#43 Barcelona: European Capital of Democracy or "To Explore the Possibilities of Collective Intelligence"

Episode 49 September 13, 2023 00:31:27
#43 Barcelona: European Capital of Democracy or "To Explore the Possibilities of Collective Intelligence"
Smart in the City – The BABLE Podcast
#43 Barcelona: European Capital of Democracy or "To Explore the Possibilities of Collective Intelligence"

Sep 13 2023 | 00:31:27


Hosted By

Tamlyn Shimizu

Show Notes

In this episode, we travel once more to the city of Barcelona in Spain, this time to talk democracy with Arnau Monterde, the Director of Democratic Innovation at the Barcelona City Council.

With him, we explored the concept of democracy, citizen participation, and innovative approaches to governance, with a focus on Barcelona's efforts to engage its citizens in decision-making processes.


The Barcelona City Council and the Metropolitan Strategic Plan of Barcelona are presenting the European Capital of Democracy Program 2023-2024 on September 14th at 12:30 p.m. in the Saló de Cent. You can find out more by visiting the Capital of Democracy Barcelona website and Twitter account.


Overview of the episode:

01:28 - Teaser: If democracy were a flavour of ice cream, what would it be and why?

02:27 - Our guests' background

03:50 - What is democracy and what does it mean to Arnau?

04:38 - What does the European Capital of Democracy mean? What will Barcelona do in the next year to uphold this title?

06:31 - Do citizens know best what they need?

08:21 - What is the concept of "collective intelligence"?

09:28 - Barcelona is known for its rich history and vibrant culture. How does the city's unique heritage inspire innovative approaches to democracy in the modern era?

11:09 - Projects that exemplify the intersection of democracy and innovation in Barcelona

14:12 - How can we develop more initiatives to ensure that marginalized voices are heard and represented in the discussions?  

17:29 - Surprising outcomes or lessons learned from projects and initiatives

20:42 - What bold idea to further enhance democracy and innovation in Barcelona would our guest implement?


26:26 - Trial and Error: what has been the biggest trail and error when looking at democracy in the past, and how can we ensure it doesn't happen again?

28:48 - Ending Question: To you, what is a Smart City?


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Want to join us for an episode? Contact our host Tamlyn Shimizu.


