Citizens’ Dialogues “Economy for the Common Good – a way to Achieve the SDGs”
Organisation : ECG Association Baden-Württemberg , Germany

The project promotes the global sustainability development goals (SDGs) through the dissemination of the economy for the common good (ECG). Through public citizen dialogues, awareness is raised of which aspects of the economic system require transformation meeting sustainable development (SD). Through public citizens’ dialogues, awareness is raised of which aspects of the economic system require transformation to meet SD. Subsequently, a coaching offer ensures the planning and subsequent implementation. The aim is to enable participants to make more responsible decisions and to participate in a discourse on a sustainable economic system. This promotes the implementation of systematically sustainable economic practices.

Agendas addressed
BiodiversityClimate changePublic space
Local economies and employment
Pathways followed
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Nurture a sharing economy
  • Capitalise on local economy and production
  • Create and close local value chains
  • Implement sustainable procurement principles
  • Pursue a shift towards a circular economy
  • Accelerate sustainability and innovation through public procurement
  • Prepare policies for socio-cultural changes due to innovation
working groups

For a consistently SD, the economic system in particular must be critically reflected and constructively transformed. For there are systematic contradictions between a profit-oriented competitive economy and SD. For instance, many needs and social values (justice, ecological balance, cooperation) are systematically excluded from the analysis when purely financial indicators (profit, yield, GDP) are used. In addition strategies for outsourcing costs to uninvolved third parties offer a systematic competitive advantage, since such strategies are associated with cost minimization and profit maximization. Lastly, there are historically grown, extreme economic power asymmetries, which complicate the development chances of disadvantaged groups, especially in the Global South. The corresponding awareness of the problem is growing among the population. In representative surveys conducted by the Bertelsmann Foundation, 88% of Germans would like to see a more social and ecological economic order. Contemporaneously, awareness of systemic approaches to solving the problem is relatively weak.

In Action

2 citizens’ dialogues: Interactive learning and discussion evenings were held to raise awareness in civil society, politics and business about which aspects of the economic system need transformation to meet SD. SDGs and ECG were explained, and concrete proposals for implementation were developed and discussed. Following questions were addressed: SDGs and the common good in comparison with classical, economic objectives (profit, GDP, yield), values beyond monetary indicators, externalisation of costs and economic power hierarchies on a global scale, social responsibility of individual companies/consumers/investors, systematic sustainable orientation of economic decisions through holistic valuation and accounting instruments by using the example of ECG-Balance Sheet, possibilities and challenges of economic policy incentive mechanisms in the sense of SD (taxes, trade freedoms, public orders). The events included short input lectures on SDGs in connection with ECG as well as practical discussions with selected guests from politics, business, education and civil society, so that well-founded insights were gained which lead to an action-oriented perspective. The events were framed by an interactive, mobile exhibition, which offered an independent examination of the ECG-concept and its significance for SD through quiz-questions, graphics and texts and questionnaires. The active involvement of all participants was based on the format of "Democratic Convention” to work out a participatory legitimated "citizen's will". Against the background of SDGs, central decision-making issues were agreed upon using the method of systemic consensus. As a result, a "citizens' will" was created, according to which values and ideas a sustainable economic system in the sense of SDGs should be achieved. This also included which measures are desired by companies and politicians and what role ECG or ECG-Balance Sheet can play in this. The final result of the workshop was that this opinion was made available as a point of reference for local politics in the participating municipalities and for all participants. 1 further training for multipliers (coaching): Following the events, there was an additional training for multipliers in the style of a coaching workshop, in which networking of these citizens took place and coaching for the planning of further implementation steps was carried out on site. As a result, concrete action steps were developed for the remaining follow-up phase after the citizens’ dialogues. These were followed up by the counselling centre in exchange with the local activists after the workshop, the progress in achieving the objectives was checked, and concrete procedures were discussed and jointly decided upon.


All target groups are more aware of the need for a systematically sustainable economic system in the context of the global SDGs, i.e. those involved can competently participate in a public debate on the subject and advocate approaches to a sustainable economic system in their own everyday lives and at political level. Local citizen groups are better trained to promote local discourse and the implementation of measures on the ground. They assume their development-policy responsibility by reflecting on their own decisions, developing alternatives for action, using comparable information opportunities (e.g. fair trade, ECG-Balance Sheet) and actively demanding a systematic orientation for development-policy responsibility from companies and politicians.

More companies are aware of their global responsibility for development policy and use the ECG-Balance Sheet as a concrete accounting and organisational development tool to systematically orient their decisions (e.g. in procurement) towards sustainable development in the interests of the common good and to make their activities transparent to the outside world.

By achieving these project goals, the achievement of SDG 12 "Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns" is directly promoted. On the one hand, the integration of social-ecological criteria in corporate management and the associated reporting is made known on the production side. On the other hand, on the consumption side, the corresponding awareness of one's own consumption and a stronger connection between those who demand and those who offer is created.


The coaching offers and the public citizens’ dialogues have a dialogue-promoting and democracy-promoting effect. The application-oriented coaching sessions enhance the moderation and communication skills of citizens who are actively involved in a variety of initiatives for a sustainable future. These drive the discourse about a sustainable economy and the implementation of local measures democratically and consensus-oriented and anchor them locally. With the citizens’ dialogues, citizens have set public accents and can enter into a new quality of exchange with actors from business and politics. Social cohesion in society is promoted in a targeted manner and motivates sustainable commitment. ECG is even more widely known as a discourse-oriented approach to a sustainable economic model that is open to development and systematically promotes social and ecological diversity and co-determination. Actors from business, politics, civil society and education have received convincing impulses and can apply the discussed new approaches in practice. For example, innovative methods are being tried out in companies and political decision-making bodies in order to more thoroughly consider diverse opinions and needs in decision-making. The educated citizens are thus well-connected multipliers for strengthening social cohesion.

Challenges and lessons learned

One challenge was the selection of the guests. The aim was to bring experts to the table, who on the one hand are interested in the topic of SD and dialog-capable, but have different, even controversial perspectives in order to achieve a multifaceted and lively exchange. In the end, we can say that there are always the people there who need it. Furthermore, the organisational effort was immense and capacities scarce, but we were able to implement the project with financial support of a foundation. As a result, it went so well that we are continuing the project this year.



ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability
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