5 ideas how public authorities can bounce back after confinement

The Covid-19 inflicts much pain and costs on our societies. But it also gives us the opportunity to take a step back. This could be beneficial, if we decide to take advantage of the opportunity. But how can we, citizens and public authorities, grow more resilient throughout and after the crisis, as well as rethink our policies and lifestyles, and thus emerge stronger? 

Here are 5 concrete ideas for bouncing back.

Memorials to the Future

Europe's Citizen Committee for the Future

Neighbours' day, past & present

Zero tolerance challenge prizes

Deliberative Day Europe

1. MEMORIALS TO THE FUTURE – Allowing a new vision of the future to emerge through collaborative murals

Our societies need to do several essential things during the Covid-19 crisis, notably: mourn the dead; thank the frontline personnel; celebrate life; and draw lessons so that what comes after is better than what was before. Many hope that this crisis will help us open our minds, question our way of life, renew our democracies, or even help address the climate crisis. However, this will only happen IF we have an infrastructure of deliberation that allows us to derive meaning and generate visible commitments. Yes, commitments, as opposed to intentions, which requires that individuals and organisations formalise their intentions and make verifiable plans to implement them.

‘Memorials to the Future’ is a concept developed by Dreamocracy, in collaboration with the Wallbynumbers Studio and the New Dialogue Foundation. It’s an open-source tool for communities to find meaning and commit to change through the Covid-19 crisis across Europe via an infrastructure of deliberation and art. First, neighbours are paired up to chat online about their experience of the crisis and vision for the future. When possible, they are invited to an open-air workshop to build on this vision. An artist listens in and translates it into the sketch of a mural, that the community paints collaboratively.

Worldwide, artists have revived inner cities and brought meaning through murals. Some, like Belgian artist Joachim, regularly design them collaboratively with citizens. Let’s give graphic form on the walls of cities to citizens’ experiences and thoughts, their vision of the future, and their commitments, under the guidance of experienced artists, for everyone to see.

Dreamocracy works with Zsofi Lang and her Wallbynumbers Studio to allow cities and local communities to implement this approach.

Find out more about Collaborative Murals.

2. EUROPE’S CITIZEN COMMITTEE FOR THE FUTURE – Facilitating thinking beyond parties and generations

After a short period of unity, political parties revert everywhere, even in the current crisis, to their default mode of opposing, often for the sake of opposing. While polls show that citizens aspire to an effective opposition that scrutinises governments, they also indicate that citizens want to get out of ideological silos and rhetorical postures. Furthermore, we all agree that democracy needs to reconcile better short-term action and long-term needs. Both aspects are key issues if we wish to be stronger coming out of this crisis and prepare for other crises, whether related to the climate, the economy or sanitary issues.

Why not take advantage of the fact that 46 seats have been left vacant in the European Parliament by the departure of British MEPs to set up an experimental “Europe’s Citizen Committee for the Future”? This would be composed of the same number of citizens, drawn by lot from across the Union every six months, and invited to provide long-term perspective on key legislative matters, beyond partisan lines.

This “Europe’s Citizen Committee for the Future” would combine the democratic qualities of the Citizens Assembly of Ost-Belgien, with the long-term insights of the Finnish Parliament’s Committee for the Future.

Dreamocracy is ready to launch an advocacy campaign with all those interested, to promote the idea of this experiment and make it happen. Want to join? Please contact us!

3. NEIGHBOURS’ DAY, PAST AND PRESENT – Fostering local solidarity

People will need to pay tribute in the coming months to the deceased and give sense to the deaths and pain experienced through this ordeal. The problem is that neighborhoods are increasingly divided into small ‘bubbles’. Creating collaborative communities is becoming increasingly difficult.

Let’s give people the opportunity to meet, discuss the future of their neighborhood, and thus create more empathy and a sense of community through and after this crisis. Our proposal is to give citizens a tool to chat online with before they meet, and then to reinvent Neighbours’ Day as a celebration not just of friendship, but of solidarity across streets and generations. Neighbours’ day in 2020 could bring together not only the neighbours present, but also include a reading of the names of those who have recently disappeared, followed by a minute of silence. Focused on solidarity, this renewed approach would also make it possible to mobilise volunteers to help those in need locally.

Our colleagues at the Disrupted Societies Institute and at the New Dialogue Foundation have developed a fantastic tool to put neighbours in touch and discuss local matters, whether by SMS, through a video conference call, by phone, or in person if they wish. It’s called;, and As for the traditional neighbours’ party, it has proven that it increases social capital.

The New Dialogue Foundation can help you set up online discussions between neighbours.

4. ZERO TOLERANCE CHALLENGE PRIZES – Getting our priorities straight

The management of this crisis by most governments has been marked by the desire to avoid deaths at all costs. As many commentators have pointed out, this “zero death” approach stands in sharp contrast to our tolerance towards other issues, whether they be climate change, homelessness or other health matters.

Just as the Estonian Economic ministry has launched the Estonian Hackathon, governments and private foundations could launch large public challenge prizes with substantial funding post-Covid19, possibly thanks to donations from lotteries. The idea is to channel people’s sense of indignation and use their intelligence to find the best possible solutions to certain key issues.

This idea builds on two approaches. The first is to decide to no longer tolerate certain issues as the foundation for new policies. In this spirit, Scandinavian countries initiated the very successful “Zero Death” road safety measures. Similarly, France recently launched a “Zero long-term unemployed” initiative. The second idea is public challenge prizes. For instance, the X-Prize, endowed with 10 million dollars encourages new technological developments likely to bring “radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity”. The US agency brings together many such challenges, and so does the UK agency Nesta.

Thanks to our visioning and backcasting methodologies, we can help you imagine new goals and roadmaps. Will it be “Zero Homelessness”, “Zero Battered Women”, “Zero AIDS Contamination” or “Zero Greenhouse Gases”?
Read more about our Augmented Democracy model.

5. DELIBERATIVE DAY EUROPE – Let’s invite more citizen deliberation at the European level

Remember how there was talk before the current crisis of a “Conference on the Future of Europe”, and how this would include a strong element of citizen consultation? Obviously governments have other things on their minds right now. Yet, as many “illiberal” governments inside and outside Europe are challenging our democratic model and our aspiration to work as a united continent, we need to think of new approaches to strengthen both democracy and European collaboration.

We propose running a yearly Deliberative Poll on a key issue, ahead of the president of the European Commission’s yearly State of the Union address. This event would bring together a random sample of citizens from all 27 EU member states in Brussels, and enable them to discuss the issue at hand. Inviting a ‘mini-public’ that is truly representative of the citizens to deliberate on complex EU matters over a weekend would provide a high-profile event that would draw media attention. It would be directly useful to the discussions of the EU Council. And the advantage of Deliberative Polling is that it is not prescriptive, yet it would be helpful to policymakers by giving them a good sense of citizens’ preferences once they’ve had a chance to come together, compare views, and access the full range of opinions on the topic chosen.

This could be modeled after the first EU-wide Deliberative Poll that we ran with Stanford University, Tomorrow’s Europe.

We have organised it before, so, with our partners at Particitiz, we can help you organise national or transnational quality citizen deliberations in the future!

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