Innovating Democracy

Innovating democracy was a full day conference where citizens, politicians and government officials came together to explore the future of democracy.

Is democracy in a state of crisis? Rising populism in politics and media, growing social inequality and disenfranchised citizens raise the question: what is the future of our democratic system?

On the positive side there are many groups taking initiative to make democratic processes more direct and participative. They are looking for new ways to participate!

Political parties have traditionally been the linking pin between the state and society, but what will their role be in the future? How can and should they redefine their role in the light of these changes?

During this conference practitioners from all over the world will reimagined our democratic institutions by exploring new forms of participation and new technological applications.

God bless Iceland

Þórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir  or just Sunna, is elected as a member to the Althing, the parliament of Iceland, for the Pirate Party

In her keynote at Innovating Democracy she addressed the rise of the Pirate Party in Iceland. Key in this development was the financial crisis and the way this was handled  by the then government. In an address to the people on television prime Minister of Iceland Geir H. Haarde issued the famous words: “God bless Iceland”.

The majority of the people were outraged by those words. Those who caused this crisis stayed in place and asked to be trusted to solve this crisis; with the help of God.

Sunna took the streets with a lot of other people. Every Saturday, with pots and pans, they protested against the government. Eventually the government stepped down and after a election a new government was formed. (more…)

Teele Pehk on Co-creation in policy-making and everyday-democracy

Teele Pehks keynote presentation.

Estonia has marvelous e-services and is worldwide known by its e-government (currently distrusted though) and e-residency program, but the state of participation and e-democracy is surprisingly poor. What has changed after the deliberation process People’s Assembly in 2013, what needs to be done in addition to setting up new participation channels and how to increase the demand for more transparent, co-creational and open governance – these are the issues Teele discussed with us in her keynote speech.

Teele Pehk the CEO of the Estonian Cooperation Assembly which was one of the facilitators and curators of the People’s Assembly back in 2013. As a direct result of the deliberation process her organisation set up the citizen initiatives platform which is meant for addressing the Parliament of Estonia with collective addresses. Its the first participation platform in Estonia which enables big groups to digitally sign the same proposal or draft act – by law is demanded 1000 signatures, then the parliament accepts the collective address. The beta-platform that was as state priority in the Estonian Open Government Partnership action plan, runs in Estonian, Russian and English. Currently we are launching an awareness raising campaign towards 16+ youth, digitally competent elderly and Russian-speakers living in Estonia. More here:

Podemos in practice

The Spanish political party Podemos was founded in March 2014 and originates from the 2011 Indignados Movement (anti-austerity movement) against inequality and corruption. Because Podemos has so many critical members, only a well transparent inclusive process allowed Podemos to reach and involve their supporters.

Sofia de Roa at Innovating Democracy

Sofia de Roa works for the Podemos transparency department to visualize all the financial transactions to their members. This is part of their radical new vision on politics.

Podemos, which translates to ‘We can’, is a left-wing political party. It is the second largest political party with more than 441.150 members. At the elections for the national parliament on December 20, 2015, Podemos received 21% of the vote and became the third largest party in the Spanish parliament, with 69 out of 350 seats. (more…)

Socioneers: online participation for all!

Raoul Kramer

In this workshop Raoul Kramer presented the platforms the Socioneers created for the Dutch Labour Party and the Global Parliament of Mayors.

Research, development and implementation
The Socioneers have a practical approach to creating online platforms for participation and decision-making. First, they create a map of the stakeholders, problem definitions and goals. Then they make a selection of (open source) tools are available. They create a prototype to test this within the user-community.

Kramer says there is a lot of value in testing protoypes to really find out what the stakeholders need. It’s the best way to determine what kind of platform and what kind of online tools need to be created.

In the development phase they work with programmers to modify open-source software or build a new application from scratch. As soon as a viable tool is created the implementation phase starts.