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View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Tamlyn Shimizu 00:00:06 Welcome to Smart in the City, the BABLE Podcast where we bring together top actors in the smart city arena, sparking dialogues and interactions around the stakeholders and themes most prevalent for today's citizens and tomorrow's generations. I am your host, Tamlyn Shimizu, and I hope you'll enjoy this episode and gain knowledge and connections to accelerate the change for a better urban life. Smart in the city is brought to you by BABLE Smart Cities. We enable processes from research and strategy development to co-creation and implementation. To learn more about us, please visit the BABLE platform at bable-smartcities.eu. So, democracy, what do you usually associate with this word? This is a new topic for us on the podcast, and I think you're really going to like this angle. We have talked about citizen engagement, but how does democracy shape the way that we innovate and shape our cities? What do we know so far and what do we still have to learn? Well, we're going to Barcelona to explore this topic, the winner of the European Capital of Democracy this year. And for that, I have, of course, for you the perfect guest. His name is Arnau Monterde. He's the Director of Democratic Innovation at Barcelona City Council. Welcome onto the show. Arnau Monterde 00:01:24 Thank you for the invitation. It's a pleasure to be here today. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:01:28 Pleasure to have you. I'm really excited about this topic. Um, as I mentioned, we, we haven't really spoken about it in, in this level, in this scope before. So to dig right in, I have a teaser question. Do you, uh, first question, do you like ice cream? Arnau Monterde 00:01:44 Yes. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:01:45 Okay, good. <laugh>. So, second question. Uh, if democracy were a flavor of ice cream, what would it be and why? <laugh>. Arnau Monterde 00:01:55 Wow. This is a very, very difficult Tamlyn Shimizu 00:01:58 Question. <laugh>. You don't have to give a solid, logical reason behind it, just any reason. Arnau Monterde 00:02:04 <laugh>. Yeah, we need consensus, but we need conflict because democracy is about that. And then we should have like more, uh, common dates, like, uh, lemon or whatever, or chocolate. But then we need to also confront with other more, uh, uh, other dates of, of ice cream <laugh>. Okay. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:02:27 Okay. Good. All right. So maybe we, we have to take a vote to get it on a consensus for that one. Um, but I now want to know really about you. Um, I want to know about your background, your role, what led you here into this position? Arnau Monterde 00:02:45 Uh, okay. I'm the director of the Democratic innovation in the city of Barcelona, and I have been running this department since 2019, more or less. And I've been, uh, in charge of different projects at the C 11 related to citizen participation, democracy, and also related to, uh, digital technologies. And I am one of the co-founders of the C team, the, the digital platform for citizen participation, which is a project that, uh, it has been, uh, it has been implemented to a lot of different cities around the world. Uh, we are talking about more than, uh, 2 million of users around the world. Uh, wow. 500 installations, uh, used in 30 countries. And this is an open, true solution. Uh, Tamlyn Shimizu 00:03:39 Yeah, that sounds really interesting. Um, so I think we wanna get back to that. Are you originally from Barcelona? Arnau Monterde 00:03:46 Uh, yes. From the metropolitan area of the, of Barcelona. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:03:50 Okay. Okay, perfect. Um, good. So let's talk about, uh, the platform in a little bit. I first wanna touch on the, the topic of democracy. Um, what is democracy and what does it mean to you? Arnau Monterde 00:04:03 Uh, I really like that the, the initial concept of democracy. Democracy comes from the, that, the Greek, and, and it means that when the, the people has the power when, um, the people in the, or the citizens has the, the, the capacity to, to govern the, the city, the region or, or country or another, uh, and the, the, the European level. And I think that this rooted idea of democracy when the people, uh, has the capacity to decide about the, the common things of our everyday life. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:04:38 That sounds really good to me. Um, so for you, so for, uh, Barcelona, the European capital of democracy, what does that really mean, and what does that entail? What will Barcelona do in the next year to like kind of uphold this title? Arnau Monterde 00:04:54 Yeah. Initially the, the, to receive this recognition is, uh, is, uh, kind of yes, the recognize that the things that we have been doing in Barcelona in the last, uh, eight years, it has been a very, uh, has an international impact and has a, uh, has a, creating a, a alo a global reference and how we are innovating in the city in the way that, uh, citizens are involved in different, uh, participatory process, actions and other things. For example, one of the most important thing in the city has been the participatory budgeting process where the people decide how to invest in the city, uh, more than 30 million of Euros. And they propose projects and prioritize. And after that, they, they both, and the most voted projects now, it they has been implemented during the last years. And now you can go there and, and, uh, enjoy the, these projects provided, proposed by citizens. