Book. Shifting participation into sovereignty: the case of decidim.barcelona

Book cover of Shifting participation into sovereignty: the case of decidim.barcelona

Shifting participation into sovereignty: the case of decidim.barcelona

During 2016 and 2017 I took part on a research led by IT for Change, within the research project titled Voice or Chatter? Using a Structuration Framework Towards a Theory of ICT-mediated Citizen Engagement, and within the umbrella of the research programme Making All Voices Count. My research thoroughly analyzed the case of Decidim, the city council of Barcelona citizen participation initiative to collectivelly ellaborate the strategic plan of the city for 2016-2019.

This book, Shifting participation into sovereignty: the case of decidim.barcelona is the gathering of a policy brief, a state of the art of technopolitics in Spain and a case study of Barcelona’s Decidim participation initiative, with some minor improvements. It is the last one of a total of 16 different research outputs of the project, ranging from policy and academic papers to speeches and presentations.

The book is published in English and Spanish —Convirtiendo participación en soberanía: el caso de decidim.barcelona— both of them downloadable in full text below.

Abstract

Citizen participation is entering a new era: the era of technopolitics. New forms of organization, of coordination, of civic action boosted by a new ethics and new methodologies, and all this made possible by new tools, spaces and actors.

However, this new era of citizen empowerment continues to require –probably more than ever– democratic institutions that are especially responsive to the changes that are taking place on the streets. Institutions that adapt, that innovate and that, ultimately, transform themselves to keep on being a chain of transmission between the will of citizens and collective decision-making.

This volume analyses how the City Council of Barcelona has faced and planned this transformation, and the impacts that the new strategy may imply on meanings, norms and power in the Administration-citizen relationship. It assumes a new game board, although the final outcome of the game is still uncertain.

The Spanish local elections in 2015 brought to many Spanish cities what has been labelled as “city councils of change”: city councils whose mayors and governing representatives come from parties emerging from the 15M Spanish Indignados Movement. Many of them, led by Madrid and Barcelona, tried to bring into office the same technopolitical practices that proved so useful to articulate a broadly supported movement when out in the streets.

But not only practices were put to work in decision-making at the local level. Also the ethos and values attached to them led, in many ways, with more or less success, the relationship between the local government and the citizenry. These values spin around citizen empowerment, participation, engagement and, in its most ambitious expression, devolution of sovereignty from the government to the citizen.

This book focuses on the socio-political environment where this phenomenon takes place, specifically in Madrid and Barcelona, the two major cities of the state and featuring these so-called city councils of change, and how it was deployed in Barcelona in the first months of 2016 during the definition of the strategic plan of the city. Using Anthony Giddens Structuration Theory, we will be able to assess if not the final outcomes and impact of this technopolitical turn in decision-making – surely too soon for such an assessment to be performed –, at least the main shifts in meaning, norms and power which, as tipping points, can shed a light on the main social trends that these political movements might be unleashing.

In Part I we draw a Policy Brief – Increasing the quality of democracy through sovereignty devolution – were we present the main drivers of change, the essentials of the several shifts brought by the new ethos, and the keys and aspects to be considered to understand the qualitative changes in our opinion already in play in the current political scenario.

Part II – ICT-mediated citizen participation in Spain: a state of the art – revisits e-participation since the beginnings of the XXIst century onwards and most especially in the aftermath of the 15M Spanish Indignados Movement, proposing that recent ICT-based participation initiatives in such municipalities could be far from just polling the citizens and be, instead, the spearhead of a technopolitics-aimed network of cities. We critically explore the role of ICTs in reconstructing politics in Spain and which led to Spain’s new experiments in participatory democracy such as Decide Madrid, launched in the city of Madrid to enable strategic participatory planning for the municipality, and decidim.barcelona another participatory process launched in Barcelona initially based in the former.

This part provides an overview of the normative and institutional state of art of ICT-mediated citizen participation in Spain. The first section depicts the political and civic liberties framework in Spain. In the second section the landscape of ICT mediated citizen engagement is mapped. In the third section, we engage with implications of technology mediations for deliberative democracy and transformative citizenship.

Part III – The case of decidim.barcelona: Using a Structuration Framework Towards a Theory of ICT-mediated Citizen Engagement – analyses the participatory making of the Barcelona Strategic Plan (PAM) 2016-2019 for the whole term in office. The first section revisits the general context of the city in terms of ICT-mediated politics and explains the design and general functioning of the new strategic plan and its participatory process. The second section explains the methodology used for the analysis, which is carried on in the third section.

Download

logo of PDF file
Full book in English:
Peña-López, I. (2019). Shifting participation into sovereignty: the case of decidim.barcelona. Barcelona: Huygens Editorial.
logo of PDF file
Full book in Spanish:
Peña-López, I. (2019). Convirtiendo participación en soberanía: el caso de decidim.barcelona. Barcelona: Huygens Editorial.

