Earlier this October, the European Local Democracy Week took place, and we grabbed this opportunity to meet the ones who build local democracy: officials, civil servants, entrepreneurs, etc. Discover below what they told us about their way to make a difference in citizen participation and local democracy.
We attended many events within the week such as the Opening Session of the European Local Democracy Week at Brussels Parliament, the Conference on youth participation in local decision-making organised by SALTO-Youth Participation in Brussels, and VVSG Trefdag in Ghent.
Discover below who we talked to and what they had to say about local democracy!
Opening Session of the European Local Democracy Week at Brussels Parliament
During the round table about citizen participation at the Brussels Parliament, we asked three local democracy makers what they do to make a change. We met with Dimitri Lemaire, co-founder of the NGO Particitiz, who explained to us how he is experimenting with citizen deliberation processes. We then had the opportunity to speak to Stéphanie Nowakowski, Project Officer at the SALTO-Youth Participation Center. She is focusing on including the youth in local participation, the association provides trainings, field trips, studies, etc. (they also organised the Conference on youth participation in local decision-making during the ELDW). Daniel Van Lerberghe, co-founder and director of Innogage talked to us about co-decision and how e-democracy can help achieving it. He also insisted on the importance of taping into the expertise of citizens. (in French)
We also had the chance to sit together with Charles Picqué, President of Brussels Parliament and mayor of Saint-Gilles. We discussed the need to ask the opinion of citizens, and how combining face-to-face meetings and technologies might be the right way to do so in order to reach more people. (in French)
Council of Cranendonck in the Netherlands
We also went to the Netherlands to discover what Dutch municipalities think of using technolgies to enable citizen participation at the local level. Here is what Frank Kuppens shared with us: (in Dutch)
VVSG Trefdag in Ghent
VVSG, the association of cities and municipalities of Flanders is directed by Mieck Vos. We had the occasion to meet her during the VVSG Trefdag and asked her about the role of technologies in local democracy. There, we also talked to Bram de Winne from the municipality of Hamme about technology and democracy. (in Dutch)
Conference on youth participation in local decision-making in Brussels
At this conference organised by the SALTO-Youth Participation, many officials and civil servants met to learn what initiatives they could rely on to involve the youth of their city more in the public debate.
We had the chance to talk to Valérie Bernard, in charge of the Youth Councils at the City of Mons. She explained the ways to involve children and teenagers in the public debate. Also, she shared with us the importance of raising awareness and interest around citizen participation at an early age. Evelyne Waonry, director of the ASBL Carrefour Régional et Communautaire de la Citoyenneté et de la Démocratie (CRECCIDE) in Wallonia. She worked together with the Minister of Youth in order to impulse Youth Councils in 17 pilot cities and municipalities. (in French)
Opening Session of European Week of Regions and Cities
During this week, Wietse Van Ransbeeck (yes, one of us!) also had the chance to share his vision with the European Parliament on how to help local governments make better-informed decisions thanks to CitizenLab. Discover the presentation below!
What have we learned?
Many people and organisations are pushing for more citizen participation! Even if they are spread around administrations, organisations and governments, there are many people who support citizen participation initiatives and gather their efforts to make a change. It was very inspiring to see them all share their knowledge in one place! There is a growing awareness on the topic of citizen participation. Both for officials and other stakeholders, citizen participation is a necessary and unavoidable topic.
The people we talked to also find it essential nowadays to use new technologies to establish the dialogue between local governments and citizens, especially the youngest ones, but they all recommend a combination of offline and online initiatives to sweep across the whole population, in order to have an inclusive participation process. And we couldn’t agree more!