Democracy and participation, Urban development

Incubator for Participatory Democracy in Europe shortlist


Who is behind this?

Anthony Zacharzewski

The Democratic Society AISBL


Who is joining forces?

Council of Europe - Directorate General DEMOCRACY


The Good Lobby




The proposal will create a partnership between a number of city administrations interested in experimenting with democracy and connecting conversations into the European political space.

Idea Sketch | Proposal


Idea pitch

Across Europe, cities are experimenting with participatory democracy, in budgeting, in planning and in city services. Too often, those experiments are small-scale, disconnected and fail to transition from experiment to mainstream. The Incubator will find and connect city experiments in democracy. It will increase their impact, help places learn from each other and create European models for urban democracy, to act as the foundation for a networked European democracy infrastructure.

Where will your idea take place?

Already signed up: Antwerp, Falun (SE), Lisbon, Bolton, Ghent, Messina. More to come.

Why does Europe need your idea?

EU democracy needs to start where people live. People should take the stage locally, knowing their voices carry beyond their communities to Europe. This project helps build a foundational network of local participatory structures, locally designed but learning from each other and interconnected.

Unlike a simple network that just shares information and best practices, the incubator will work on at least two practical shared projects between European cities, developing and supporting practical instruments that can be used to foster democratic participation structures at city level, and which can be connected into national and European levels.

What is your impact?

Not less than 12 cities in the network, more to join, with at least half involved in clusters.
At least two clusters of cities working on common practical projects to advance replicable local democracy ideas.
A pathway to sustainability and support for the network from other funders and wider European institutions.
Linking a wider European conversation on a significant issue through the networks, with issue impact demonstrating potential for networked democracy.
Prominence for the work through European democracy innovation networks.

How do you get there?

We will identify clusters around key challenges or innovations, and cities will join one or more clusters. Each cluster will have a work plan for the year. We have initial network, cluster ideas and commitments from World Forum on Democracy in November. The funding will support connecting practical projects developed through the clusters, solving real problems in multiple contexts, and building a link into European level institutions. It uses and increases impact of existing projects, but also tests approaches in cross-cultural situations. Possible clusters include participatory budgeting and information design for democratic engagement (two clusters proposed by cities in early conversations).

What is your story?

We've been working on democracy at every level for over ten years and we're convinced that the local is the place to start, and the starting point from which different levels and institutions can start to work together. We see with concern how few participatory experiments in local government have translated into system change.

This project connects with and will benefit from two existing projects, one with Messina (already an incubator member) to build hyperlocal democracy in its public spaces and the other funded by the OSFs to connect the local and European levels of decision making by testing practical participation on significant European issues. Between the three we think we have the opportunity to undertake practical cross-cultural experiments on multi-level democracy for Europe

Who are you doing it for?

Seekers: citizens who see their political participation as important and want to be involved by making practical change in their places but are turned off by national/European politics.
Doubtful Europeans: people who do not understand the EU, but who are not ideologically opposed to it, in order to help them making as they want it to be.
Council of Europe – World Forum for Democracy
City council politicians and staff who are trying to create new ideas, who lack the resources to innovate and need to find cheaper, more effective ways to scale up.
Use our strong connections from day one to spread the word about the initiative and to connect with existing projects, so the incubator makes a clear and practical contribution to the development of democratic practice in Europe.

What makes your idea stand apart?

It is a practical local idea operating at the European scale. Rather than bringing an initiative to a place, we take an idea for innovation from a place and connect it to make it inherently cross-cultural and European. Founded in a goal of building the wider European conversation, it delivers a locally-desired, locally-delivered outcome. Already well-networked and widely discussed, can start up quicker, with less risk of failure and costs.

It creates an action network rather than a talking shop. You have to be active to play a part – not only collecting and reading "case studies" but prototyping, testing and improving methodologies and practices together with local communities. Every actor involved in the process will gain benefits.

€ 49850,-

Funding requested from Advocate Europe

€ 58450,-

Total budget

Major expenses

Travel costs 7.200€ Accomodation and subsistence 1.800€ Event costs 7.400€ Unforseen 450€ Personnel Costs 41.600€ Total budget 58.450€ Funding request from Advocate Europe 49.850€

What do you need from the Advocate Europe community?

Practical ideas for the big problems and opportunities that clusters should address. Ideas for other cities to approach, or great examples of local democracy activity.



Kelly McBride

Francesca Attolino

Idea created on Jan. 19, 2018
Last edit on May 23, 2018

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