Appropriating Technology for Accountability (XII). So what?

Notes from the Appropriating Technology for Accountability, part of the Making All Voices Count program, organized by Institute of Development Studies and held in Brighton, UK, on 25-26 October 2017. More notes on this event: allvoicescount.

So what?
Chair: Prof Melissa Leach, IDS

Deus Rweyemamu, independent

Governments are especially receptive to new proposals in times of crisis: Wait for a crisis to bring your solution to the government.

Before scaling up, think of scaling down: can it be done more effectively? Can it be done more efficiently? Etc.

Technology is a pain-killer, but it is not the cure.

Adi Eyal, Open Up

Specific technologies require specific methodologies and specific environments.

Same for people: you need to find the right people for any given scenario. Do not choose the technology: choose the technologist.

Edwin Huizing, Hivos, Making All Voices Count;

Projects have not to become too technical or too institutional if we expect people to own them.

Civil society space is shrinking. We need to create space, and this is done by building trust in civil society actions and with citizenry at large.

Judith Herbertson, DFID;

There is an interesting negotiation between civil society organizations, which want to push an issue forward, and governments, which should represent all citizens. This negotiation can be — and should be — a creative effort to achieve consensus around common lines of action.

Let’s stop talking about “failure” and let’s talk instead about what worked, what did not work and what can be done differently.

Joe Powell, OGP Support Unit

Civil servants have to be considered part of civil society, actors that have to be included in projects about governance and democracy. Governments are part of society too. We need a coalition of leadership from civil servants, subnational leaders and civil society organizations.

Opening spaces in governments should bring dividends for politicians, so that they have incentives to do it.

Making All Voics Count: Appropriating Technology for Accountability (2017)

Appropriating Technology for Accountability (XI). Lessons about supporting work in this field

Notes from the Appropriating Technology for Accountability, part of the Making All Voices Count program, organized by Institute of Development Studies and held in Brighton, UK, on 25-26 October 2017. More notes on this event: allvoicescount.

Lessons about supporting work in this field
Chairs: Ellen Pieterse

How could you the work in this field be better supported?

Ideally, research should provide ground for the design of intervention projects, and then come back to these projects and, more than assess them (which is OK), do more research after them. Constraints (time, money, convenience) make that, sometimes, research and practice, though related, are not intertwined and enriching one each other.

Pre-grants, to design better projects, provide some evidence, etc. could be an option to have better designed and better grounded projects.

In knowledge intensive projects, creating a community to exchange knowledge between different people involved in different projects can be a way to support each other, identify best practices, develop capacity, identify trends and core issues in the field, etc.

It is usually said that an organization that learns, an organization that adapts to the context, is better. But have we measured this improved performance? We should. We should measure the relationship between learning organizations and successful organizations.

The cycle of projects, beginning and ending every three or four years make it more difficult to apply what you learned in either the same or the next project. How do we continue to learn and build knowledge in the long run.

How can programmes like MAVC enable, capture and use internal learning to be more adaptive?

The best way to encourage learning is to incentivize it. There has to be an experiencing of an issue to learn from it, and then a period of reflection to settle knowledge. This should be included in the design (funds, resources, etc.) of the project.

Fostering communities of practice also helps in building knowledge together.

When there are synergies in sharing knowledge, in the sense that the collective can achieve higher grounds than acting individually, then collaboration makes sense and is a sufficient incentive to learn together. E.g. in qualitative research, where results might be difficult to compare, sharing methodologies, sharing approaches, working together may imply that the individual results can be compared and thus produce an “extra” piece of knowledge, which is the comparison itself.

Making All Voics Count: Appropriating Technology for Accountability (2017)

Appropriating Technology for Accountability (X). What has MAVC learnt about supporting work in this field?

Notes from the Appropriating Technology for Accountability, part of the Making All Voices Count program, organized by Institute of Development Studies and held in Brighton, UK, on 25-26 October 2017. More notes on this event: allvoicescount.

What has MAVC learnt about supporting work in this field?
Framer: Fletcher Tembo, Programme Director, MAVC

How you actualize your theory of change as a project deploys? Can you? Should you? Testing is fundamental, and adjusting your assumptions the most clever thing to do. But not only the “theory” has to adapt, but also program management.

In such a flexible, liquid environment, trust and relationships play an important role, as they let you move quickly and with confidence. It is important to include an adequate inception phase for building an appropriate consortium.

Host: Walter Flores, CEGSS (Centre for Equity in Health Systems Governance), Guatemala
Panellists: Helena Bjuremalm, Sida; Debby Byrne, MAVC; David Sasaki, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation; Lu Ecclestone, Department for International Development; Michael Canares, Web Foundation/Open Data Lab Jakarta

How do we turn the new knowledge that we have into new practices?

