Conference: Closing the empowerment gap through citizenship education

The NECE conference 2011 focused on the complex changes regarding civic participation and its effects on socially disadvantaged groups. All over Europe, citizens tend to refrain from traditional political participation, which is reflected by decreasing turnout rates in elections and a growing disenchantment with politics. One criticism is that – increasingly influenced by private or narrow-topic interest groups – governments and political institutions all over Europe (and in other western democracies as well) are losing legitimacy. Populist sentiments and a general sense of powerlessness are rife as trust in democracy ebbs. 'Post-democratic´ tendencies – as described by Colin Crouch – seem to dominate formal institutions of democracy. At the same time new ways of getting involved in politics and society by using social media and digital technologies are gaining importance. This development could be considered a positive one, interpreted as proof that democracy is still alive and kicking. Critics claim, though, that these tendencies can lead to a further weakening of democratic institutions. As regards citizenship education it has to be admitted that these new forms of political participation are to a large extent determined by access to education, and by income and skills. Engagement with the wider public may become dependent on small 'single issue' groups, spin doctors and advertising professionals. A rising number of socially disadvantaged groups and individuals may become excluded from participation in civil society and political processes and suffer from a conspicuous 'empowerment gap´.

Experts and activists in the fields of citizenship and cultural education, youth and social workers, NGO representatives met in Warsaw to focus on a central question: How can citizenship education become a suitable tool for closing the empowerment gap?

Conference contributions included theoretical and practical approaches from Europe, both in school and in out-of-school or informal learning environments. The conference format was both participatory and interactive.
Bild BlogDocumentation of the NECE conference – follow the NECE conference blog (© bpb)

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Opening Event

Opening Panel

Benjamin Barber, Political Theorist (USA) & Barbara Malak-Minkiewicz, IEA (the Netherlands) & Andy Williamson, Expert & Consultant in Digital and New Media Strategies (UK)

Friday, 18 November 2011

Panel: Access to (Citizenship) Education and its Impact for Political and Civic Participation Parallel Workshop Sessions

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Parallel Networking Panels Key Lecture


17 November - 19 November 2011

Conference Venue

Fabryka Trzciny Art Centre, Warsaw (Poland)


Federal Agency for Civic Education/ bpb (Germany)
Centre for Citizenship Education (Poland)
The Federal Ministry for Education, the Arts and Culture (Austria)
ProDemos (the Netherlands)

In co-operation with

The Institute of Public Affairs (Poland)
DARE Network – Democracy and Human Rights Education in Europe
Civic Education Centre (Czech Republic)

and the fellowship programme "Shaping Europe - Civic Education in Action" for young Europeans – a co-operation between the bpb and the Robert Bosch Stiftung

Supported by

Robert Bosch Stiftung (Germany)
ERSTE Foundation (Austria)


lab concepts GmbH (Germany)
on behalf of Federal Agency for Civic Education/bpb
Phone +49 (0) 228 2498-110


Federal Agency for Civic Education
Petra Grüne
Adenauerallee 86
53113 Bonn
Phone +49 (0)228 99515-289



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Click here for the publication