Digital Democracy and Data Commons (DDDC) a participatory platform to build a more open, transparent and collaborative society.

Digital Democracy and Data Commons (DDDC) a participatory platform to build a more open, transparent and collaborative society.

The interest for citizens co-production of public services is increasing and many digital participatory platforms (DPPs) have been developed in order to improve participatory democratic processes.

During the Sharing City Summit in Barcelona last November we discovered the DDDC, i.e. the Digital Democracy and Data Commons, a participatory platform to deliberate and construct alternative and more democratic forms of data governance, which will allow citizens to take back control over their personal data in the digital society and economy.

Barcelona is already known as a best practice in this field: the city and its metropolitan area constitute an exceptional ecosystem in terms of co-production of public policies and citizen science initiatives. The City Council has created an Office of Citizens Science and the Municipal Data Office, as well as the first Science Biennial that just took place in Barcelona (from 7th-11th February 2019). At the same time citizen science projects abound.

In this frame Barcelona is famous to have launched in February 2016 Decidim.Barcelona (we decide), a project of the City Council to give citizens the opportunity to discuss proposals using an interface for group-discussions and comments. Decidim is indeed an online participatory-democracy platform that embodies a completely innovative approach. First of all it is entirely and collaboratively built as free software. As remembered by Xabier Barandiaran Decidim is a web environment that using the programming language Ruby on Rails allows anybody to create and configure a website platform to be used in the form of a political network for democratic participation. Any organization (local city council, association, university, NGO, neighbourhood or cooperative) can create mass processes for strategic planning, participatory budgeting, collaborative design for regulations, urban spaces and election processes. It also makes possible the match between traditional in-person democratic meetings (assemblies, council meetings, etc.) and the digital world (sending meeting invites, managing registrations, facilitating the publication of minutes, etc.). Moreover it enables the structuring of government bodies or assemblies (councils, boards, working groups), the convening of consultations, referendums or channelling citizen or member initiatives to trigger different decision making processes. The official definition of Decidim is: a public-common’s, free and open, digital infrastructure for participatory democracy.

Barandiaran remembers also that “Decidim was born in an institutional environment (that of Barcelona City Council), directly aiming at improving and enhancing the political and administrative impact of participatory democracy in the state (municipalities, local governments, etc.). But it also aims at empowering social processes as a platform for massive social coordination for collective action independently of public administrations. Anybody can copy, modify and install Decidim for its own needs, so Decidim is by no means reduced to public institutions”.

As of march 2018 had more than 28,000 registered participants, 1,288,999 page views, 290,520 visitors, 19 participatory processes, 821 public meetings channeled through the platform and 12,173 proposals, out of which over 8,923 have already become public policies grouped into 5,339 results whose execution level can be monitored by citizens. […] It comes to fill the gap of public and common’s platforms, providing an alternative to the way in which private platforms coordinate social action (mostly with profit-driven, data extraction and market oriented goals)”.

But Decidim is more than a technological platform, it is a “technopolitical project” where legal, political, institutional, practical, social, educational, communicative, economic and epistemic codes merge together. There are mainly 3 levels: the political (focused on the democratic model that Decidim promotes and its impact on public policies and organizations), the technopolitical (focused on how the platform is designed, the mechanisms it embodies, and the way in which it is itself democratically designed), and the technical (focused on the conditions of production, operation and success of the project: the factory, collaborative mechanisms, licenses, etc.). In this way thousands of people can organize themselves democratically by making proposals that will be debated and could translate into binding legislation, attending public meetings, fostering decision-making discussions, deciding through different forms of voting and monitoring the implementation of decisions (not only the procedures but also the outcomes).

Coming back to our DDDC, the main aim of this pilot participatory process is to test a new technology to improve the digital democracy platform Decidim and to collectively imagine the data politics of the future. It was developed inside the European project DECODE[1] (Decentralized Citizen Owned Data Ecosystem – that aims to construct legal, technological and socio-economic tools that allow citizens to take back control over their data and generate more common benefits out of them); it is led by the Barcelona Digital City (Barcelona City Council) and by the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute of the Open University of Catalonia (Tecnopolitica and Dimmons), in collaboration with the Nexa Center of Internet & SocietyEurecatCNRSDribiaaLabsThoughtworksand DYNE.

