Democracy across Europe has experienced immense challenge, change and uncertainty in recent years (Canal 2014; European Commission & Merkel; 2019) – from the rise of populism to decreasing levels of public trust in governance institutions and processes, to the war in Ukraine. Set against the backdrop of these issues, EUARENAS has been investigating how cities and urban spaces can strengthen legitimacy, identification and engagement within the democratic public sphere. Foresight is one of the research strands present in EUARENAS. This report and visualisation are the final outputs from this foresight work and synthesises the varied research activities’ core findings.

From the work, an understanding of the current state of play of local democracy has been used to create (largely preferred) future visions for local democracies in Europe. Some common elements of these future visions are:

  • Sustainable, long-term thinking
  • Valuing difference and diversity
  • Embracing the natural environment
  • Being pro-actively inclusive and dismantling oppressive structures
  • Rehumanising our cities – value-based working that centralises humanity, empathy, trust and transparency

The report proposes the following recommendations for Cities wanting to strive towards more equitable local democracies:

1. Address structural barriers to participation
2. Build relationships of trust
3. Invest in formal and civic education
4. Make decisions for the long-term

A more equitable, inclusive local democracy landscape is not too far in the distance for us to conceive it being possible. In fact, the future is now – the seeds to create it are already being planted, they just need nurturing by:

  • Scaling and mainstreaming existing pilot or niche practices that are working locally – whether that beparticipatory budgeting, citizen assemblies or other smaller-scale projects – so that these become thenew ‘status quo’
  • Adopting test and learn approaches to promote experimentation and on-going learning – this will enableongoing innovation and be responsive to society’s needs
  • Finding ways to celebrate and connect-up the small changes that are taking place – this will help people see that progress is being made, even when it feels like things are changing too slow

To download the full report, click here.

We’ve also worked with Artist Lizzy Doe to create a visualisation of the EUARENAS City of the Future. Click here for the web version. Click here for the print-ready version. Click here for the audio description.

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