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:05:56 That's cool. Can, can you name, like, can you tell us about some of those projects so that we have an idea about what are they voting on? What do the citizens want? Arnau Monterde 00:06:05 Uh, there are more than 70 projects that one, for example, a new, a new, uh, playground in a, in a school or to create a, a new street without, without cars or renew, uh, a public, uh, garden or create cycle lines. There are, uh, mm-hmm <affirmative> huge variety of projects, uh, at the city level. That's Tamlyn Shimizu 00:06:31 Really cool. Uh, question, do you think that citizens know best what they need? Or do you think sometimes government should step in and say, actually this is, this is not what you need? Because, uh, for example, I guess one situation is like, cars parking right? Is like a huge thing. The city's like trying to take away parking spots, trying to say, and the citizens, they're like, no, no. But actually data shows once you take away those cars, people enjoy the streets much more. Um, how do you kind of like reconcile this? Arnau Monterde 00:07:09 I think that we have to create the channels to have like a permanent conversation between, we talk about co-creation, we need to know, uh, the needs of the citizens, but at the whole level, because the, the citizens are, uh, are diverse and they're a different variety of citizens. There are people that has a specific needs and other with other needs. And, and the government has to manage that. And sometimes this means conflicts because the interests sometimes are, are chugging. For example, in the city, we are seeing the battle within the people who wants more cars and the people who wants, um, less cars. And we have to manage that. This is the, the things that the government has to do. But we, I really believe in the idea was to have this, uh, permanent negotiation and also to explore the possibilities of collective intelligence, because if we get the information and the, the demons from citizens who knows perfectly the city, but also we can receive the input from the experts, but also the, the, the managers of the city and also the politicians, that then we can start to create something more intelligent. But we need to respect principles, the principle of democracy, basically. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:08:21 Really good answer. Collective intelligence. That's, that's an interesting one. Do you want to kind of give, give our listeners a little bit of like, insight into how you view collective intelligence? Arnau Monterde 00:08:33 Yes. It's, it is, uh, this idea to pro because for example, when we have an election and we are electing, uh, the mayor and maybe 10 or or 15, uh, conci, but these 15 people, they don't have the whole knowledge of, of what happened with the, with the, with the city. And we have a lot of huge challenges for the 21st century. And the only way to do that is, uh, combining different knowledge that we have in the city, uh, but attending, uh, definitely a, a general purpose, but we need to know what happens, the people who live and the, the people. What are the needs of the people? What are the problems? What are the, the, the, the, the specific things that happens in the city? And the only way to do that is asking and working together with the people to understand the needs of the city. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:09:28 Very good. Um, so, uh, getting back into Barcelona. So Barcelona, of course, is known for, you know, really rich history and really vibrant culture. Um, and how do you think that this, this, uh, Barcelona's heritage inspires innovative approaches to democracy in the modern era? Arnau Monterde 00:09:51 Uh, Barcelona is all the time creating, we have a amazing history of social movements, uh, the, the experiences here, uh, 100 years ago, uh, on the, the, the, the unions, or for example, the, the fight for, uh, labor rights on, on 1920s, for example, or we have a very interesting tradition, or for example, 200 years ago, we have something, the first, uh, corn seal by sortition call it the 100 seal. And it was the, the first innovation, democratic innovation in the city. And it comes from a long time ago. And I think that we have a very rich, um, uh, civil society, uh, uh, the, the civil society organizations and a, a lot of, uh, different neighborhoods association and, uh, scholars and sports and social movements and people defending different rights at the city level. We have a, a very productive city in terms of, uh, in terms of democracy and quality and yeah, and, and quality of the, of our democracy. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:11:09 I love, uh, looking at how the, the city's culture and everything plays into innovation. So I, I think that's really interesting. Of course, Barcelona is a really prime example of that. Um, you, you already pres provided a couple examples of projects or initiatives. Um, I want to give more space also to talk about specific, um, specific projects that kind of exemplify this intersection of democracy and innovation in Barcelona. Do you have any more that come to mind, or do you wanna elaborate on any of the ones you mentioned before? Arnau Monterde 00:11:42 Yes, I have a lot <laugh>. I don't want to occupy everything with that. But for example, we run, uh, the last, uh, in the last two years, we run the two first, uh, citizen assemblies created by Sortition, one of 100 young people elected by Sortition. And it was, uh, really amazing because for the first time, we, uh, involve and engage young people who never, uh, have been participated before. And they create a list of 25 demands to, and they send to the mayor and the, the, the measures, uh, they're in a moment