The pilot project was launched in October 18th 2018 and will end April 1st 2019, for a total of 5 months. It has mainly three goals:

  1. to integrate the DECODE technology with the Decidim digital platform in order to improve processes of e-petitioning, to provide more safety, privacy, transparency and data enrichment;
  2. to enable a deliberative space around data law, governance and economics within the new digital economy and public policy, in order to provide a vision oriented to promote a greater citizen control over data and their exploitation in Commons-oriented models[2];
  3. to experiment with the construction and use of a data commons generated in the process, in order to improve the inclusion of the participatory process itself.

The goals will be reached through several phases that foresee also face-to-face meetings, inside the platform. The infographic illustrates the phases:

Figure 1 DDDC’s phases. Source:

The pilot project is currently in its second phase. The first 1 was that of  presentation & diagnosis, dedicated to the elaboration of a brief diagnosis of the state of regulations, governance models and data economy. The diagnosis emerged from a kick off pilot presentation workshop, the DECODE Symposium, aimed to imagine possible proposal to move towards a society where citizens can control what, how and who manages and generates values from the exploitation of their data; i.e. to imagine how use digital technologies to facilitate the transition from today’s digital economy of surveillance capitalism and data extractivism to an alternative political and economic project. In this phase a sociodemographic survey was also launched to collect information about the perceptions on the digital economy and to design communicative actions to improve the inclusiveness of the process.

The current phase (2) is that of proposals for a digital economy based on data commons, lunached considering the current situation of data extraction and concentration and based on the diagnosis made on the digital society in the first phase. During the Sharing Cities Summit for example a dedicated meeting took place, divided into a talk and four group work sessions, one for each axes of the pilot project (legal, economic, governance and experimental – see below). During this workshop 64 proposal were collected and in the next phases they will be voted, discussed and signed. The DDDC staff underlines that the process is prefigurative since they are trying to create and practice data commons while deliberating and talking about data commons.

In this phase the results of the survey on sociodemographic data were also analyzed with the aim to define, implement and experiment data use strategies for inclusion in participation (these strategies can potentially be used in future by platforms such as Decidim). The analysis is made by the Barcelona Now – BCNNOW.

The next phases are:

Phase 3 – Debate: discussion on the proposals received.

Phase 4 – Elaboration by the DECODE team and the interested participants

Phase 5 – Signing: collection of support for the pilot project results using DECODE technology for secure and transparent signature (based on encryption techniques and distributed ledger technologies). Crucial phase: this technology, integrated with DECIDIM, will help in the construction of a more secure, transparent and distributed networked democracy.

Phase 6 – Evaluation: closing meeting and launch of a survey to help in the assessment of the satisfaction or participants with the process and with the DECODE technology

Legal aspects, governance issues and economic topics are the three main axes followed during the different phases, since they provide a differential approach to discuss around data. A fourth axis is the experimental one, dedicated to the use and definition of collective decisions around the database resulting from the data shared during the pilot project. Il will become a kind of temporary commons useful to improve the deliberative process itself, a practice that could be incorporated in future Decidim processes.

At the end of the pilot project a participatory document, with paper or manifesto around the digital economy will be released.

The importance of this kind of pilot project is clear if we think to the huge amount of data that everyday every citizens is able to produce… By now we live in a “datasphere”, an invisible environment of data, quoting Appadurai, a virtual data landscape rich in information, cultural and social data. Our data indeed constitute digital patterns that reveal our behaviors, interests, habits. Some actors, especially big corporations and States, can act upon this data, can use them to surveil and influence our lives, through strategies such as ad hoc advertisements or even intervention in elections (see the case of the Cambridge Analytica or the referendum on an EU agreement with Ukraine) or generation of citizens rankings (such as the Chinese case). These “data misuses” can even influence and affect democracy. Nevertheless, if successful, the knowledge and insight created by the datasphere may become a powerful managing and intelligence tool and the debate about the so-called “datacracy” is indeed growing.

