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The future of democracy in Europe - perspectives from the EUARENAS Community of Practice

by People's Voice Media

EUARENAS is establishing a Community of Practice (CoP), made up of researchers, policy makers and political representatives, people working in local services and government, community leaders, activists and facilitators and more. The CoP is interested in learning and developing their knowledge about how democracy works in local communities, and how participatory and deliberative approaches can strengthen communities across Europe.

In Reggio Emilia, we held our first in-person workshop that began to pool the collective knowledge of the CoP’s members and start the dialogue. As part of the workshop, a section was dedicated to a future thinking activity lead by People’s Voice Media who is running the foresight research in EUARENAS. This short blog shares with you some of the ideas from this session…

Democracy Now

When reflecting on what democracy feels like where they live and work, the CoP members noted points such as:

  • Citizens feel removed from the political process - they perhaps don’t care or feel powerless to affect change

  • There was a sense that ‘European identity’ is being diminished

  • Growing complexity administration and bureaucracy causing blockages and disconnect

  • Truth and trust doesn’t feel valued

A key question being posed, was is democracy really working? Is it supporting the practice or principles of social equality - or unwittingly helping maintain inequalities?

The future we’d like to see

Given that some of the points above point to a ‘crisis in democracy’, CoP members had some interesting ideas about how this could look very different. These ideas included:

  • Citizens having more agency and involvement in democracy - moving to ‘deep democracy’, going beyond just voting and being involved in deliberation and decision-making

  • Having a ‘value-driven’ democracy

  • Local government with the competencies to support new ways of working with citizens and involving them in local democracy

Ideas for getting there

So, given that the CoP members would like to changes from the current situation, we spent some time thinking about how we might get there. Thinking and suggestions in this area were:

  • Scaling-up and mainstreaming of existing practices such as participatory budgeting, citizen assemblies, crowd-sourced law - so that these become the new ‘status quo’

  • Adopting test and learn approaches as a way that experimentation can be done and actively learned from

  • Find ways of celebrating and connecting up the small changes that are taking place - this will help people see that progress is being made, even when it feels like things are changing too slow

The full results of this workshop will be combined with more detailed work done with citizens from Voru, Reggio Emelia and Gdansk to produce an insight briefing focusing on how people across Europe are currently experiencing democracy and their ideas for the future. This will be released in Autumn 2022 - watch this space!


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