December 16th 2014 Harm van Dijk, initiator of the G1000Amersfoort, gave a presentation in Rome for the Council of European Municipalities and Regions, in which he elaborates on the essence of a G1000:
I’m a citizen of Amersfoort, a city of about 150.000 inhabitants, exactly in the middle of The Netherlands.
I will speak to you about the G1000Amersfoort, a gathering of about 1000 people we, a group of fellow-citizens initiated and organised on the 22th of March this year, three days after the local elections.
About 96 years ago, in 1918, one of my ancestors got very lucky: he was allowed to vote.
Every four years since then he exercised his democratic rights. At that time, it took 5-10 days to travel from Amersfoort to Rome, to speak to someone about a matter of interest. Today the same travel takes just about 2,5 hours and in no more than a split second you can contact anyone from here to speak to someone in Amersfoort and share anything you want.
Society and life changed vigorously since then, but the way we put forward our vote is still the same: we give it away once every four year. As a citizen my feeling of discomfort with the system grew year after year. Thanks to modern media, the information I gathered about my community, the issues of my community and the possibilities to deal with them, grew.
As did the insight in the capabilities of my representatives. And the lack of capabilities of the city council and the city government to deal with today’s issues.
Driven by this discomfort and inspired by the ideas of David Van Reybrouck in his pamphlet ‘Against elections’ we decided the democratic system has to change! Last year’s november we made a start designing a new democratic system, a system from citizens for citizens! In this system dialogue and participation play a key-role. Opposite to the representative system, in which debate is the most important thing.
Next to the debate-arena we create the dialogue arena. Where in the debate-arena accountability plays a key-role, making it very suitable for executing and controlling and dealing with matters we cannot agree upon, the dialogue-arena is created to find out what we agree upon and which direction we have to take as a whole. This no longer the prerogative of the reigning coalition.
We decided to gather 1000 citizens of Amersfoort on the 22th of March, three days after the elections. To have a day of dialogue about everything we ourselves as citizens find important for our community. To agree on the agenda for Amersfoort and to hand it over to the community, including the newly elected city council, to execute.
The new system we designed is build on the following 6 principles:
It is a system in which every voter of our community has equal chances to participate. By randomly selecting 10.000 people from the voters-administration and inviting them in person. The invitees decide themselves whether they participate or not
It is a system in which dialogue is used, instead of discussion or debate. Dialogue as in a ‘search for what we have in common’. Not emphasizing the difference from one another, as the representation-system invites us to do.
Participants are in the lead. They decide themselves about the agenda of the day. They are free to choose the theme they want to work on. By the end of the day they choose themselves the ideas and issue’s they find most important for their community. No chairman, no analysis of topics beforehand, no coordination of a third party on where to sit or to whom to speak to.
The whole system is present in the room: citizens and the two most important stakeholders in the community:
The employers, while they represent the ability to exploit the assets of the community
The government, as in politicians and civil-servants, while we asked them to take care of and guard our community
As a counterbalance for the stakeholders, we invite so-called ‘freethinkers’.
By the end of the day the whole of the community is owner of the agenda, not only the citizens. And everybody has learned from one another, by meeting each other’sworld.
Procedures are completely transparent and can be checked by any participant, so everybody trusts the results.
It is safe for everybody to participate and to share thoughts and insights with one another.
Using these principles the community, as a whole, can trust that the result of the G1000 is a result of the people themselves and not a result owned by the system or by the technocrats and intellectuals behind it. Thus we feel part of a larger whole, our own community. We experience ‘real democracy’. And we are willing to realize the chosen agenda ourselves, where and whenever we can. Because we feel we are again owner of the outcome and of the community.
At this moment citizens of about a twenty cities in Holland are looking into the possibilities to organize a G1000. We set up a network all over The Netherlands, to support the local initiatives with our knowledge and idea’s. Scientists of 4 different universities are investigating our program to find out about our idea’s to develop the system. We would love to be invited to report to you the results of this programm within two years from now. Please, do visit G1000.nu (English page) for further information and join our G1000 Community.
Thank you for your kind attention!
Harm van Dijk