In this frame, and considering the little awareness still surrounding the topic, the DDDC pilot project on the one hand tries to stir critically consciousness and common construction in this arena, on the other tries to provide the necessary tools to go in this direction, improving Decidim and pushing forward the DECODE vision of data sovereignty.

[1]For more information about DECODE browse the projects documents: partners, funding, FAQs or the official website

[2] That is, models where people share data and allow for open use while remaining in control over their data, individually and collectively

Open Heritage Second Consortium Meeting | Barcelona, November 28-29 2018

Open Heritage Second Consortium Meeting | Barcelona, November 28-29 2018

The Open Heritage Second Consortium Meeting will be held on the 28th and 29th of November. Open Heritage is an Horizon 2020 research project that identifies and analyses good practices of adaptive heritage re-use, and tests them in selected Cooperative Heritage Labs in six European cities. Open Heritage is formed by a consortium composed of research institutions, universities, financial organisations, developers and community involvement experts that studies existing policies and legal frameworks, development procedures, multi-stakeholder cooperations, crowdsourcing mechanisms, financial instruments and shared management formats. LUISS is a partner of the Open Heritage project, working on both the comparative analysis of observatory case studies and on field experimentation, with the Rome Collaboratory (Centocelle; Alessandrino; Torre Spaccata).

During the two day Consortium meeting the partners will share the progresses of their research and work together on the challenges. During the meeting there will also be a way to talk about Work Package 2, where LUISS is task leader of the comparative analysis of 16 comparative case studies (the “Observatory Cases”).  This analysis will be very useful to provide new ideas for the six CHLs, the six Cooperative Heritage Labs where the governance model for the adaptive heritage reuse will be tested. One of the CHL will be carried out by LUISS, the “Rome collaboratory” which will work on the footsteps of the Co-Rome process and develop a sustainability mechanism for innovative adaptive re-use of cultural heritage.

Among others, the Consortium will be attended by: Ania Rok and Iryna Novak (ICLEI), Beitske Boonstra and Karim van Knippenberg (UGENT), Heike Overmann and Markus Kip (UBER), Sofia Dyak (Center for Urban History), Hanna Szemző and Andrea Tönkő (MRI), Loes Veldpaus, John Pendlebury (UNEW), Levente Polyák, and Daniela Patti (EUTROPIAN). Representing LUISS Dr. Benedetta Gillio and Professor Christian Iaione will participate to the meeting.

Workshop on ‘Local Communities and Social Innovation for the Energy Transition’ November 22-23

Workshop on ‘Local Communities and Social Innovation for the Energy Transition’ November 22-23

In an increasingly polluted world the local communities bring with them a huge, but unfortunately often neglected, potential for the development of social innovation initiatives aimed at a radical change in favor of renewable energy.

The seminar “Local Communities and Social Innovation for the Energy Transition” to be held at JRC Ispra Site (Ispra, Varese, Italy) on 22 and 23 November 2018 aims to study this potential and research recommendations aimed at obtaining a better exploitation of energy resources.

Furthermore, existing obstacles and conditions that favor or undermine the potential of local communities in the development of remedies of this kind will be discussed, as well as new models of innovation governance useful for the growth, consolidation and dissemination of social innovation initiatives in local communities.

We will also discuss the characteristics that allow local energy communities to be recognized in the panorama of EU regulations and how they can be disseminated through European policy. Some of the main existing examples of initiatives of local energy communities developed in the EU will be discussed below.

Finally, particular attention will be given to the important role that can be played by municipalities, both as local energy communities, as facilitators and as promoters of social innovation initiatives.

At the seminar will be present: Nicola Labanca (JRC Energy Efficiency and Renewables Unit), Sabine Hielscher (University of Sussex – UK), Josh Roberts (, Belgium), Paolo Bertoldi  (JRC Energy Efficiency and Renewables Unit), Christian Iaione (LUISS Guido Carli University, IT), David Hammerstein (Commons Network), Fritz Reusswig (Potsdman Institute for Climate Impact Research, DE), : Daniele Paci (JRC Energy Efficiency and Renewables Unit), Jan Steinkohl (European Commission, DG ENER, Brussels), Dirk Hendricks (European Renewable Energy Federation, Brussels), Nikolaos Hatziargyriou (National Technical University of Athens, EL), Fabio Monforti (JRC Air and Climate Unit), Anna Mengolini (Energy Security, Distribution and Markets Unit, Joint Research Centre), Sarah Rieseberg (Arepo Consult, DE), Chiara Candelise (IEFE Bocconi University, IT), Gianluca Ruggieri (Insubria University, IT), Dick Magnusson (Linköping University, SE), Verhoeven Sofie (Ghent Municipality, BE), Lourdes Berdié (Network for Energy Sovereignty – Barcelona).

