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

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. The activities and responsibilities in and for this process are mutually held between the state authorities and the minority communities or their representative organizations. The organizational structure available to the minority community, strengthening the community within and representing it to the outside in political as well as civic terms, thus makes for an integral part of minority empowerment.

The Danish minority in Schleswig-Holstein is generally perceived to be in a favourable position in the society, economy and politics of the region, in good part due to its strong organizational network (Kühl, 2005: 78-79; Minderheitensekretariat, n.d.; SchaeferRolffs, 2014). A competence analysis of 2007 even pointed out that the institutions and organizations of the minorities2 contribute to the linguistic, economic, political, and cultural profile of the state of Schleswig-Holstein (European Academy, 2007). …

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