DemocraticCity (II). New generation citizen movements’ campaigns in Spain

Notes from the Network democracy for a better city, organized by the D-CENT project, in Barcelona, Spain, on May 5th, 2015. More notes on this event: DemocraticCity.

New generation citizen movements’ campaigns in Spain
Chaired by Miguel Arana, Labodemo

Matias Nso, Kuorum.org

Our relationship with governments has not changed much since ancient times. On the other hand, reality does change constantly and very fast: political programmes cannot last 4 years unaltered.

Kuorum.org is a social enterprise that aims at changing how we connect with our governments so that they can make decisions together: either the politician or the citizen can make a proposal in the platform and then they can be debated by anyone.

Miguel Ardanuy, Head of participation, Podemos

We have to avoid that participation is something about very active minorities, but about majorities taking part in anything they are interested in. And, indeed, not slightly opening small rooms for participation, but enabling wide open participation in any kind of project, initiative, issue, etc. that the citizen may think of.

We have to make possible that issues that a person is knowledgeable/comfortable with, that they can participate.

Different initiatives at Podemos:

  • Participation portal. a space where to register oneself, have one’s own profile, vote, collaborate economically, share house and car (for given events), accessing other tools, etc.
  • Podemos Square. Main tool for deliberation.
  • Citizen initiatives. direct democracy mechanisms whose aim is reaching critical thresholds of support.
  • Appgree. Polling tool.
  • Loomio. Tool to improve debates and enable the reaching of consensus in small groups.

Participative action teams are made up by volunteers, coordinated by a person that are at their turn coordinated as a network. Their goal is to foster debates and activities on the field, including bridging the digital divide, so that no-one is excluded from participation.

Miguel Aguilera, Podemos Aragón and Zaragoza en Común

Participation not only is organized spontaneously bin different spaces, but needs being channelled through democratic institutions.

There is a power-law in participation: a few will participate a lot, the majority will participate very little. How do we cope institutions with collaborative structures? Option 1: we take the ones that participate a lot, put them inside institutions (e.g. the party) and make them work. Option 2: coordinate all participations… but how to and be efficient and effective?

Ganemos Zaragoza put up a tool to collaboratively filter and prioritise proposals, letting people evaluate and vote proposals, provide feedback and in general comment and debate the issues at stake.

It is not easy how the approved proposals are included in the political programme and/or put into practice.

Another tool that was used was an installation of Reddit, again to quickly evaluate proposals. The tool requires a minimum support by the members (23 persons, 0.2% of the total census) to be taken into consideration by the board of the party.

It is not enough to launch a tool for participation: one has to monitor the evolution, to facilitate the inclusion and voting of proposals, etc.

Conditions for an effective self-organized participation process:

  • Scalability.
  • Transform participation into action.
  • Shared rules.

Javier Toret, Barcelona En Comú and D-CENT

A collaborative process to make up the party programme. The process went through different stages where citizens and partisans could make proposals, evaluate them, discuss them and vote them.

A side-goal of the process is not only achieving a consensus around a political project, but also to open up he process and try and make it mainstream, try to make of Barcelona a city that is a reference in participative democracy, where co-government is a reality, where bottom-up participation mechanisms are just normal.

We aim for an integrated participation system for a democratic city.

Pablo Soto, Ahora Madrid

The Spanish Indignados movement changed the whole landscape in Spain. There’s a call for radical democracy all over Spain in the latest years.

Now many people feel empowered by new ways and tools of participation, and they do participate.

There is a risk that some collectives feel more empowered than others and participate more than others. We have the responsibility to make of these processes something balanced, unbiased, effective in democratic purposes.

On the other hand, most of these initiatives are run by volunteers and with meagre resources. If some of these initiatives end up being implemented by a municipality, we should be aware that resources will then be available and most likely abundant: we have to fight the de-naturalization of the processes, and be clever to use with intelligence these resources.

Governments should not aim at representing people, but at enabling that citizens can decide by themselves.

Discussion

Q: How to make participation inclusive? Matias Nso: training is key, not only for making an inclusive participation, but to avoid that the design of the participation process embeds biases that would then corrupt the final outcome.

Pablo Soto: the nearer to one’s own backyard the issue is, the more the need to participate and the more difficult to manage it. In any case, binding consultations will become more and more important.

Network democracy for a better city (2015)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2015) “DemocraticCity (II). New generation citizen movements’ campaigns in Spain” In ICTlogy, #140, May 2015. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from http://ictlogy.net/review/?p=4306

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About Me

    I am Ismael Peña-López.

    I am professor at the School of Law and Political Science of the Open University of Catalonia, and researcher at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute and the eLearn Center of that university. I am also the director of the Open Innovation project at Fundació Jaume Bofill.