Professor Iaione, co-founder of LabGov, will present in the second discussion panel “Governance and Local Communities’ Social Innovation: which governance
approaches are needed to stimulate this innovation?” on the “Pooling Economy, Tech Justice and Urban Experimentalism for a Human Rights-based Approach to the Sharing Economy”.

Addressing bottom-linked governance and citizenship through Living Street in the City of Ghent

Addressing bottom-linked governance and citizenship through Living Street in the City of Ghent

In 2010 the City of Ghent, together with other four cities – Aberdeen, Rotterdam, Montreuil, Ludwigsburg – engaged in the European project Music, aimed at catalyzing and mainstreaming carbon and energy reduction in urban policies, activities and the build environment. The project represented an opportunity for decisive local actions to address sustainability challenges. In particular, the City of Ghent pointed at becoming a climate-neutral city. To implement the project, the City gathered around twenty people of Ghent society, who were involved or interested in topics such as pollution, sustainability, urban livability, though in different ways and with different roles. After the first meeting the civil servants in charge of conducting the brainstorming within the group realized that the topics mentioned above were not cause of concerns, while mobility and the way through which urban streets get used by their inhabitants were fundamental in the conception of a livable city. Addressing these topics, indeed, the group found the inspiration to think about different possibilities to approach urban space, reducing parking slots and car access to streets, implementing socialization spaces and outdoor activities. Therefore, new ideas and proposals were presented at the final event of Music, with the hope to see them realized, but the reaction of the City and its representatives was cold and doubtful for a lack of resources and for the proximity to municipal elections.

Therefore, the group of frontrunners decided to set up the organization Lab Van Troje, in order to try out one of their proposals using their own resources and their own energies. The chosen idea was Living Street – Leefstraat in Dutch – with the aim to turn Ghent into a sustainable, liveable and climate-neutral region. Concretely this was translated into planning a different way to live the street of residence for few months: the street was closed, usually during the summer months, reducing the area dedicated to the traffic and the parking but increasing the green areas and creating spaces for socialization activities.

Living Street in Maurice Verdoncklaan, Ghent. Source: interviewed resident.

One of the fundamental aspects of Living Street is the voluntary engagement in the project. The first group of frontrunners gathered by the City accepted to meet and to spend time on the issue for free; as well the citizens were involved only if they were interested in the experiment. Lab Van Troje, indeed, never opens applications or contacts anyone, it just receives the request of citizens. The latter, after a first informative meeting, are asked to ring the bell of all their neighbours collecting dreams and fears related to the street, on basis of which a plan is projected and then proposed again to every resident. If everyone agrees, hence, it is possible to organize the activities to create the Living Street. As the website reports, Living Street functions as a common project and a learning-by-doing process. Citizens, indeed, have to communicate, collaborate and interact with many different actors living and experiencing urban spaces daily. Both the implementation of the idea and the concrete realization of the Living Street become processes of commoning[1], as the practice of the creation, preservation, and use of commons is called.

Citizens working for the realization of structures to install in Kozijntjesstraat, Ghent. Source: interviewed resident.

The activity duration of Lab Van Troje has been settled for five years until 2017, hoping in the meantime to spread its insights into Living Street to the current system of residential street design. In total 50 Living Streets have been experimented from 2012 to 2016, with an increasing involvement of the City of Ghent, that acted more as a spectator in the beginning, while it took part into the project as an active partner in the last few editions. Considering the imminent end of Lab Van Troje, in 2017 the latter and the City of Ghent collaborate for the transition of Living Street under the guide of the City. The Meeting and Engaging Department has been appointed to continue building on the experiment by creating a new Living Street 2.0 project. The intention is to try out the experience implemented by Living Street in different environments or situations, by involving partners with diverse roles and functions and focusing also on the social aspects of urban life. One of Lab Van Troje’s volunteers has been hired by the Department, together with another dedicated civil servant, in order to give continuity to the project. Moreover, citizens who already implemented Living Street in their streets are involved in the transition from Lab Van Troje to the City, during a completely accountable process used to explaining them the reasons of the change and to collect by them past experiences of the experiment, suggestions and ideas for the future, and expectations towards the City.

