About me

(C) www.marenjeleff.com

(c) www.marenjeleff.com

You can call me a Citoyen

A cito-what?
It’s a historical concept meaning an independent citizen who actively and self-confidently co-creates the nation-state and their society. An idea rooted in ancient Greece but coined by Rosseau and Kant in the eighteenth century. Citoyens act according to the traditions of the Age of Enlightenment and the values of the French Revolution: liberté, égalité, fraternité. Similar to the modern-dayconcept of ‘active citizenship’.


We citoyens
love our nation, our city, our region. At the same time we are fervent cosmopolites. We use our talent and time to serve the public interest. We don’t act for personal, individual or group interests but always for the greater good.

The origial citoyen concept was conceived as a legal concept. But I see modern citoyens as more of an attitude based on a certain set of principles rather than something connected to one’s formal citizenship. Over time my citoyen attitude and entrepreneurial means became the focus of my professional life and practice.


Where did it start?
I don’t know exactly. Certainly not in ancient Greece. Maybe in primary school. The education I was getting didn’t make sense to me, and so I realised that I needed to start my own school as a grown-up. But I had to bide my time – all the way through secondary and high school. I was waiting for radical educational reforms. They never came.

At the end of school I concluded that I needed to do it myself, otherwise reform was not going happen. The system was not going to change on its own. It was clear to me that this was on me. On us.


Me being a teenager in the nineties
I decided not to go to the university but do my learning by doing while being self-employed. I also decided not to join any political party since none of them made sense to me. These decisions certainly sent me on quite a difficult path – difficult, yet exciting.

I was never driven to act in the interest of a class, stance, lobby, minority or identity group. Quite the opposite. How we organise our society for the better – in terms of framework and foundation rather than a single idea or interest – was and is of great importance to me.

I wanted to be active for the common good. The democratic system and its institutions. The exchange of ideas that take us further as a nation. I wanted to strive towards a systemic change (even though I didn’t call it that way back then).


I am a systemic thinker by nature
Wholehearted. Offbeat. Visionary but pragmatic. Someone who recognises potential in people, in individuals and organisations, in ideas and developments, in places and spaces, in situations and circumstances. Someone who knows how to use this potential. Someone who makes people, ideas and information come together. Someone who loves to contribute. Someone who aims to give his best.


As a citoyen today
I’m independent and proactive in democracy, politics and journalism. My main roles are those of a strategist and activist. I identify and support leaders for change. I build bridges. I foster disruption. To make space for the new, we first need to disrupt existing political power structures and patterns. To raise the effectiveness of cross-party and cross-sector collaboration we need to build bridges.


Some of my activities

  • Since 2013 I co-host Re-Think Austria, an annual interactive retreat for political leaders to support cross-party dialogue and trust, which I also co-founded.
  • In 2016 I led the election campaign of an independent presidential candidate in Austria. With a budget of less then a €900 000 (via crowd funding) we started from zero with only four months to go until the election and came third with 18,2% of the vote. We clearly outperformed the traditional social democratic and conservative candidates, which led to a series crucial changes in their parties and their coalition government, which has since broken up. My team called themselves the ‘best team ever’, while journalists said it was the ‘cadre factory’ for the political system since after the elections most of my team where in high demand by several parties.
  • In 2017 I led the election campaign of a new independent movement in the parliamentary election. The movement was founded just three month before the poll, with a budget of just €300,000. The result: 4,4% and eight seats in the Austrian parliament.
  • I was honoured to be able to contribute to the international community as an OSCE election observer in the 2016 elections in the United States of America.
  • In 2018 i cofounded the platform ‘Demokratie 21’ in Vienna/Austria to lobby for and enhance modern democracy. I’m responsible for strategy and program.


But what am I actually doing all this for?
The nation I’d like to co-create is one where there is serious competition of the best ideas, visions and people (I have experience little of this so far), one that guaranties freedom, social peace, progress and prosperity, one where everyone has equal chances of a good life. A nation that knows its strengths and knows how to use them for the benefit of all. A strong state but effective and participative, inviting the active contribution of talent, time, passion, ideas of its population (the opposite of just voting once in a while and paying taxes). A participatory system that is open to and supportive of those who want to take a proactive part in contributing to the public good – beyond political parties. Freedom and democracy are possible only if all of us are actively involved in it. Constantly.

I was born in 1982 and grew up in my hometown Graz. I am now based in Vienna. Austrian Citizen. European.

Who are you? What do you think?  Why are you doing what your are doing?

Drop me a note at mail at milotesselaar dot com