Participation and the common good

Access to education, changes in the working world and socio-economic inequality all have a decisive impact on society. Research projects focussing on participation and the common good are therefore of particular importance. In winter 2019, 14 projects of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will be initiating their work.

lernende Personen an einem langen Tisch mit Schreibutensilien; © Thinkstock


Even defining the terms "participation" and the "common good" is complex. Participation means both the participation of individuals and organisations in decision-making and policy-forming processes, as well as access to resources which make it possible to implement plans. Whether and to what extent participation is possible depends on the necessary preconditions, such as access to education, culture, health care or the labour market. What is understood as the common good depends on the values and norms of the individual members or different groups of a society. These, in turn, can fluctuate and become the subject of controversial discussion. One thing is certain: A positive economy does not guarantee participation for all members of society, nor does it guarantee a mutual understanding of the common good.

For example, in the course of participation, a society-wide understanding of the right to education is formed. On the other hand, this right has a decisive influence on opportunities for participation. The same applies to other social infrastructures, including supply infrastructures. In order to attain a comprehensive understanding, the question arises of how the provision of public goods is organised and financed and what should be regarded as a public good at all. The interaction between opportunities for participation and an understanding of the common good therefore makes it indispensable that mutual exchange takes place when dealing with research issues.

The projects funded under the BMBF's "Teilhabe und Gemeinwohl" (Participation and Public Welfare) funding guideline (Federal Gazette of 23.08.2018) examine the interactions between these two concepts, their impact on society as a whole, and use them to develop solutions. Here, too, the aim is to contribute to securing social cohesion.