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Madrid as a place of democratic innovation

An exuberant ecosystem of citizen practices and self-managed spaces has turned Madrid into an international reference of the urban commons. Español, Português

Image source: Decide Madrid.

This piece is an excerpt from an original article published as part of the eBook El ecosistema de la Democracia Abierta series, which can be found here.

The uncontrollable political and democratic crisis of our times has driven citizens to promote initiatives that eliminate or undermine different intermediaries that require an individual to be heard by senior officials and for their ideas to be applied or at least considered.

These initiatives, one hundred per cent characteristics of bottom up democracy, are based on a concept provided by Spanish computer programmer Pablo Soto: disintermediation. The mechanism which allows people to take their own decisions that is revolutionising citizen participation. 

Based on this concept, in 2011, Propongo – a free software program that allows users to propose ideas that will later be put to a vote – was created in Madrid. All ideas should be bottom-up, in other words, decentralised, safeguarding principles of disintermediation.

Thanks to developments such as this, public administrations have started waking up and becoming aware of the diverse power decentralisation mechanisms, due to the need to find new and innovative forms of motivating citizen participation. 

In the same vein, the local government of Madrid launched Decide Madrid, a participatory platform with which a bottom-up democratic path was paved on the part of the public sector.

It has been assigned a budget of 100 million euros and has made many citizen requests a reality, that have been voted for by the population of Madrid and are supported by at least 1% of people over 16 and registered in their municipality.

Thus, and beginning with these two examples, this text explains different initiatives that have been developed in the city of Madrid and that show how it is possible to generate transformations from changes in traditional political paradigms, adapted and focused in agreement with the particular needs of every region. 

About the author

Bernardo Gutiérrez (@bernardosampa en Twitter) es un periodista, escritor e investigador hispano-brasileño residente en Madrid. Escribe de política, sociedad, tecnopolítica y tecnologías de la participación. Ha publicado el libros Calle Amazonas (Altaïr, 2010), colaborado en libros colectivos como 'Amanhã vai ser maior' (Anna Blume, 2014) o sido uno de los editores de 'JUNHO: potência das ruas e das redes' (Friedrich Ebert Siftung, 2014). Su último libro: "Pasado Mañana. Viaje a la España del cambio" (ARPA editores, 2017). Trabaja en el MediaLab Prado de Madrid.

Bernardo Gutiérrez (@bernardosampa on Twitter) is a Spanish-Brazilian journalist, writer and researcher living in Madrid. He writes about politics, society, technopolitics and participation technologies. He has published the books Calle Amazonas (Altaïr, 2010), collaborated in collective books such as 'Amanhã vai ser maior' (Anna Blume, 2014) and was one of the editors of 'JUNHO: power of streets and networks' (Friedrich Ebert Siftung , 2014). His last book: "The day after tomorrow. Journey to the Spain of change" (ARPA editors, 2017). He works at the MediaLab Prado in Madrid.


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