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decidim.barcelona, Spain

Date added: July 5, 2017

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In September 2015, Madrid – the capital of Spain – initiated a participatory democracy project, Decide Madrid (Madrid decides), to enable participatory strategic planning for the municipality. Six month after, Barcelona – the second largest city in Spain and capital of Catalonia – began its own participatory democracy project, decidim.barcelona (Barcelona we decide) in February 2016. Both cities use the same free software platform as a base, and are guided by the same political vision. The success of these initiatives and the strong political vision behind them have spawned plenty of other initiatives in the country – especially in Catalonia – that are working to emulate the two big cities. These cities are sharing free-software-based technology, procedures and protocols, their reflections – both on open events and formal official meetings. What began as a seemingly onetime project has grown in scale.

Using Anthony Giddens’ Structuration theory, this case study examines the e-participation initiative of the City Council of Barcelona (Spain), decidim.barcelona. The study analyses the inception and first use of decidim.barcelona for the strategic plan of the municipality in the years 2016-2019.

It is evident that decidim.barcelona has increased the amount of information in the hands of the citizens and has gathered more citizens around key issues. There has been an increase in participation and proposal deliberation towards the municipality strategic plan. As pluralism has seemingly increased without dislodging existing social capital, it seems that the increase of participation has led to an improvement of democracy, especially in what concerns the legitimacy of the decisions made.

The 180º turn that decidim.barcelona represents in governance goes beyond just "listening" to citizens and “giving them a voice”.

In this case, citizens are:

  • invited to design and improve upon the participatory process
  • invited to contribute proposals that will be debated and could translate into binding legislation (provided some technical and social thresholds are reached
  • invited to monitor and assess both the process in its procedures as in its outcomes (in what has been called the Metadecidim initiative).

This has been done not by substituting other channels of participation but by improving the traditional ways to engage in local politics (face-to-face, channeled through civil society organisations or other institutions) by complementing them with new ICT-mediated mechanism.

 

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