During the implementation phase the application is ‘iterated’ on the basis of user feedback. Socioneers work in fast response with the users. Also, this period is aimed at creating an active community and marketing strategy for the platform. (more…)

Design strategies to enhance the dialogue between citizens and authorities

Ruth Kennedy and Moniek Driesse

In this breakout session Ruth Kennedy from the Public Office and Ed Owles from Postcode movies gave a presentation on their work helping organisations create social change. Moniek Driesse from the Socioneers shared her experience as a design researcher and showed the importance of storytelling in creating that change.

Kennedy and Owles use film as a tool to connect citizens and (local) governments and welfare organizations. Their philosophy is ‘Making the strange familiar and familiar the strange’. Film, they say, is good way to visualize the story of an individual and if you can capture it in a wide way. If someone is reading it can be difficult to follow but actually seeing the person and hearing their voice has more impact. By visually documenting an individual, their needs and requirements become clear right away. This creates sympathy for their situation. As an example, Kennedy and Owles showed a short film about an individual suffering from dementia.


Innovate ways to engage with citizens

Will Derks (NIMD)

An increasing number of people around the globe are looking for new ways of democratic participation. If we fail to provide these new ways, liberal democracies are in big trouble, said Will Derks (NIMD) in his introduction. That’s why, in this breakout session, three democratic innovators shared their experiences and also their tools: Sam van der Staak (International IDEA), Felipe Munoz (Net Party, Argentina) and Sunna Ævarsdóttir (Pirate Party, Iceland).

Sam van der Staak, International IDEA

Even though the media paints a grim picture, Van Der Staak shows that Europe is doing pretty well in terms of freedom. On the other side he sees downwards trends when it comes voting behavior and political participation. Youth is not actively participating in elections. Only 43% of youngsters is voting against 73% of older generation. An average of 4,5% of the people are members of a political party in the Europe. The average age represented in the political decision-making process is 59 years. (more…)

Workshop We Own the City!

Joachim Meerkerk – We Own The City

The ability of citizens to organize themselves, for example through social media, has increased very much the last few years. As a result, in many communities local initiatives have emerged, like neighbourhood businesses and local energy cooperations.

This raises new questions about the relation of these initiatives and democracy. Who decides what initiatives add to the greater good? Who owns the resources? Who owns a community organization?

Trust in the City?

The City of Amsterdam runs an organization called ‘Trust in the City’, funding neighbourhood initiatives. The idea is to encourage entrepreneurship, especially in deprived neighbourhoods. People from those neighbourhoods often find it difficult to claim available subsidies due to intricate rules and conditions. Also, after receiving funding those entrepreneurs want to be accountable to the community, not the City Council. Meantime, the community has misgivings about an enterprise funded by the City, as they think of it as ‘our company’. Trust becomes an issue, notwithstanding the good intentions of all involved.


Workshop Technology and the Future of Democracy

Zita Bernhoeft

Distrust in politics and low turnout at elections show that the legitimacy of democracy is in question. Meanwhile, people engage online more and more on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

In Africa, for example, access to social media allows many people to let their voices be heard. Also, information about politics and democracy is now much more accessible to them. In the last elections in Uganda women voted in much larger numbers than before, thanks to multi-media programs to educate people about democracy.

At the Centre for Innovation at Leiden University staff and students are exploring how technology can help solve global challenges. One of these challenges is finding ways to sustaining democracies. (more…)


Sofia de Roa
Sofia de Roa

Podemos experimented with various internet platforms and social media venues to approach Spanish politics differently than other political parties had.

Using Agora Voting, the party held open, online primaries for the 2014 European Parliamentary elections and to select executive leadership for the Constituent Party Assembly. Although only 33,000 votes were cast, Podemos placed no requirements on party membership, creating an open primary that was truly accessible to the Spanish people

Sofia de Roa is a member of the transparancy team for Podemos.Sofia will show how a civiv movement developed into a political party and how Podemos is innovating Spanish politics.