gains from active citizenship, with a focus on which factors allow for a person to become involved in active citizenship, and which are the personal gains from involvement in this kind of work. The overall goal was to explore factors important to designing a space for active citizenship and explore the outcome of participating in active citizenship.

The study was an explorative case study based on pragmatic and transformative learning theories. The study took place in the framework of the socio-economic association and company ”Sager der Samler” (SDS) in Aarhus, Denmark. SDS involves volunteers in a number of projects with a main common goal of social innovation and active citizenship. Each volunteer is encouraged to bring in a dilemma or problem important to the person, and the aim of SDS is to support the person in solving the problem and bringing the project to a larger, societal scale.
The study is based on 3 months’ ethnographic observations and on 10 unstructured and 4 semi-structured tematic interviews of volunteers and leaders at SDS. Interviews focused on evaluating the interviewed person’s learning process during their involvement in SDS, with a special focus on . personal development, structural and personal challenges and the process of work.

Findings were collectively interpreted by the author, and were based on the ethnographic observations as well as the tematic interviews.

Key factors for involvement in active citizenship fell into 3 main categories: i) motivation, ii) learning environment, iii) content/cause. These factors may all be interpreted in a context as empowerment and transformative learning. Motivational factors included personal gain (“I can make a difference for myself”), impact on others (“by volunteering, I can make a difference for others”), participation in a meaningful community (“I am part of a meaningful creative and active community”). Factors of importance to the learning environment were a diversity of people, eye-level leadership and a flat hierarchy, appreciative leadership and participation, and a short time between participation and action. Factors important to the content and cause were a feeling of relevance to the participant’s own life as well as to society, and a strong personal involvement in the cause.

Based on these 3 categories, the author proposes a new model for active citizenship and social innovation. This model includes 3 spaces central to the design of active citizenship and social innovation: a) space for participation, b) space for action c) space for reflexion and learning.

This study illuminated 3 main learning categories central to a person’s involvement in active citizenship. These factors could all be understood and interpreted as empowerment and transformative learning. Further, results indicated that the process of learning at the personal level differed from what are known from project processes.
On the basis of these results, the author proposes a new model for social innovation and active citizenship, that warrants further investigation. Such a model could potentially be used in the design of future projects of social innovation and active citizenship.
Publication date3 Aug 2015
Number of pages70
External collaboratorSager der samler
Paul Natorp paul@sagerdersamler.dk
ID: 216919584