Civic participation is researched through a significant number and variety of projects under Horizon 2020, including research on co-creation of digital public services with citizens, on which further research and innovation can build. At the same time, this is a fast moving field as spontaneous forms of participation continue to emerge, such as youth movements for climate and sustainability, movements for racial justices and innovative forms of participation such as citizens’ assemblies. The COVID-19 pandemic crisis is continuously demonstrating the extent to which science and innovation policy needs to be at the core of exchanges between citizens and government through a participatory political process. This also includes the need to use digital means to engage citizens as societies are urged to move online and the need to engage citizens in the rapid digitalisation of governments as a reaction to the COVID-19 crisis. Social entrepreneurship is another significant trend attempting to achieve societal or political impact through individual initiative. More digital and organised participatory and deliberative processes are also being tested and implemented in many local, national and even European and global contexts.
The interface between these movements and processes and the representative institutions of liberal democracies has often been chaotic or conflictual. However, attempts are also made to improve these interactions and embed them in formal mechanisms. The digitalisation of societies and their governments poses an opportunity to reinforce civic participation.
Major challenges to civic participation include engaging the disenfranchised, structurally marginalised, or less spontaneously engaged parts of society, and channelling protest into non-conflictual, constructive engagement. Reaching out to them and ensuring that their voices are heard and listened to in the democratic debate, is key to guarantee the fairness and inclusiveness of our political systems.
Proposals are expected to address some of the following points: To review available historical evidence and more recent experience with various forms of civic participation in Europe: from spontaneous forms of engagement to organised participatory and deliberative processes; from traditional types such as participation to political parties and organised civil society to newer ones such as social entrepreneurship and digital tools of civic participation; the role of formal and informal grassroots initiatives; the role of social media and new technology in civic engagement; the use of public spaces. It is strongly encouraged to cover different scales of participation, from local to national, European and even global. Analysis is expected to review and compare the forms, depth and effectiveness of civic engagement on different topics of political life and different stages of the policy-making process, ranging from local issues such as spatial planning to international policy matters and issues traditionally considered as ‘reserved’ to experts or policy professionals, such as agenda setting in research and innovation policy making. Research should apply foresight methodologies to study how civic participation could be impacted by future changes in global governance and the increased digitalisation of societies and their governments. How different types of civic engagement can complement and reinforce each other may be explored. Consider as well how the educational system can support inclusive citizenship, with a view to ensure as extensive, inclusive and impactful participation in all aspects of democratic life.
Proposals should include a specific focus on inequalities in civic participation, including ethnicity, gender, intersectionalities and digital divides, and explore and propose remedies. They should examine how civic participation and co-creation in its various forms, including social activism and social innovation, articulates with the traditional mechanisms and institutions of representative democracy, including acting outside them. Proposals should reflect on the potential of digitalisation and new ICT for enhancing citizen participation, including for public policy making processes. They should propose ways to improve the interaction between policymakers and citizens to enhance the public sphere, including robust and transparent mutual feedback between policymakers and citizens. Proposals are encouraged to include experimental research and design thinking to test the insights gathered and to deploy innovative solutions to demonstrate the solutions proposed. Social innovation might be also considered by proposals if solutions require social change, new social practices or social ownerships.