Taking a look at the type of actors involved from the beginning – UE, City of Ghent, Lab Van Troje, research institutes, private companies, citizens – it is notable that the project crossed many different levels, depicting the concept of multi-level governance. In this particular case, I believe it is possible to use the notion of bottom-linked governance, achieved when bottom-up initiatives combine with top-down policies, including alternative mechanisms of negotiation between various groups and networks, potentially empowering local government and embracing alternative creative strategies[2]. I add, though, that the subdivision of society in top-down and bottom-up actors is not sufficient anymore to explain the current complexity and therefore it needs to be substituted by another representation. A complementary and parallel process can be identified in the conception of citizenship: in the last twenty years, debates about the re-scaling of individual rights and duties at transnational[3] or local levels[4] different from the nation-state level, have increasingly arisen; connected with the movement of the right to the city[5], also the vision of citizens claiming actively rights and responsibilities is more acknowledged. However, I argue that neither an idea of citizenship received as a “package” from the State or an idea of citizenship achieved by citizens as consequence of their activation in the making of the city[6] are fully satisfactory. Citizenship is, nowadays, a set of rights/duties co-shaped by different actors, tracing various dynamics at multiple scales to obtain or to concede benefits and responsibilities in the public arena. Thus, it is necessary to find a model that, always maintaining the idea of peer actors, interacting on horizontal basis, with principles of subsidiarity and accountability, in a reflexive and dynamic process, can better help in representing both this type of governance and this perception of citizenship.



L’articolo riflette su processi di governance urbana e sulle trasformazioni riguardanti il concetto di cittadinanza attraverso il progetto Living Street, implementato dal 2010 ad oggi nella città di Ghent, Belgio. Principale scopo del progetto è trovare soluzioni innovative al fine di rendere la città maggiormente vivibile da un punto di vista socio-ecologico. Dopo aver descritto lo sviluppo del progetto come pratica di commoning, viene sottolineata la necessità di andare oltre sia la ripartizione, ormai inadeguata, tra attori bottom-up e top-down sia l’idea di cittadinanza concessa dallo Stato o ottenuta attivamente dai cittadini. È indispensabile, infatti, trovare un nuovo modello che descriva la complessità attuale delle dinamiche sociali e la diversità degli attori che ne prendono parte.



[1] Linebaugh P. 2008, The Magna Carta Manifesto. Liberties and Commons for all, London: University of California Press.

[2] Eizaguirre S, Pradel M., Terrones A., Matinez-Celorrio X., Garcìa M., 2012, Multilevel Governance and Social Cohesion: Bringing Back Conflict in Citizenship Practice, Urban Studies, 49(9), 1999-2016.

[3] Isin, E., 1997, Who is the new citizen? Toward a genealogy, Citizenship Studies, 1, 115–132; Sassen S., 2000, The global city: strategic site/new frontier, in: E. Isin, Ed. Democracy, Citizenship and the Global City, New York: Routledge;

[4] Baubock R., 2003, Reinventing urban citizenship, Citizenship Studies, 7, 139–160; Smith M. P., McQuarrie M. Eds. 2012, Remaking Urban Citizenship. Organizations, Institutions and the Right to the City, London: Transaction Publisher.

[5] Lefebvre H., 1996, Writing on Cities, Cambridge (MA): Blackwell; Harvey D., 2003, The Right to the City, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 27(4), 939-941; Purcell M., 2003, Citizenship and the Right to the Global City: Reimagining the Capitalist World Order, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 27(3), 564-590.

[6] Dahlgren P., 2006, Doing Citizenship. The Cultural Origin of Civic Agency in the Public Sphere. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 9(3), 267-286.

