Democratic Climate Model




Democratic Society

Initial date



September 2019 - On going

Type of experience

participatory planning diagonisis space/workshop... other


governance and transparency mobility urban planning environment and climate action new social movements and associativism other


SDG 7 SDG 11 SDG 13 SDG 15 SDG 17



The Democratic Climate Model (DCM) is a specific model of democratic governance for climate  resilience. It is an innovation for climate action at the local level, aimed at fostering higher quality  of democracies and more participatory democratic approaches. It does so by providing  accessible terminology and concepts to forge shared understanding between diverse actors  – including public sector, civil society and communities – to engage in climate action in more  democratic, participatory ways and become effective agents for change. 


The DCM purpose is to be used to inspire more collaborative engagement, more profound thought about who and what they value, and embed democratic principles for just climate transitions in cities and regions. The main objective is to improve the quality of public decision-making  through the mechanisms of participatory democracy. 


The ultimate goal is an interconnected, international network of climate-resilient cities and regions - liveable areas, where citizens are engaged and live their best lives within vibrant, inclusive, and socially-just communities.


Participants DCM  is underpinned by meaningful participation and legitimised by continuous community consent. A vital feature of the Model is that it strengthens democratic institutions in the long term through citizen participation.


Through the Actor Framework they explain the types of actors involved in the DCM, what roles they play, and how their roles must evolve to bring about just and sustainable climate futures. Types of actors include artists, activists, researchers, grassroots groups, civil society, companies, governments, and journalists. In every city and region, different actors participate to different degrees. The way in which actors come together and the number of actors, has a bearing on the degree of rooted collaboration for climate resilience.

All the members get access to the team and resources and they can propose their ideas. Regular member sessions with the team give the inside track on the projects and help members to learn about creating democratic change in their community. 

In addition, Demosoc (Democratic Society) is developing an interactive member-only website where new members can join others to discuss and develop thinking on all forms of democracy and participation. 


Democratic Society has developed a prototype for a Democratic Climate Model (DCM)  to show the impact of putting citizens at the centre of local climate action. This project responds to the gap in pan European efforts to democratise climate action, providing models to let cities pass from a technocratic to a democratic approach to climate resilience. 

The prototype was developed through the partnership with the public sector, funders, civil society and  communities in the multi-city, multi-year EIT Climate-KIC Healthy, Clean Cities Deep  Demonstrations project, which seeks to collaborate with cities to find ways of imagining,  experimenting and learning towards achieving carbon neutrality.


Democratic Society also wanted to use this experience to develop a scalable model that could be experimented with in any city, anywhere. The project brought together experts from financing, innovation, carbon accounting, and citizen participation to design and conduct strategic work programmes with cities. 

The locations for the programmes are 14 European cities of Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Kraków, Križevci, Leuven, Madrid, Malmö, Maribor, Milano, Niš, Orléans, Sarajevo, Skopje and Vienna.


Krakow public sector leaders are using it to develop  a more democratic participation strategy in 2021. Vienna included a diverse set of actors in  the city's financial planning through a participatory budgeting process. In Madrid it led to more diversity in the planning process, influenced establishment of communities of practice,  and has sparked conversations about how specific community groups can bring in insights.  It has also sparked conversations about changemaking in place with funders and institutions  keen to understand how to work with citizens on topics such as retrofit.  More broadly we are using the Model to grow 'climate democracy' discourse in Europe.


The prototype is being tested  in early experimental stages collaboratively with public sector leaders, civil society and communities across these 11 EU cities. They are using the prototype to design portfolios of experiments for participatory democracy with public sector leaders to  achieve systemic change in areas as diverse as mobility and logistics, housing and the built  environment, waste and the circular economy, energy, and urban greening.

The Model is illustrated through the tree analogy. While trees come from seeds, the seeds themselves do not contain the resources needed to grow them. Instead, the seeds that sprout from the conditions around them and the roots that provide the tree with a sound footing to draw in nutrients create stability and grow towards the surface. The nodes of connectivity between the roots broaden the possibilities of a nurtured and nourished canopy above. Just like the tree, climate resilience needs deep roots in communities that policies serve.  The Model features three parts: Rooted vs. Weak collaboration, The City Canopy, and an Actor Framework.

  • Rooted vs. Weak Collaboration  visualises the degree to which strong or weak collaboration roots unlock climate resilience in cities, now and for future generations.
  • Rooted collaboration shows the benefits of cultivating deep roots of community and citizen participation so that cities develop a dense, strengthened canopy for sustained climate futures.


  • Weak collaboration is what happens without firm roots, where lack of citizen participation risks collapsing the city into a non-inclusive and non-sustainable climate future.


  • The City Canopy a tool for mapping the scales of climate resilience developed through rooted collaboration.

The findings across the 14 Deep Demonstrations cities suggested that four elements are central to ensuring a city can progress towards climate resilience: 

1) Diversity of actors; 

2) Participatory culture; 

3) Subject matter expertise; 

4) Resources. 

Each of these elements has several characteristics that we use to calculate a City's Canopy.The presence of these four elements are mapped to three layers: Foundational, mobilising factors, Emerging shifts, and the scale of Future possibilities in the city to increase the density of their canopy for climate resilience.

DCM highlights how democratic principles can lead cities and regions to respond differently to climate change. The prototype is positively framed around levers considered essential for climate resilience such as: diversity of actors,  participatory culture, resourcing and subject-matter expertise, and cross-border collaboration  at local, regional and national levels. It provides simple tools for city actors to collaboratively  measure and assess how much or little each of these things are present, and how they add  up to determine the city's future climate resilience. It is sparking conversations in cities for inclusive,  community-led approaches that strengthen participation, governance and in turn, climate  resilience, and fostering innovation in participatory democracy approaches for climate  resilience amongst public sector, civil society and community actors. 


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