The Transformative Potential of Active Citizenship
The Transformation of Local Governance Systems
Active citizenship in the city does not only impact the environment but also raises questions on how
cities should be governed . Many citizens become active not only to realize direct environmental
or societal values and benefits, but also to transform existing governance practices, for example by
demanding more democracy, urban greening, or a deeper transition towards sustainability [1,22,23].
In this context, Isin  distinguishes between ‘active’ and ‘activist’ citizenship to highlight how
‘activist’ citizens also aim for more fundamental societal change. Also, in the city, active citizenship
has been linked to activism, as many citizens desire to promote fundamental changes in the urban
environment . With this, citizens regularly aim to challenge existing governance institutions,
which can put them at odds with authorities and raise conflicts of interest or power struggles .
In this context, it is an important question whether active citizenship can contribute not only
to direct environmental or societal values and benefits but also to a transformation of institutions in
governance. It has been doubted whether such ‘activist’ goals of active citizenship are achievable.
Critical scholars point out that active citizenship often remains small-scale  or claim that the
involvement of active citizens in governance merely reproduces existing power relations [18,23].
Indeed, many practices that involve active citizenship have not shown an ability to a ect existing
governance practices significantly, and through those, societal domains as a whole .
Critical perspectives show how governments also fail to find proper mechanisms to connect to
active citizens . Citizens often experience a lack of support from authorities or are even constrained
by existing policies, which prevents them from realizing substantive outcomes [3,27]. Research has
shown that citizens often need to engage with authorities and align with legal frameworks in order
to be successful in the public domain [2,6,15]. In this respect, ‘growing’ for citizens often means
‘adapting’ . Weak connections with formal governance institutions generally preclude upscaling of
citizens’ practices and their outcomes .