Local democracy in small and medium-sized cities under the conditions of peripheralization

The disparities between cities and regions in Germany are growing continuously despite a considerable number of funding programmes: few centres are prospering whereas the number of so called peripheralised spaces is increasing. The latter often face difficult economic challenges and are confronted with selective outmigration and ageing as well as reductions of infrastructures and public services. During the last years, this sociodemographic and economic drifting apart of regions and cities has increasingly attracted mediumistic and scientific attention. 

Against this background, the project investigates processes of local democracy in small and medium-sized towns. It analyses governance and participation arrangements which enable or hinder such processes.  In doing this, the project has to take into consideration that, on one hand, peripheralisation processes can open up new „possibility spaces“, but that, on the other hand, civic participation has also certain limits.  

  • Which actors are regularly involved in decision-making processes concerning the development of peripheralised towns and which interests do they represent?
  • Where and how take negotiation and participation processes take place?
  • Which understandings of participation processes do actors have?  
  • Which consequences do peripheralisation processes have on local democracy, participation potentials and structures?
  • Which development potentials of municipalities can be fostered against this background?

These questions will be addressed by the project. Taking into account different perspectives on local democracy the project team will interview political and administrative representatives of different municipalities as well as further actors of local development (associations, initiatives, media, etc.).


The study is commissioned by the vhw – Bundesverband für Wohnen und Stadtentwicklung e.V. The project connects to previous and on-going IfL research on perspectives on endogenous potentials of regional development in peripheral regions and small towns.


Not yet available

Project information

Project team

Thilo Lang, Martin Graffenberger, Franziska Görmar, Stefan Haunstein


Duration of project

11/2018 – 03/2020

Funded by

vhw – Bundesverband für Wohnen und Stadtentwicklung e.V.

Further information

Franziska Görmar

Martin Graffenberger


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