Participation is associated with economic, social and wellbeing benefits. It provides activities and services to the local community, and research shows that volunteering and participating lead to increased happiness and subjective wellbeing levels for the participants themselves. In addition, people who are actively involved with their living environment can make their voice being heard and thereby can influence their local environment. This is true for local policies as well as for the organization of social events or local services. However, the extent of civic and political activity varies widely across individuals and regions leading to heterogeneous responses to policies that seek to foster participation.
In my presentation, I will first show the economic and social relevance of participation across European regions. Then, I will zoom in on individual level choice determinants concerning participation, and demonstrate the important role that local social interactions play. Based on research performed with colleagues I conclude that social interaction is key to a participating society. Regions that face decline and/or an ageing population may experience more difficulties in recruiting volunteers and enter in a vicious circle.