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The Complete Guide for Cities to apply for the ECoD

Fighting for democracy means fighting for peace. Cities are at the forefront of this struggle.

The European Capital of Democracy (ECoD) is on a mission to work with European Cities and Citizens to strengthen democracy together. We are building a strong network of Cities that will foster participation, a platform for hope, and for exercising the will and power to change our world for the better.

By joining forces for democracy, these Cities will share their expertise and their most innovative best practices in democracy promotion at the municipal level and apply for the annual Call for submissions. One of these Cities will then be selected to take the lead for one year, and hold the title of European Capital of Democracy.

Ready to apply and see your city become the first European Capital of Democracy?

We have created a step-by-step guide to help submitting your application with ease.

Can my city become a European Capital of Democracy?

This Call is open to Cities with a population of over 100,000 within the members of the Council of Europe enjoying full rights of representation.

In individual cases worthy of special consideration, the ECoD NPO may also admit cities with a population of just under 100,000 to the Call.

Which prerequisites should I consider when applying?

In order to fully benefit from holding the title of European Capital of Democracy, Interested Cities need to be prepared for the challenges that come with implementing the year-long series of events and activities. 

A non-partisan approach and broad political support are the best basis for a successful implementation of the European Capital of Democracy Programme Year.

A European Capital of Democracy needs to have a City government with a clean track record regarding democratic processes. 

What does the admission process look like?

If your City has declared its intent to participate, fulfils the formal criteria and meets the prerequisites, you will be admitted to the ECoD Call and officially enter the Submission Phase. Until that time, the process results are kept confidential from outside parties. All Cities completing the Call submission become members of the ECoD Network.

In order to assess the fulfilment of the formal criteria, we ask Interested Cities to upload the specified documents using the Participant Portal. The Interested City nominates a representative responsible for providing the following documents and information:

Admission Phase

> Filing of the Declaration of Intent, including the evidence of support of the (First) Mayor
> Democracy self-evaluation (online questionnaire)
> Self-evaluation of the technical and organisational prerequisites (online questionnaire)

Submission Phase

> Adoption of a City Council resolution (or similar) for the participation in the ECoD Call
> Establishment of a representative (single point of contact) by the City
> Establishment of a project team and its responsibilities
> Submission of programme proposals (in the predefined form and structure)

What should I include in my application?

In order to compete for the title of European Capital of Democracy, Cities have to submit: 

> A strong mission statement 
> A convincing selection of five proven and innovative democracy projects
> Two pitches for new projects in the pipeline, to be co-developed further during the Programme Year. 

Let’s have a look at each point: 

Mission statement
The mission statement is a declaration of what makes your initiatives important. It is intended to guide the actions of the administration and draw in citizens by explaining what the City sets out to accomplish:

Tips for writing a great mission statement:

> Keep it short and concise – provide a summary of the City’s mission in just a few sentences 
> Think long-term – the mission statement is an investment in your City’s future
> Do not make it too limiting – your plans could be relevant to other cities in your country or abroad

Cities should focus on the following four key considerations:

> Value – what is the value to both citizens and public administration?
> Inspiration – why should citizens want to participate in these projects?
> Plausibility – make it sound reasonable
> Specificity – tie it back to the City’s activities

The mission statement should include:

> A title and a teaser
> A brief summary
> Detailed descriptions of the City’s ambitions with regards to democratic innovation and participation achievements with regard to democratic innovation, documented by current and completed projects future challenges, to be addressed in the project ideas.

Democracy projects

The projects submitted by the Cities should make a substantial contribution in the five areas targeted by ECoD Initiative. All projects must therefore tackle issues related to one or more of the five Dimensions of Democracy: Community, Empowerment, Participation, Sustainability and Technology. Please note that at least one of the projects must tackle the issue of climate change.

These projects can either be on-going, in an evaluation phase or successfully completed with defined follow-up measures. The City must provide information for each democracy project, paying particular attention to their degree of Collaboration, Exchange, Innovation, Organisation & Output. 

How will my application be evaluated?

The unique selection process is designed to ensure methodological credibility as well as the adherence to the rules and procedures of the ECoD Initiative.

Experts’ Jury﹣Shortlist selection

The Experts’ Jury is made up of highly respected experts and practitioners in the field of academia, civil society, arts and business. Its members will assess the level of ambition, innovation and creativity of each City’s democracy projects based on the fair and transparent selection process, taking particular account of the respective local objectives, circumstances, and priorities of the specific City. Acting as a pre-selection panel, the members of the Experts’ Jury audit all of the Cities’ Call submissions, conduct on-site interviews, and draw up the Shortlist of the Nominee Cities. The Experts’ Jury will evaluate the organisational capacity and infrastructure required for the implementation of the City’s ECoD projects in Collaboration, Exchange, Innovation, Organisation & Output. 

Citizens’ Jury﹣Final selection

As a living example of participatory practice, a jury of around 10,000 citizens – from all member states of the Council of Europe enjoying full rights of representation – will make the final decision. The Citizens’ Jury will select a City from the Shortlist based on its members’ considered judgement. Voting takes place online in English via a secure platform. The Citizens’ Jury consists of a cross-section of society and it is selected by ECoD NPO to be as representative as possible so that the decision of the Citizens’ Jury is transparent, objective, and fair.

What is the deadline for submitting my application?

Cities must submit a binding Declaration of Intent by 30 June 2022. ECoD NPO then checks the self-evaluation of technical and organisational prerequisites, which will be concluded by 15 July 2022 at the latest. Until September 2022, Interested Cities then have time to work on their mission statement, executive summary, current and completed democracy projects and project ideas, which will form part of the upcoming Programme Year.

After a formal check of all complete Call submissions, the Experts’ Jury will draw up a Shortlist of up to five outstanding contenders (the Nominee Cities) by November 2022. The 10,000-strong Citizens’ Jury will then select the (very first) European Capital of Democracy, to be publicly announced at the beginning of 2023.

In which language should I write my application?

All information must be provided in English (with certified translations provided where necessary), and must be correct and complete, readable, accessible and printable. Proposals must not contain classified information, and must comply with ethical principles, including compliance with the highest standards of research integrity, in particular, avoiding fabrication, falsification and plagiarism.

Any tips for writing a good application?

The most important thing is to keep in mind that the application will be read by jurors from across Europe, who most likely do not know your local context. Therefore, it is essential to be as clear as possible in describing your project. It might be useful to actually imagine explaining the project to a stranger from a different country when writing the application. 

For detailed information on all the steps of the application process, please consult our application page

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