that they are trying to execute by the, by the government. But it was a moment that where 100 and people were discussing during 12 weekends, a lot of time discussing and deliberating about the, their own needs and the, the future of young people. And this is a really innovative example. And the other one, we have the first, uh, climate assembly at the city level with 100 people elected by Ian too. Arnau Monterde 00:12:45 This is, uh, the, the new, uh, way for our citizen of citizen assemblies, but it's a, is only way to, to work at the, at the, uh, at the city level, very specific topics and is a way to engage like different, uh, people at the city level because we, we receive people from the different districts and different origins and, and with different, uh, participatory cultures. And this is very interesting in because it's a, an an entrance door to the world of the democracy. This is just one example of that. We have other examples, uh, running on the, the city level of about innovation in the, in participation. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:13:31 Those are great examples. I'm just wondering, are there a lot of, are you seeing a lot of participation from young people in the climate assembly as well? Arnau Monterde 00:13:41 Uh, we try to, uh, have, uh, because when we create the, the sample and the sortition, we try to have, uh, representation from the different ages. And, uh, the, the, the young assembly, it was from 16 to 29, and the climate assembly we had like the, the, the representation of young, it was the same that the other ranges of, uh, eighties mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it was proportional. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:14:12 Okay. So an e more equal representation. Yes, yes, exactly. Yeah. I, I'm, that's touching on the point also, I wanted to ask you about, like, you can't think about democracy without thinking of like inclusivity, um, and thinking about how, like how can we get, how can we develop more initiatives that are successful in ensuring that like marginalized voices are heard and represented in the discussions? Arnau Monterde 00:14:42 Yeah, this is a very good question and probably one of the main challenges of any organization who wants to <laugh> improve their own, uh, participatory systems and their own, uh, democracy. Uh, we have to say, honestly, that is very difficult because you have to put a lot of effort on that. If you want to have a bridge democracy, you have to put the conditions that this can happen. And the first thing that you need to engage people and to involve people is to have a political commitment. This is the first thing that I'm committed to participation. I'm committed to the results of the process, and I'm committed to you. And is, this is the first sign that you have to give to the people if you want to involve them. This is the first thing. But then you need a lot of resources. You have to communicate in a different ways, and you have to arrive to everyone, and you have to be flexible because the, the people, they, they have a lot of things, family charge and the works and the jobs, and they, the, the, the studies, and you have to be flexible in terms of adaptation of the, of the needs. Arnau Monterde 00:15:50 And also you have to provide the, the different channels to do that. Uh, and also you have to connect with their own real needs. Uh, and when we are talking about the, the poor people or the, the, the people who has less capacity to do that, you have to put an extra effort. For example, if you want to involve the different communities at the city level, you have to, uh, communicate with them, uh, with their different languages. And, uh, you need to, uh, work also in which way you communicate the, the, the things. Because for example, we talk about participatory processes, but decisions sometimes they don't know what does mean a participatory process. You have to explain that is a way to be involved in some specific issue of the city. And you have to explain that because the people, we are losing the culture to be part of our city and to decide about our city. Arnau Monterde 00:16:47 We delegate all the time. We delegate in the politicians voting or we delegate to others. Just, uh, because I don't know that, that I have this capacity, for example, in the schools, it's very difficult to work this, why the schools don't know from the beginning that they have the capacity to be part of the decision making of their own city. And I think that this is why we need to award the democratic culture from the beginning. Because if you know, as a child that you have this capacity, then it's gonna be easier to involve in other aspects of your everyday life. Is that the, the first way to empower people from the beginning? <laugh>, Tamlyn Shimizu 00:17:29 Really great tips. Yeah, really great tips. Um, in, in your role, you've seen, oh, as you mentioned, like lots of projects, lots of initiatives, um, probably pilot projects, some successful, some not so successful. Can you share any, like, very surprising outcomes, like outcomes you didn't expect? Do you have anything in mind? Arnau Monterde 00:17:51 Uh, yes. There are a lot of, uh, there, for example, the, the first time when, when we started, uh, our digital platform for citizen participation on, on 2016, uh, we launched a process for, uh, for the planning of the city for, for, for years. And we were collecting proposals. We received more than 10,000 proposals, <laugh>. Wow. And the city, the city decide to study all proposals and answer all proposals, and they accept more than, uh, 70% of the proposals. And they developed these proposals. And maybe it was like