Citizen engagement in Science and Policy-Making: the EU Joint Research Center Perspective

Citizen engagement in Science and Policy-Making: the EU Joint Research Center Perspective

The idea of proactive citizen engagement in Science and Policy-Making has recently attracted the institutional interest at the European Union level. In particular, the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission has often dealt with the topic in recent years. Worth to be quoted is the JRC Science for Policy Report “Citizen Engagement in Science and Policy-Making” released in 2016 [1]. The report shows an open and welcoming approach from the Commission towards citizen-driven contributions to science and policy. The JRC explicitly affirms (JRC, 2016, 3) that citizen engagement in heavily ‘expert-based’ sectors can “boost in democratic legitimacy, accountability and transparent governance”. Furthermore, the JRC acknowledges the potential of citizen involvement for enhancing “trust building among citizens and institutions as well as ownership of policy outcome. The Centre recognizes a shift from the mere “info-giving” to increasingly participatory deliberation practices “at each stage of the policy-making process” (JRC, 2016, 3) and, even more relevant, a push from “asking the citizens” to “co-creating with citizens” (JRC, 2016, 32).

Apart from increasing legitimacy and trust, the JRC stresses the benefits for the EC’s strategic planning itself, by underlining that people’s inputs “can offer a unique understanding of societal concerns, desires and needs” and thus a better targeting of EC’s actions. Moreover, the value of this contribution is identified in the provision by citizens of “evidence for policy-making and evaluation of policy decisions” as well as “ideas for new policies or services.”

The JRC in its report (JRC, 2016, 4) identifies also the main challenges to a proper inclusion of inputs from laymen’s knowledge in science and policy. First, the Centre stresses how the “predominant paradigm for policy-making is based on expert inputs (evidence based) in detriment of non-expert or lay knowledge coming from other parts of society.” The advice from the JRC to the Commission seems encouraging for more participatory practice and for a reconsideration of the “usefulness and validity of non-traditional inputs coming from citizens, communities or other groups”.

However, data quality and reliability of the knowledge fed by the lay people when it comes to inclusive science and policy seems crucial, together with transparency and disclosure of possible conflicts of interests. The modalities for gathering laymen’s input should be clearly defined and integration strategies properly agreed. Lastly, the need to go “beyond usual suspects” (the tech-connected wealthy citizens) in this inclusive science and policy is underlined by the report. At p.9 of the document (JRC, 2016, 9) a series of practical examples of citizen engagement in EU’s policy and science are illustrated, such as the initiatives ‘MakingSense’, ‘MyGEOSS’ and ‘DigitalEarthLab’.

The call of the JRC for a “dialogue across co-existing worldviews and knowledge production spaces in science, society and policy” (JRC, 2016, 7) seems particularly timely in present times in which the need of a dialogue between top and bottom stakeholders seems increasingly urgent. Facing Science and Policy-Making challenges through an inclusive and open-minded approach would contribute to the establishment of this dialogue. In the end, both top and bottom players share common interests or, at least, can constructively face each other’s needs to reach together a compromise, towards the establishment of a shared interest. In cases of post-normal science problems, the achievement of this shared or common interest will be even harder. However, those problems are highly of public interest and demand for the inclusion of all the concerned stakeholders in their governance.

[1] Figueiredo Nascimento, S., Cuccillato, E., Schade, S., Guimarães Pereira, A. 2016. Citizen Engagement in Science and Policy-Making. EUR 28328 EN, doi: 10.2788/40563.

Il presente articolo illustra la crescente necessità di coinvolgere il cittadino nei processi politici e scientifici, come percepita dalle istituzioni a livello europeo. In particolare, l’articolo focalizza l’attenzione sulla prospettiva del Joint Research Center (JRC) dell’Unione Europea sul tema. Viene illustrata la posizione del JRC, il quale incoraggia la creazione di un dialogo condiviso nell’interazione tra scienza, società e politica. Tale appello sembra di particolare attualità oggigiorno, in considerazione della complessità dei problemi che la nostra società deve affrontare. In effetti, le sfide odierne spesso riguardano interessi comuni a più attori sociali, ed il compromesso tra loro, come anche il reciproco ascolto, sembrano gli unici mezzi per raggiungere una definizione di “interesse comune”.