Reinventing Democracy in the Digital Era

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Introduction

Reinventing Democracy in the Digital Era (UNDEF) is a two-year project coordinated by Future Worlds Center (FWC) and funded by United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF). The project represents the global expansion of a series of previous project under the general title Reinventing Democracy.

The key objective of this project is to increase youth participation in democratic governance by empowering young people from across the world to invent and propose new, innovative and concrete actions. More than 1000 young people will contribute with ideas face-to-face and virtually during five Co-Laboratories engaging ICT and structured democratic dialogue methodology. The process is designed to mobilize young people and to increase interaction among youth globally with the aim to advocate for and enable meaningful youth participation in democratic processes.


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Overall development goal

Empowerment and active participation of young people at all levels of governance around the world.


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Project objective

Communication and collaboration among youth across the world is strengthened using structured dialogue, new innovative ICT-based solutions and tools to find common ground for increased participation.

The Vision of the Project

Our world is currently facing major challenges, ranging from increasing inequality, which leaves large parts of society without access to basic needs; high-tech-driven wars and security threats; a food system in crisis with the carrying capacity of our planet reaching its tipping point. The Millennium Development Goals have reached their end date, and a new global framework is currently being negotiated among world leaders.

The key question, however, is how democratic and participatory are these processes when youth are practically excluded from most decision making?

Young people between 15 and 25 years old represent a fifth of the world’s population, yet they remain largely absent from or underrepresented in political decision-making processes. Today’s young people are the owners of the future and will be the leaders of tomorrow.

It is therefore imperative that the develop a feeling of ownership through meaningful participation in democratic processes. Achieving meaningful participation of young people in democratic governance and decision-making processes is hence the key challenge addressed by this project.

Problem Analysis

Young people between 15 and 25 years old represent a fifth of the world’s population, yet they remain largely absent from or under-represented in political decision-making processes. Today’s young people are the owners of the future and will eventually become the leaders of tomorrow. It is therefore imperative they develop a sense of ownership through meaningful participation in democratic processes. Despite low youth participation in political processes and elected institutions, young people participate in democratic life through other means, such as political movements, youth organizations, and ad-hoc community initiatives mostly on informal arenas. Their meaningful participation in these processes depends on the political, socio-economic and cultural context and requires both young people and youth organizations to have the opportunities and capacities for youth participation, as well as operate within an enabling environment for civil society and especially young people. While youths across the world are facing similar problems to access the political decision-making arena there are limited opportunities for them to share those experiences and to explore and propose solutions in a structured way and through personal meetings. To become a stronger voice there is a need for youth around the world to unite. Young people between 15 and 25 years old represent a fifth of the world’s population, yet they remain largely absent from or under-represented in political decision-making processes. Today’s young people are the owners of the future and will eventually become the leaders of tomorrow. It is therefore imperative they develop a sense of ownership through meaningful participation in democratic processes. Despite low youth participation in political processes and elected institutions, young people participate in democratic life through other means, such as political movements, youth organizations, and ad-hoc community initiatives mostly on informal arenas. Their meaningful participation in these processes depends on the political, socio-economic and cultural context and requires both young people and youth organizations to have the opportunities and capacities for youth participation, as well as operate within an enabling environment for civil society and especially young people. While youths across the world are facing similar problems to access the political decision-making arena there are limited opportunities for them to share those experiences and to explore and propose solutions in a structured way and through personal meetings. To become a stronger voice there is a need for youth around the world to unite.

The Structured Democratic Dialogue as Co-Laboratory of Democracy

The Methodology of Structured Democratic Dialogue will be used in order to identify reasons why youth abstains from basic democratic processes, as well as to support them design solutions to address the key root causes identified. The aim is to empower young participants to take action and promote their very own ideas and solutions, and find innovative solutions to utilize the broad range of ICT tools the project is based predominantly on the Structured Democratic Dialogue Process (SDDP).

We chose this particular methodology because of its uniqueness in mobilizing participants. In addition, the SDDP methodology is based on scientific laws, which have been repeatedly validated, empirically and scientifically, in the arena of practice. Taking all this into consideration, the co-Laboratories of Democracy will be implemented using the methodology of structured democratic dialogue. This methodology supports groups of diverse stakeholders with conflicting opinions and interests to effectively discuss a matter of joint concern, integrate their knowledge, and democratically redesign their socio-organizational systems and practices reaching consensus agreement for effective collaborative action. Using this approach, the 100 youth and citizens’ representatives will develop a common language, a shared understanding of the problematic situation in which they are embedded, and will be better equipped to formulate their ideas, suggestions, and strategies with clarity. The interaction will empower youth to take follow-up actions and thus ensuring their strong commitment to the project.

