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Models from around the world: how to engage, activate and inspire citizens

A new survey by Sitra and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs highlights several international examples of new models for political parties, non-governmental organisations and digital platforms.


Jukka Vahti

Project Director, Digital power and democracy


One of the problems for democracy is that political parties are viewed as being distant from the daily life of citizens and that instead of being popular movements, they have become part of the governmental machinery.

A central objective of the study presented in the recently published memorandum A report on prevailing social mobilisation models around the world was to provide an answer to the question “How can political decision-making be brought closer to citizens and how can citizens engage in decision-making more easily?”

One of the focus areas of Sitra’s Updating Democracy project is to improve the conditions for citizens’ engagement in the decision-making process by developing the operation of political parties in Finland.

Innovation yet to establish its position

Sitra produced an international overview to provide benchmarks to support the efforts to develop political parties. The aim of the overview was to consider what kinds of operating practices political parties could adopt to reform their operations.

The memorandum comprises 13 case examples: five political parties, three non-governmental organisations and five digital platforms (see selected case examples below).

The examples feature very innovative solutions and solutions that have already been integrated into the “official” decision-making processes. However, it was not possible to find examples in which both of these qualities were combined.

Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Finnish embassies around the world carried out a preliminary assessment of examples from across the globe. Sitra selected a number of the most interesting examples and in-depth interviews were then carried out with them by Deloitte.

Can political parties find the enthusiasm to reform themselves?

The foundations of democracy are under strain around the world. The rapid changes taking place globally are testing people’s trust in representational democracy, decision-makers and political parties. Party systems are either undergoing major transformation or are changing considerably, in Europe, the United States and elsewhere.

“International phenomena often reach Finland after some delay,” says Antti Kivelä, Director of the Capacity for renewal theme at Sitra. “It is therefore high time the political parties in Finland reflected on how they should reform their operations if they wish to remain operational and up to date with the changes in political engagement, decision-making and politics.”

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