This profile was prepared when Franz Dullinger was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Franz Dullinger is building ways for citizens to take part in making public policy, reversing the top-down style which only fosters apathy among people and needless bureaucracy in government. Franz works with both communities and the government. He promotes a competitive spirit among villages, encouraging mayors to stop relying on the state for help and instead find local resources. He has them systematically gather together people who are innovative, active, and creative in business, education, environment, agriculture. Franz calls those changemakers “Kümmerer”—people who care. Kümmerers drive networks of citizens, local mayors, and small- and medium-size entrepreneurs to participate in a joint planning process for regional development. Working with government, Franz reforms EU and state funding policy by empowering these local networks to directly apply for the distribution of EU funding, skipping the state and federal levels through which the money normally travels (often never reaching where it needs to). As it was not forbidden, Franz set up the first ever demand-driven proposal by local mayors and citizens for EU-funding. Against all odds, he bid for the money and won. Franz is spreading his model to other structurally weak regions in Germany and other parts of the European Union. While state administrations are not pleased, the EU administration heralds his approach as “exemplary.”