Participants of the Co-Laboratories will design and develop concrete ideas for action and will have the space and support to build their own action plans around them. The facilitating team will assist the participants in identifying ways to promote their ideas, engage with political decision-makers, as well as mobilize members of the community. A Manifesto, jointly drafted, will be used to engage the media encouraging them to host live debates between project participants and national or international policy makers thus connecting them with youth and citizen pioneers.

In all the above, technology shall be used to support the process, as well as to ensure a wide outreach of the young people’s actions and ideas via social media campaigns, digital videos, blogs and online articles etc. In addition, using the mobile application Idea Prism™, the project will engage large numbers of young people who might not be able to physically participate in the co-Laboratories. Through this mobile application, their ideas will be shared and validated by their peers not only from their own community, but on a global level.

Participants will also be invited to join regional and global webinars on Participatory Democracy. This online technology will strengthen communication and interaction among the participants.

Implementing Globally Co-Laboratories of Democracy

The reason for choosing different regions is to be able to engage young people from all over the world in global deliberations and integrate their ideas, visions, and aspirations into a comprehensive set of clearly expressed text- and video products. The global character of the project will give them the opportunity to express their thoughts more freely, without any constraints related to religion, gender, or any other factor. Over the years, FWC has collaborated with a number of organizations in many International and European projects and/or was invited to work for the development of several other programs. FWC has secured the commitment of implementing partners in relevant regions together with whom further organizations truly interested and capable in identifying the best possible delegates and co-organizing the envisaged activities will be identified. The detailed work plan of regional partners including promotion and dissemination of the activities will be developed when the network is in place. The project will conclude with a manifesto or think piece, which will collate all the outcomes of the five co-Laboratories. It shall be disseminated primarily through the participating organizations’ own networks and online networks, as well as through the links that Future Worlds Center has established with the global Beyond2015 campaign, CIVICUS and the International Forum of National Platforms.

Project Outcomes

The project has three Key Outcomes:

Outcome 1: Structured youth dialogue has capacitated and empowered youth, and strengthened the level of engagement among youth across the world

Outcome 2: Social media is increasingly used in advocacy efforts to strengthen the voice of youths across the world

Outcome 3: Increased number of tools to strengthen youth participation in democratic processes

Project Deliverables

The project deliverables are associated with the three key outcomes as follows:

Outcome 1: Structured youth dialogue has capacitated and empowered youth, and strengthened the level of engagement among youth across the world

Outcome 2: Social media is increasingly used in advocacy efforts to strengthen the voice of youths across the world

Outcome 3: Increased number of tools to strengthen youth participation in democratic processes

Regional Coordinators

The project is being implemeneted with the assistance of the following:

Project Beneficiaries

Direct beneficiaries Participants of co-Laboratories (100-125 persons)

Taking into account that each of the five global co-Laboratories of Democracy will have approximately 20-25 participants, a total of about 100-125 youth leaders from across the world will become the primary agents of change.

Directly involved as co-organizers, sponsors, trainers, etc. (170 persons)

We estimate that 30 individuals from each of the 5 regions will be involved, working in management and/or decision/policy level positions. Furthermore, many organizations from across the world have also already committed in writing to support various aspects of the project as sponsors and/or co-organizers and/or hosts of the planned co-Laboratories. Assuming that at least 1 person per organization is directly involved, we have approximately additional 20 direct beneficiaries.

Directly involved through social media (1000-1250 persons)

Each participant is expected to secure at least 10 others from the same country or region, with diverse backgrounds, to contribute to the process through the App. This will lead to 1000 – 1250 people involved in addition to the 100 participants.

Indirect beneficiaries (at least 10,000 individuals)

Although it is difficult to estimate the number of unique and serious video clip viewers, people who will read and discuss the content of the reports/ books and the manifesto, and those who will take actions based on ideas and proposals found in the above products, the number of indirect beneficiaries is of the order of thousands. Of course, the wider public is also considered to be an indirect beneficiary.