Barcelona City Council and the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya have signed an agreement to promote the research, training and dissemination of community participation via digital platforms such as Decidim. The agreement, entitled Community participation, techno-political development and online communication via Decidim, will last three consecutive years. It was signed by the Deputy Mayor, Jaume Asens, and the President of Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Josep A. Planell.
The agreement between Barcelona City Council and the UOC’s Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) research group Communication Networks and Social Change (CNSC), led by Manuel Castells, has a financial value of 300,000 euros. Each party will assume 50% of the total amount of the project, which as previously stated will have a duration of three years (2017, 2018 and 2019). The aim of the agreement is to “design, develop, implant and monitor the study, research, teaching, dissemination, extension and training of community participation using network information technologies via the Decidim project”.
Specifically, the activities of the agreement may take various forms, such as the promotion of community participation policies, collaboration in research projects, or consultancy in the design and analysis of the Decidim digital platform and its activities. Consequently, the UOC has agreed to produce research and publications of an academic, educational and informative nature in relation to community participation, online democracy and institutional innovation, in order to develop the concept of a democratic city as a forum for participation, the development of public policies and participatory democracy.
The activities of the agreement will make it possible to ensure that the governing principles of Decidim are maintained, such as transparency, traceability, integrity, open-source status and the democratic nature of participation processes within the sphere of community participation and ICTs.
In order to achieve these aims, training courses, seminars, workshops and conferences are planned to publicize the Decidim platform and raise awareness of the use of ICTs, community participation, online democracy and institutional innovation.
In addition, this agreement will allow the exchange of technical or research personnel and experts between the two institutions in order to boost staff training in technology, as well as study and research within the City Council. Both parties agree to allow field work and access to the open-source data generated in relation to the participation processes of Barcelona City Council.
The agreement also aims to coordinate the development and extension of the Decidim digital platform to other public institutions or social organizations with an interest in using it.
The UOC’s IN3 CNSC research group specializes in studying democratic innovation processes within the network society. For this reason, it has been promoting the European project, Decentralised Citizens Engagement Technologies (D-CENT), the aim of which is to develop tools and applications for direct democracy, collective organization and citizens’ empowerment. The CNSC is currently involved in other European projects, such as Decentralised Citizens Owned Data Ecosystems (DECODE), which is dedicated to the technological and legal development of citizens’ open-source data ecosystems.