How do we select people? According to the challenges? Their experience? Their capacity? Choosing is a matter of who you exclude from your project, which is hard. The usual suspects may be good, because they have proven their value in the past, but also bad, just because they are “usual”, meaning that maybe not new people or new approaches will come from them.

Are donors comfortable with experimentation? Sometimes donors find a “window of opportunity” due to some political will to foster a specific issues, and then they take the chance to try something new, with new people. The problem is that these windows of opportunity sometimes remain open for very limited time, and hence programs are designed in a rush, without taking into account all the variables that matter. On the other hand, sometimes there is a sense of urgency to foster a field and when the opportunity comes one feels like it is now or never.

New landscapes come with new approaches and tools: innovative governance work requires innovative monitoring, evaluation and learning.

Having a flexible, multilayer/multistakeholder network can be very handy. Each organization/layer can concentrate on what they do best (draw the general strategy, find the partners, develop the projects, etc.). Rigid and hierarchical structures, who want to have control over the whole program, may not be the best option. E.g. donors should commit the money and get out of the way, after participating in identifying what success looks like. In this new scenario, fostering collaboration instead of competition is the way, especially complementary collaboration.

Grant making architecture should be inclusive by design and more prone to assume risks.

Keys to design proposals: think big, think of the partners, think about the problems to be solved, think about your liaison with other civic organizations and/or individual citizens at large.

Making All Voics Count: Appropriating Technology for Accountability (2017)

Appropriating Technology for Accountability (IX). Open Government Partnership (II)

Notes from the Appropriating Technology for Accountability, part of the Making All Voices Count program, organized by Institute of Development Studies and held in Brighton, UK, on 25-26 October 2017. More notes on this event: allvoicescount.

Open Government Partnership
Breakout session

What are the challenges and opportunities in trying to bring the OGP ‘closer to the people’?

There is a need to link what happens at the national level and what happens at the local level. See if there is a thread linking both (or more) levels).

What is the enabling environment that exists at the local level? Can it be transposed at other levels? (and vice-versa)

Open government is about generating new types of citizen engagement.

What role do technologies play in this?

Access to technology is an absolute priority. But effective use of access comes with specific skills and in specific cultural contexts.

The government could co-own a system with the people.

Can we have open government without open data about budgeting or expenditure?

There is a difference between seeing open government as a tool and seeing it as a governance strategy for a change of democratic culture. In this sense, it might be very different to approach open government from the transparency and accountability point of view or the collaboration (and co-management) point of view.

Making All Voics Count: Appropriating Technology for Accountability (2017)

Appropriating Technology for Accountability (VIII). Open Government Partnership (I)

Notes from the Appropriating Technology for Accountability, part of the Making All Voices Count program, organized by Institute of Development Studies and held in Brighton, UK, on 25-26 October 2017. More notes on this event: allvoicescount.

Open Government Partnership
Framer: Alan Hudson, Global Integrity

Political transitions and tech:

  • Adapting to political tarnsitions and challenges.
  • Revising assumptions and approaches to technology.

Multiple models:

  • No blueprints for localising OGP.
  • Evolving and tailored strategies.
  • Value of learning journeys and exchanges.
  • Increasing effectiveness and impact.

What might be the implications for OGP?

  • Political transitions and tech.
  • Multiple models, tailored approaches.
  • Value of supporting real-time learning.
  • … in country (sub-national) and cross-country…
  • … about political (and technical ) challenges.

Host: Munyema Hasan, Open Government Partnership Support Unit
Panellists: Patrick Lim: INCITE-Gov; Maria Lauranti PRAKARSA; Suyoto Ngartep Mustaja: Regent, Bojonegoro Regency, Indonesia; Brendan Halloran, International Budget Partnership/OGP Independent Reporting Mechanism; Benjamin Diokno, Secretary of Budget and Management, Government of Philippines

While national level OGP frames the world-wide debate of open government, the sub-national level of OGP aims at being much more specific, ambitious and especially applied to the reality of citizens’ everyday life.

There is the belief, among political representatives, that transparency goes in detriment to power: “if I am transparent, people will not need the government, and I will be useless”. This is just false. On the contrary, transparency builds trust, and with trust comes legitimacy and thus more power to make decisions and to do things.

Open government — and the Open Government Partnership — is a political project, not a tool. OGP needs to be a wider project of open governance which builds openness norms to survive political transitions. Political transition is a constant. If a program is good, new governments should adopt it and improve it.

Open government is about citizen oriented governance.

Making All Voics Count: Appropriating Technology for Accountability (2017)