the, the, the, the first more participated strategic planning process at the <laugh>, at the global level for sure. It was really amazing because for the first time, you receive a direct answer from the city council saying, we, we are studying this and we're gonna, uh, develop this. Uh, for example, one of the most surprising s that we, I don't know, maybe one of the most success is that, that the cricket team of the group of young, uh, Pakistan girls and, and the district of the city claiming for a cricket field on their own district, and they, they were all the time playing cricket, but they didn't have the field. Arnau Monterde 00:19:12 And they proposed this for the participatory budgeting, and they win and they engage the, the, a lot of different people to vote for the project. And, and, Tamlyn Shimizu 00:19:21 And then now they have a cricket field. Arnau Monterde 00:19:24 Yeah. W we are building, actually we are building the cricket field, but they, yeah, they were in the press in the V B C and, uh, a lot of, uh, international press because it was a, a really amazing example of how a community, uh, with a specific need, uh, can, can be a success. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:19:42 Very good. Did you, did you guys draw on any inspiration from other cities on, on what to do in this, or you really, do you really feel like Barcelona's kind of, uh, I guess leading the pact or how does it work? Arnau Monterde 00:19:57 No, it's a combination also. Uh, we, we receive a lot from, from other cities and from other traditions. We receive a lot from the, the, the, the Indina indina movement and the social movements here at the beginning of twenties and 2010, the 2011 exact, uh, specific, but also we receive, uh, input from the, the, when the, the Icelandic were, uh, rewriting their own constitution, or for example, uh, from Madrid, uh, or from Helsinki, their experience on participatory budgeting, also the tradition on citizen participation on on Brazil, et cetera. We have received a lot of different inputs. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:20:42 Yeah. Really important, I think. Um, so my last question before I give you the open floor is if, um, you had lo no limitations, if you could implement one bold and unconventional idea to further enhance democracy and innovation in Barcelona, what would it be and why? Arnau Monterde 00:21:04 Uh, Tamlyn Shimizu 00:21:04 What's your dream <laugh>? Yeah, Arnau Monterde 00:21:07 My dream, I always dream to have, like, because we are running this, this, this digital platform for citizen participation, and we open process where, where we allow people, uh, to create proposals and, uh, give supers and comment, but we always mediate this as a city council. We are, we open a specific process where you can do this, but my dream is to have something more self-governed where anyone can create everything. Mm-hmm. Uh, you can express for yourself on social networks like Twitter or TikTok or, or Instagram. Uh, I will really love to have this also at this like more political or institutional level where the government provide you a digital infrastructure to be part of, in a secure way in with, uh, democratic guarantees, uh, preserving digital rights. But you can have their voice and you can have a way and a, and a capacity to express yourself and to connect with other, and organize things together. How we could have a, a, we always talk about political network. It is not a social network. It's a political network to, to address, uh, different political initiative without interation, how we can promote the, the, the self organization of the people at the city level. This would be nice, but all the, all the politicians has Twitter account and they're communicating there why they don't come to our platform to do that and has this horizontal communication. Mm, Tamlyn Shimizu 00:22:50 I understand. Yeah. So you would, you would like them to everything to be centralized onto the platform, right? Um, yeah. Yeah. Good. Um, yeah, it's really hard to get people to use a platform. It sounds like you've been very successful actually. Um, in, in, for the most part. Um, Arnau Monterde 00:23:07 Yeah, we have, we have here in Barcelona, this, uh, 150,000 people register. It, uh, this is the 10% of the people who lives in Barcelona, but we, we need more people actually. There are great numbers in term in terms of participation, but, uh, we need to involve more people. Yeah. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:23:29 Uh, Arnau Monterde 00:23:29 But more also in terms of quality, not just in quantity, in quality into having the good debate, because the important, uh, the, the platform provides you the, the capacity to participate when you won. And I, at the different levels, you don't have to create a proposal if you don't want, or if you don't have any idea, <laugh>, sometimes it's like, maybe I don't have a proposal, but I, I really appreciate this idea. But they Tamlyn Shimizu 00:23:56 Could give feedback on other ideas and yes. Yeah. Yes. Yeah, Arnau Monterde 00:24:00 The idea of collective intelligence is done that different levels of contribution at the different levels of scales of participation. