Introduction to Civic Desire

Introduction to Civic Desire

Borgerlyst is a laboratory for civic agency

The word Borgerlyst consists of the two Danish words Borger (meaning citizen) and Lyst (roughly meaning desire, lust, urge, delight, inclination). In short, it translates as “civic desire”.

It is a play on the phrase ‘civic duty’. Whereas civic duty is all the obligations, rules and expectations that society forces upon you, civic desire is something like the opposite. It is the feeling that you get when you feel a positive connection to the society around you.

It can both be a sense of privilege for being able to take part and act in democratic processes, but more often it comes across as a sense of positive indignation. Every time you experience something in your life that also affects others in the same way, and you think “this could be a whole lot better”, you’re feeling that positive indignation, a civic urge to improve the world around you for the benefit of all. And when you succeed in realising such improvements, you will feel a little civic delight.

Borgerlyst as a project focuses on building greater awareness around such civic desires, and make it easier for us as citizens to connect with others who share our civic desires and work to realise that desire together.

That is where the agency comes in. Agency is just a fancy word for the capacity to act and to change the world around you. We hope that by framing civic engagement and participation as a desire rather than a duty, people will be more likely to take positive action together, rather than resorting to skeptical complaining or cynical blame games whenever they come across something in need of improvement.

In our work, we seek to awaken civic desire and agency through:

Better conversations

We believe that good conversations are the root of all good. When we talk with one another, we come to understand why others think, feel, act, react and vote as they do. But we’re not always good at talking with people we don’t already know — and even with our best friends it can be difficult to get the really good conversations going.

That is why Borgerlyst works to create better conversations. We want to create more occasions for exchanging perspectives, ideas and knowledge with one another. Because it is only by having better conversations that we will come to a better understanding of our differences and of the challenges that we are facing together.

In our conversation salons, we invite people to come and meet new people and have conversations about topics that they wouldn’t otherwise would have discussed. And which they’ve probably never talked about with strangers before. The salons are like conversation gym: An opportunity to practice talking with strangers, and thus become more comfortable talking with new people and have better conversations in other aspects of life.

Free cross-pollination of ideas

Too often, we tend to think within the boxes of the organisations in which we work. And new ideas are often brought to grinding halt because they don’t fit within the boxes that we’re accustomed to.

That is why Borgerlyst works to enable the free cross-pollination of ideas, knowledge and perspectives across disciplinary, organisational and cultural boundaries. We want to make it a lot easier to find and collaborate with people who have other ideas and different skills than ourselves — and who share our desire to affect positive change. We want to create inter-disciplinary ‘potlucks’ of competences and ideas across silos, sectors, organisations, departments, political positions, regions, ages and ethnicities. We want to help initiate projects than none of us could have started on our own, and use the opportunity to get to learn new people, skills and ideas.

We organise open development ‘pot lucks’ where people from all walks of life can join in and contribute with their perspectives on how to solve a specific issue. For instance, how to develop new ways of meeting and new forms of conversation between civic society and the public sector. Or how to explore new ways of developing policy through online tools.

Audacity to change

One of the fundamental ideas behind Borgerlyst is that neither democracy nor society will ever be perfected. It is in a state of continuous development. It is in beta. That is to say: We have certain structures and procedures that generally work but there is still plenty of room for improvement. It is an acceptable error state that depends on us being present and engaged. This can sound somewhat frightening and unsafe, but it is also an exciting opportunity. Because it means that we are all part of this development. Of shaping the future together. And it also means that we can learn from past mistakes and improve. But it requires that we are willing to challenge the status quo. That we are willing to experiment.

That is why Borgerlyst works to inspire the audacity to change. It is the fundamental belief that it is the sum of all the actions small and big that we take every day that shape and change our society. It is the belief that good deeds are contagious. That every single action can set off a chain reaction of similar positive actions. It is the belief that the good example can spark a hundred similar initiatives. It is the belief that we can all make a difference. We try to invoke this courage in everything we do.

Curious to know more? Please call Nadja Pass at +45 29499696 or