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Are you a local government official with a passion for driving democratic innovation?

Then get ready for the first edition of Nets4Dem’s Democracy Lab, taking place in the city of Barcelona from 17 – 19 September 2024.

The Democracy Lab brings together local government officials and democracy practitioners from across Europe to promote ground-breaking collaborative problem-solving and democratic innovation at local level.

The aim is to develop innovative ideas that can empower citizens to get involved in decision-making processes, giving them a say on challenges facing society.

For the first edition of the Democracy Lab – being organised by Eurocities and host city Barcelona, within the framework of the European Capital of Democracy – participants will be focusing on ‘Democratic innovation in digital transformation.’

How does the Democracy Lab work?

Selected cities and towns representatives will come to the Lab with a challenge they face. For the first event in Barcelona, this will be a digital challenge. They will work in a small team of peers, assisted by a facilitator, to design actionable, ready-to-implement democratic interventions to bring back to their administrations.

During this creative effort, the team will be assisted by mentors: democracy experts and practitioners from the Nets4Dem network, host city staff, and local stakeholders. To ensure learning exchange and breadth of perspectives, participants will take part in study visits and speak with local community members.

How can cities get involved at this stage?

Registration for the first event in Barcelona opens in June. At this stage, we are asking interested cities to submit a democratic challenge they are facing in relation to digital transformation. The plan will be for this challenge to be discussed during the Barcelona event.

If you are interested in submitting your challenge, please read the guidelines and fill out the application form by 15 July 2024

What are the key goals of Democracy Lab?

Democracy Lab aims to empower cities to address complex societal challenges in a democratic spirit by facilitating peer collaboration, enhanced by the involvement of experts and communities affected by the issue.

This way, we aim to encourage policymakers to view issues from diverse perspectives and engage directly with citizens. This process enables a holistic understanding of the issues and ensures solutions are rooted in real-world experiences.

Leveraging expertise from the Nets4Dem network and host city’s practice, the Lab provides a unique opportunity for cities’ staff members to co-create action plans alongside diverse partners, including peers, democracy innovation experts from civil society organizations and academia, and community representatives.

More information about our plans

Three Democracy Labs are being organised over the Nets4Dem project duration in 2024-2025. The first edition is taking place in Barcelona in September, with the other two events planned for 2025. Each edition will be hosted by a different city and dedicated to a different democratic challenge.

Solutions developed during Democracy Lab will be featured in a Democratic Innovation Toolbox, which will be based on the outcomes of the initiative. The toolbox, which will be available towards the end of the initiative, will be an open-source digital dissemination resource encompassing policy recommendations for embracing democratic innovations and promoting impactful real-life approaches.

Cities participating in a Lab will also be entitled to compete for the Democratic Innovation Award, granted towards the end of the Nets4Dem project (mid-2026).

About European Capital of Democracy

Barcelona was named the first European Capital of Democracy (ECoD) on January 18, 2023. The technical office is comprised of the Barcelona City Council and the Metropolitan Strategic Plan of Barcelona (PEMB), and its duration is one year (September 2023 – October 2024). As the European Capital of Democracy, Barcelona and its metropolitan region host a series of events, conferences, and activities related to democratic innovation and citizen participation, as well as culture, education, and public space. The ECoD aims to establish a space for reflection and high visibility where European citizens can meet, engage, experiment with new forms of participatory and inclusive democracy in collective action, and be inspired by a comprehensive program designed to advance democracy and build or rebuild trust in it.