On 24-25 October 2023, Smarter Together brought together 5 experts of Collective Intelligence from its network to work alongside 20 civil servants from the Public Service of Wallonia in Belgium (Service Public de Wallonie) to brainstorm possible governance innovations for the next 5 years.
Democratic innovation – finding new ways of including more citizens, experts, data and technologies in democratic life – has become a key concern for many countries and regions. But which ideas have concrete chances of success and potential for impact?
To find out, this workshop aimed to identify and formulate such proposals for concrete democratic innovations that could be implemented by the Region over the coming legislature (2024-2029).
This creative exercise builds on the lessons learned from recent citizen participation schemes implemented in Wallonia and beyond, as well as other governance schemes likely to bring greater inclusivity and diversity to the shaping, implementation and evaluation of Wallonia’s public policies.
Together with volunteer members of Wallonia’s public service, we identified the challenges that citizen participation faces in Wallonia, based on the participants’ shared vision of what it should look like by 2029.
20 civil servants built a shared vision using photo language, a SWOT diagnosis, and identified the main challenges facing citizen participation in Wallonia.
Then, using a creativity boosting exercise, participants reformulated these issues and sorted them into four priority categories of challenges.
Using the “brainwriting” method, participants finally drew out the various dimensions of these challenges (impact, feasibility,…), then converged around several key proposals for action, while striving to respond to the most pressing issues.
From these initial ideas, we identified the highest priority challenges for citizen participation and formulated 19 concrete actions that will enable Wallonia to address these challenges in the coming 5 years.
19 innovative, bold reforms that the civil servants agreed upon, such as: a charter setting out the main principles of participation to be respected to avoid civic washing, a cross service community of practice around citizen participation, a training programme for public agents around participation and listening skills. Among the 19 initiatives, some are to be implemented by the public service of Wallonia themselves, while others will fall under the jurisdiction of the next government of Wallonia.
Renewed commitment and a strengthened community: The seminar was the opportunity for an unprecedented dialogue across departments within Wallonia’s public service, including officials involved in devising democratic innovations and implementing citizen engagement processes in one form or another. This cross-cutting dialogue led to renewed commitment, and set up the exchange of lesson learned and best practices in the coming months.
A shared map of the risks and challenges facing new democratic processes in the coming years (unchecked AI, insufficient political interest, lack of coordination between services, insufficient legal framework…).
We offered this workshop pro bono thanks to the support of the Porticus Foundation.
If you are interested in benefiting from and/or sponsoring such a Smarter Democracy Hackathon at the local, regional or national level, reach out to us at: [email protected]
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