Rotterdam is a super diverse city where it is crucial to feel free to be oneself. To collaboratively create inclusive policies, the municipality organized city conversations in collaboration with the organizations ‘Ik Ben Wij’ & ‘Stichting Confro’ and ‘Open Embassy’ from November 2022 to February 2023 to seek input from Rotterdam citizens for the development of the 'Samenleven' policy. High legitimacy is essential in this context, as it can lead to improved policy quality and increased policy support. This research explores how city conversations as a form of citizen participation contribute to the perceived legitimacy (by citizens and officials) of the policy development for 'Samenleven Rotterdam'. The study involves observations during various city conversations and semi-structured interviews with citizens, officials, and discussion leaders who participated in the city conversations. It has been assessed that the city conversations do not contribute to an increased inputlegitimacy, which involves factors related to the inclusiveness and representativeness of the policy-making process. A selection bias exists in which not everyone has the opportunity to participate. Some individuals are explicitly not invited due to potential tensions. The representativeness is also questionable, with mainly active, highly educated, and middle-aged individuals participating, along with organizations driven by subsidies. Additionally, the city conversations do not contribute to an increased throughputlegitimacy, which involves factors related to the quality of the process. At times, the municipality has a defensive attitude during the conversations, giving the impression of an instrumental perspective toward citizen participation. The municipality namely often maintains its point of view, creating an illusion of participation, with citizens ultimately having less decision power than they perceive. It raises questions regarding the utilization of input from the conversations by the municipality, as the depth of engagement seems to lack. This is the first time that the municipality of Rotterdam has embarked on large-scale citizen participation. Although there is much space for improvement, it represents a step in the right direction toward creating inclusive policies. The municipality has already achieved many positive aspects, as the process is transparent, and officials gain insight into the daily lives of Rotterdam residents. This research is critical, but once the municipality gains an understanding of the factors that contribute positively and negatively to participation's legitimacy, it can pave the way for the realization of impactful policies in the future

Dr. M. Schiller, Prof. dr. Peter Scholten
Public Administration
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Laura van Vliet. (2023, August 10). A study of how city conversations contribute to the perceived legitimacy of the policy development process ‘Samenleven Rotterdam’. Public Administration. Retrieved from