Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

The Funding of Minority Organizations in Schleswig-Holstein: A Source of Empowerment?

Academic journal article Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe : JEMIE

The Funding of Minority Organizations in Schleswig-Holstein: A Source of Empowerment?

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper analyses the relationship between minority empowerment and the funding schemes available to minority organizations using the example of the state of Schleswig-Holstein, on the border between Germany and Denmark. This is done through an examination of the organizational network available to the Danish minority in the region and the state funding structures available to these organizations, as well as through interviews with representatives of the two major organizations of the minority. I will argue that the existence of institutional funding on the one hand and empowering minority organizations on the other reinforce each other and that therefore the establishment of an institutional funding system for minority organizations can have an empowering effect on national minorities. Additionally, I will identify the central elements of the funding scheme at hand and discuss their influence on the empowerment process of the minority.

Keywords : Minorities, funding, empowerment, German-Danish border region, Schleswig-Holstein, minority issues, Danish minority

The funding of minority organizations is an issue that tends to spark heated debates and often leads to entrenched positions and hard feelings at opposite ends of the negotiation table. Nonetheless, it has so far rarely incited research (Cârstocea, 2014). This may be due on one hand to the lack of information that is available from both the states and minorities involved, and on the other to a lack of motivation and methodology to gain the necessary information on the side of the researchers. This paper argues that despite these obstacles there are good reasons to research the funding of minority organizations as it can pose a source of empowerment for minority communities, not only in the amounts of money provided but also in the way in which funding schemes are structured. The example of the Danish minority in Germany's northernmost federal state, Schleswig-Holstein1, is one which has been used as a model in academic literature on minority issues countless times and may therefore have somewhat lost its appeal to researchers. However, with the shift of paradigm in minority research over recent years away from advocacy and protection towards issues of empowerment (Malloy, 2005, 2010, 2014; Schaefer-Rolffs, 2014; Banducci, Donovan & Karp, 2004; Henrard, 2005), the research of this particular minority setting is gaining in significance once again. As the study of settings in which empowerment occurs is one way of gaining an increased understanding of empowerment (Rappaport, 1981: 15), studying minorities that contribute to society and influence policies concerned with their affairs can give us an idea of how processes of empowerment can be triggered and advanced in other cases. The Danish minority in Schleswig-Holstein is generally regarded as quite advanced in its empowerment process (Schaefer-Rolffs, 2014: 89; Teebken & Christiansen, 2001: 43; Kühl, 2004: 575; Schaefer-Rolffs & Schnapp, 2013: 4), thus providing a setting worth studying in order to understand minority empowerment processes.

Leaning on definitions of empowerment from the field of community psychology as provided by Rappaport (1981, 1987), Zimmerman (2000), and Sadan (1997), minority empowerment can be defined as a process of transition in a minority community from a situation of powerlessness to a position of relative power and control over community affairs, including the authority, ability, and self-perception to influence the environment in the community's favour and thus become an agent of its own change. It aims at the enhancement of the choices that can be made by the community, increased access to resources and information, and finally the institutionalization of this change and thus independence from helping systems. The change intended by processes of empowerment affects the relations within the community, between the community and the individual, between the community and its environment, between organizations within the community, and between the organizations of the community and the institutions of the broader society and works in consideration of them. …

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