On November 22nd, an event was held in Barcelona to help honor the city’s selection as the 2023 European Capital of Democracy. Organized by Tectonica, Osoigo, and ACTE, this event brought together experts and enthusiasts in the field of civic technology and participatory democracy.
Mariana Spada, the co-founder of Tectonica, set the stage with her opening remarks, highlighting the importance of the European Capital of Democracy initiative and the role of the participating organizations in bolstering democratic development and innovation.
Tectonica’s Presentation: Addressing the Challenges of Civics in the Digital Age
Ned Howey from Tectonica then took the stage and highlighted the critical challenges and opportunities in the digital age for civic engagement. Key takeaways from the presentation included:
Impact of Social Media on Politics: Social media has led to increased extremism and polarization, fear and hate-based messaging, disengagement, and oversimplification in politics. These trends have a significant impact on the political landscape and public discourse.
Decline in Traditional Civic Engagement: There is a noticeable decline in traditional forms of civic engagement such as membership in political parties and unions, as well as in fundraising efforts. This decline suggests a shift in how individuals participate in civic activities and engage with political issues.
Transformational Political Potential: Participation and human contact in politics is critical and we need a transformational approach to politics, where participation is driven by individual agency and human interaction, either through connection or conflict. While we can’t ignore the value of transactional tactics, we must not lose sight of the transformational in our strategies.
Technology and Civics: We can leverage technology for civic purposes by being conscious of its intention, avoiding systemic harm in transactional tactics, and developing tech specifically for civics with good practices in mind. This approach includes promoting transformational practices and being cautious of AI’s potential threats, such as bias and the replacement of human connection.
Original Insights: Tectonica shared insights from its Report on the State of Digital Organising in Europe, revealing that organizations are not doing the more decentralized and personalized digital campaign activities they know they should be doing. Tectonica also shared its 5 Part Framework for Digital Organizing and its Stairway Model to Social and Political Change.
Osoigo’s Presentation: Enhancing Civic Participation through Technology
Osoigo’s presentation focused on their innovative approaches to enhancing civic participation and bridging the gap between citizens and political representatives. They discussed the creation of connected communities and the development of technology that facilitates deeper connections and civic engagement on issues impacting people’s lives.
Osoigo emphasized the importance of community organizing and active participation, highlighting their efforts in participatory budgeting in the province of León and their work in deliberative process development for Yolanda Díaz, Second Deputy Prime Minister in Spain. Their case studies demonstrated the transformative impact of their work in promoting co-responsibility in policy decision-making. Both presentations were followed by a Q&A session.
The event was a testament to Europe’s continuous effort and dedication towards strengthening democracy and civic engagement. The insights shared by Tectonica and Osoigo not only enlightened the audience but we hope will inspire continued work in this critical area of democratic evolution. As we move forward, the lessons and strategies discussed will undoubtedly contribute to shaping the future of civic engagement and participatory democracy.