Cities as Arenas of Political Innovation in the Strengthening of Deliberative and Participatory Democracy

The increasing gaps between political decision-making processes and citizens in Europe, exacerbated by economic, political, and security crises, have revealed a pressing need for enhanced democratic practices. Populist and neo-nationalist forces, misinterpreting the pluralistic nature of democracy as a weakness, have further contributed to a general distrust of politics. EUARENAS explores the potential consequences of these trends on multicultural conviviality and social cohesion in Europe. However, it also sheds light on counter-currents of local political activism and the recognition of social movements’ role in promoting inclusion, social agendas, and active citizenship, particularly in urban areas. Cities have become crucial political arenas for fostering the European public sphere and facilitating more participatory and inclusive forms of governance. Through case studies and governance innovation initiatives, this research investigates the transformative power of social movements coupled with local government reforms in driving political change.

Objectives of EUARENAS: The EUARENAS project aims to examine the following aspects related to the emergence and impact of governance innovations:

  1. Emergence and Strategies: This research will delve into the origins of these practices, identifying the main actors, their strategies, the methods they employ, and the digital platforms they utilize to attract attention. Furthermore, it will explore how these actors appropriate urban spaces for their deliberative activities.
  2. Influencing Factors: Economic, political, and cultural factors exert significant influence on the outcomes of local governance innovations. This study seeks to analyze and understand the interplay of these factors in shaping the local context and its implications for participatory democracy.
  3. Governance Implications: Horizontal and vertical governance implications will be investigated to comprehend the transformative potential of governance innovations. The examination will shed light on how these initiatives impact power dynamics, decision-making processes, and the redistribution of authority among stakeholders.
  4. Added Value of Participatory/Deliberative Means: The article will explore the tangible benefits brought forth by participatory and deliberative processes, particularly in relation to issues such as housing, social care, social justice, social diversity, and climate change. By assessing the outcomes of these approaches, the research aims to identify the added value they offer to the broader community.

Through the EUARENAS project, we seek to deepen our understanding of the emergence and implications of governance innovations in Europe. By examining the strategies employed by social movements and their interaction with local government reforms, we hope to identify pathways for political change that promote inclusive and participatory forms of governance. Ultimately, this research will contribute to the enhancement of deliberative democracy, addressing the gaps between political decision-making processes and citizens and fostering social cohesion and multicultural conviviality in Europe.