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:24:07 Love it. Love this discussion. So, um, with that, I, I want to give you the open floor. Is there anything that you really want the listeners to know today that you didn't get the chance yet to talk about? Arnau Monterde 00:24:22 Uh, yeah, actually there is a, a huge challenges, a huge challenge in, in, in our present, uh, and also this related to the, to the European capital of democracy as an opportunity to open debates around this. But what happens <laugh> with our democracy, because we are just moving in this direction to have like more representative democracy in terms that we are just voting and, uh, we forget about <laugh> the politics until the next, uh, election and how we can create, uh, uh, uh, and promote a participative democracy where the citizens can have a voice and a capacity to be involved in the everyday government, government, uh, at the city level, but also at the, the other institutional levels. Because, uh, I think that we are having to face a lot of problem, the, the hate speech and the, the, the rise of, uh, outright at the European, but also at the global level. Arnau Monterde 00:25:28 But we have to see how through democracy and through a democratic way and involvement, we can not just pres preserve and to have the, to have our rights safe, but also how we can win other important rights at, at the global level. We have, uh, war here, we have a lot of inequalities. We have the people dying in on the borders of Europe, and how we can address that because these are huge problems that we cannot, uh, we have to see and we have to face, and we have to face in a democratic way. We cannot say just not everyone in their own country. And, and we have to be very <laugh>, very national position to exclude the people who is different. We need to see how we can create more democratic, more inclusive and more, uh, respectful right societies at the global level. It is a very, a very important issue. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:26:26 Very nice words. Um, so thank you for that. Um, now with that, I will move us on to the, our segment. Um, and this is a segment called Trial and Error, trial and Error, what went wrong, what mistakes were made along the way, and more importantly, what lessons were learned. So I wanted to kind of flip this, um, segment a little bit differently than how we usually phrase it. Um, and ask about what you think the biggest trial and error was when looking at democracy back in history and how we cannot make the same mistakes again. Uh, Arnau Monterde 00:27:10 In, in our, in our case, in the case of Spain, the, the, the biggest mistake is the, when we have the dictator here in after the Civil War on 1939, the the worst thing that we have had here in our country. And we, we still have this heritage in the country, uh, 100 years later. But, uh, but yes, I think that this is one of the big mistakes, uh, at the, at the national level, definitely. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:27:36 How can we not make that mistake again? How do we prevent then, how in a global scale do we let democracy, you know, win and not dictators? Arnau Monterde 00:27:48 I think that the best way to ensure that we cannot repeat this is, uh, ensuring that everyone has, uh, rights and has ensuring the human rights, but also ensuring the social rights and ensuring that everyone is in the same race and do, we are not leaving people, uh, behind in terms of that live, uh, that live a better life. Yeah, I think that is a way to prevent, uh, this kind of historically evolution. Because if we have rights and if, if the people knows about what does mean to live in a, in a, a collective society in a common way, if you can guarantee that the people will defend that. But this is why we have to create an insure and, uh, that the, that the rights are strong, and then the, the capacity to defend as a, so to defend ourselves as a society is, is strong. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:28:48 Yeah. Very good. Um, thanks so much for, for those answers. And then I get to the last question of the, the interview. Um, and this is a question we ask every single guest. Um, I want to hear from your perspective to you, what is a smart city? Arnau Monterde 00:29:06 Uh, to me, a smart city, uh, is a city who I, I say who because has this capacity to be as a, as a, as a kind of, uh, collective, uh, and human. But a smart cities is a city that includes the cities and the civil society organization than the social, uh, actors in the, in the process to design, uh, democratically the, the, the city, the needs of the city, the services of the city. Um, actually to me, uh, a smart city is a democratic city, is a city where the citizens has a, a very important role and the government work together with, with the cities and the, the, and the, the the as to ensure that they have a, a better place to live, to enjoy and to, yeah, and to be part of, Tamlyn Shimizu 00:30:08 I thought you might say that <laugh>, that a smart city is a democratic city. Some, for some reason I had this idea, you might, you might advocate for that. I, Arnau Monterde 00:30:17 I dunno why you say that. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:30:18 <laugh>. <laugh>, yeah. Weird, right? Um, yeah. Wonderful. So, um, thank you so much for, for coming on and sharing all your expertise on the topic. I think, uh, this, this kind of scope in the discussion is really interesting when we're thinking about building smarter, uh, more sustainable future-proof cities, um, including everybody's voices in it. So thank you so much for coming on the show and, and really sharing your expertise here. Arnau Monterde 00:30:44 Thank you very much. Tamlyn Shimizu 00:30:46 Our pleasure. And to all of our listeners, don't forget, you can always create a free account on bable-smartcities.eu to find out about smart city projects, solutions, implementations, and connect with more people. Uh, so thank you very much as well. Until next time, thank you all for listening. I'll see you at the next stop on the journey to a better urban life.

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