Network for innovative solutions for the future of democracy






May 12 2022


Sep 21 2022



The project should contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:

  • The establishment and development of a European network of practitioners and researchers in the field of democracy and civic deliberation and participation and citizenship education.
  • Prioritised recommendations for European policy on strengthening and renewing European democracy across a broad range of areas, including digital democracy, education programmes, civic education and awareness raising, including via cultural and creative approaches, enhancing diversity and inclusion in democratic processes, and participatory and deliberative democracy.
  • Support to policy makers in the EU and associated countries through networking events, and platforms, databases, knowledge repositories, advice and capacity building on enhancing diversity, civic participation, civic and citizenship education and innovative and experimental deliberation processes in a broad range of policy areas, including EU level decision making.
  • Strengthen and structure cooperation between researchers in democratic theory, including rule of law, and practitioners in civic participation and deliberation, and between European policy-makers at all levels of government and legislative bodies, resulting in an ongoing mechanism for knowledge-sharing and linking up to relevant piloting and testing actions under Horizon Europe, Horizon 2020 and other EU programmes, such as the Citizen, Equality, Rights, and Values programme, in view of establishing innovative open democratic practices.
  • Facilitate and strengthen the impact of democracy and governance related research and innovation on EU policies through contemporary innovative formats and promote their systematic accessibility to EU policy makers and other interested stakeholders.

The goal is to establish a network of researchers in democracy together with practitioners of civic participation and deliberation and of citizenship education across Europe, bringing together a critical mass of such actors in Europe, from Member States and Associated Countries representing the different parts of Europe with their diverse policy contexts, challenges as well as historical and cultural backgrounds. Such a network should contribute to Europe’s future policy to strengthen and renew democracy in Europe, in line with the Commission’s priority “A new push for European democracy”[1] and the follow-up to the Conference on the future of Europe[2].

The project should have a minimum duration of 36 months.


Democracy is not a constant in human history, but rather an exception to various forms of autocracy across space and time. We know that it thrives in the presence of representation, the protection of fundamental rights and the rule of law, participation, openness, pluralism, tolerance, the effectiveness of public policy, non-discrimination, and civic engagement. All of these reflect the European Union’s values as defined in Article 2 of the EU Treaty[3]. But a drift towards majoritarianism, unilateralism, nationalism, populism and polarisation is in effect in Europe and the world. Such challenges are addressed in the European Democracy Action Plan[4], which will be supported by the proposal funded under this topic.

Researchers in democratic theory and empirical democracy studies and practitioners in democratic innovation and civic participation all bring different bricks to the edifice of democracy strengthening and renewal: from the fundamental values to the subtleties of the legislative process and public policy actions. In terms of democratic innovations, deliberative democracy in particular appears as an antidote to polarization of societies, while broader use of civic participation can build dialogue and close a gap of mistrust between populations and governments.

Horizon 2020 supported over 300 projects, some still ongoing, with more than 1700 participants for research, innovation and experimentation relevant to safeguarding and fostering our democracies. This represents only a small fraction of the research and innovation in Europe on such issues. Many national and private funding bodies, foundations, think-tanks, NGOs, etc. are also active in this field and have developed extensive knowledge and data in this area, however, the access to this knowledge and expertise remains fragmented.

Thus, creating a network for researchers, policy makers and civil society organisations to collaborate together to formulate policy recommendations and to create knowledge-sharing opportunities is a necessary tool to strengthen and renew European democracy. EU bodies and services active in the field of research and innovation on and support for democracy should be associated to the network to avoid overlaps with other EU studies and initiatives and to facilitate the relevance of the activities and outputs of the network for EU policy development.[5]

The basis of such a system is a strong network, with a commons-based approach, and a focus on policy support, which sparks cooperation across levels of the executive and legislative structures, democratic theorists, empirical researchers and practitioners. Such a system should produce strong network effects, through outreach with relevant EU-funded projects, and other relevant projects at the national, regional, and local levels.

The challenge is to ensure that the most adapted policy actions and public sector innovations are recommended to European policy makers, in order to strengthen and renew their democratic practices to meet current challenges.

Proposals should establish an innovative network of democracy research organisations and practitioners of democratic innovation, which will:

  • Connect the dots of the current fragmented landscape of research, platforms, databases, knowledge repositories and research infrastructures into new models and practices of democracy and suggested paths for innovation of democratic practices, assessing their impact to ensure a match with the needs of policy makers and facilitate broad dissemination of these models.
  • Produce policy recommendations to strengthen and renew democracy in all governance levels and democratic debate in Europe, drawing on the existing body of knowledge. These recommendations must be accessible, publicly available, and well disseminated including through a central open access repository.
  • Analyse ex post the dynamics and patterns in terms of citizen participation in the Conference on the Future of Europe and evaluate how they could translate into an infrastructure for inclusive participatory and deliberative democracy in the EU[6].
  • Help policy makers in the EU and Associated Countries to design civic participation strategies for relevant policy areas, in conjunction with the European Commission’s Competence Centre on Participatory and Deliberative Democracy.
  • Organise 2 retreats per year for policy makers from EU Member States and Associated Countries and EU institutions, targeting high-level officials, to learn and exchange from experts and peers on democratic strengthening and renewal, and encourage exchange on emerging or persisting challenges and threats to democracy, participation and civic engagement.
  • Design capacity building activities on inclusive participatory and deliberative forms of democracy at different governance levels, including training and knowledge sharing.

Proposals should also contribute to raise awareness of potential policy actions that they recommend to strengthen and renew democracy at all levels of the government and legislative bodies in Europe, through information and dissemination activities.

When developing the activities, proposals should build on and further develop existing knowledge, activities, networks and structures[7], notably the ones funded by the European Union. Such activities, networks and structures may also draw on the ones developed in the course of the Conference on the Future of Europe but should not be limited to these.

Furthermore, proposals should establish links to and seek synergies with closely related actions, such as relevant R&I actions funded by Horizon Europe or Horizon 2020. Proposals are also invited to build links with global communities addressing democracy.

Eligible costs will take the form of a lump sum as defined in the Decision authorising the use of lump sum contributions under the Horizon Europe[8].

Cross-cutting Priorities:

Social sciences and humanities
Digital Agenda
Societal Engagement
Artificial Intelligence





[5]In particular DG RTD, DG JUST, JRC, EEAS

[6]As stated in the European Democracy Action Plan https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/new-push-european-democracy/european-democracy-action-plan_en

[7]for instance the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, or the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency

[8]The decision is published on the Funding and Tenders Portal.