1. EUvsVirus Hackathon

One recent initiative to empower citizens during the COVID-19 crisis was the hackathon recently organized by the European Commission to engage researchers, innovators, and citizens in co-creating solutions for fighting the coronavirus and building a better world post-COVID. In a nutshell, the aim was to connect people interested in co-creating digitally-based solutions. The scope and reach of the hackathon, held over the weekend of 24-26 April 2020, is summarized in the final video.

A group of citizens teamed up during the hackathon, with the intention of launching a platform to let citizens speak out regarding European policy, hosting #ourvoicematters projects, which would empower people (ordinary citizens, communities, activists, researchers) to act together, sharing their experiences, needs and expectations; comparing their ideas with others from different communities, countries, and walks of life; and making decisions together.

In the words of the promoters: “we are going through an unseen sanitary, economic, social and political crisis. Half of humanity lived in lockdown for weeks. We are passively looking at the news, the number of contaminated, hospitalized and dead people. Our main freedom this day is to trust or not our governments’ action and speech, to trust the media to tell us what the problems are and who is entitled to find solutions. We are passive recipients of traditional gatekeepers and decision makers, until we can vote again, if elections can be held in a safe manner. How can we become active citizens, taking part in building our future now that our present has collapsed? How can we share our ideas, refine them, find trustful information, get feedback from knowledgeable people and have an impact?”

After the hackathon, the team of promoters has continued to develop the initiative – working on existing open source platforms like Decidim (read more about this below) to connect European citizens who are interested in informing themselves, building dialogues and deliberation events to shape the world and society they want to live in, instead of waiting for their “representatives” to make decisions that might be disconnected from their own experience.

More about the EUvsVirus Hackathon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkYSqzzJAAI

2. Decidim

Decidim is one of the first European digital platforms to foster citizen empowerment by creating mass processes for strategic planning, participatory budgeting, public consultation, collaborative design for regulations, urban spaces and election processes.  Put simply, the platform makes it easier for people to connect with each other, reach agreements and start initiatives on topical policy issues that concern them, or trigger new decision-making processes. Citizens can use Decidim to provide different proposals on where to spend money, evaluate projects and vote for them. After that, they can track the implementation of the project.

Initially, the project was carried out in Barcelona – “Decidim” is the Catalan terms for “Decide” – and now the demo version is available in English and used in other cities of Spain and Europe. What makes the Decidim platform even more valuable, given the COVID-19 pandemic, is that it offers a virtual alternative to in-person democratic assemblies, council meetings and public hearings.

Decidim is a digital platform built collaboratively as free open software. Technically, Decidim is a web environment produced in Ruby on Rails (a programming language) using block chain technology that allows anybody to create and configure a website platform to be used safely by a network of citizens.

More about the Decidim project:  https://decidim.org/

3. GAIA: Global Activation of Intention and Action

GAIA is a new global initiative from Otto Scharmer’s Presencing Institute that aims to build an active community worldwide.

GAIA offers regular online meetings moderated by Presencing Institute experts for “change-makers, leaders, and citizens from all sectors, systems, and cultures”. The program is designed to accelerate the sharing of perspectives on the coming “post-COVID” changes to the world, and building a virtual community of people with similar attitudes to “support each other, co-sense what is actually going on in current reality and what is wanting to be born”. The program duration is 14 weeks, and it is designed to collectively imagine how we want to live and work together, to build back our economies for the wellbeing of all, and to evolve our democracies in ways that make them more direct and open.

The GAIA meetings are organized in Zoom with guest experts’ presentations followed by “collective reflections” in break-out sessions, where participants can share their thoughts on the topics presented by the experts.

More about the GAIA project:  https://www.presencing.org/news/news/gaia-global-activation-of-intention-and-action

More projects on citizen empowerment and citizen engagement:


CitizenLab is a Brussels-based agency formed of citizen participation experts. This agency gives cities and governments a digital participation platform where they can consult with their citizens on local topics and include them in decision-making. Through the implementation of citizen empowerment projects, CitizenLab tries to help governments make better decisions, improve trust and strengthen democracy.

More about CitizenLab: https://www.citizenlab.co/about

Citizens Take Over Europe

Citizens Take Over Europe is a bottom-up initiative that emerged in the spring of 2020 amidst the recent COVID-19 pandemic. It is a group of civil society organizations, citizens and residents from across Europe, joined in a common effort to promote a forward-looking and citizen-centred European democracy.

More about Citizens Take Over Europe: https://citizenstakeover.eu/