Through my ten-year long engagement with Malmö Living Labs I have both seen emergent opportunities for democracy development e.g. the ingenuity and strong voices in creative communities and grass-root groups, but I have also increasingly encountered despair and lack of hope among citizens groups that their voice will be heard and that they have the ability to change un-preferred conditions into something better.
Some of the present challenges for democracy that I can see are:

-The increased complexity in a globalized world where nation-states and politics have lost much of their power and capability to entangle some of societies most pressed issues.

-The lack of plurality and increased consensus culture among traditional established political parties on the left and right and where large parts of the population have internalized norms that are taken for granted and seen as the only way forward. This might limit alternative legitimate opportunities for change, but also provide space for populist political movements.

-That many important political decisions increasingly take place within small informal governance networks consisting of politicians and business representatives (excluding many others from power and creates lack of transparence and accountability).

-A culture among policy makers that is characterized by “smartness” and quick and hasty research processes that makes it increasingly hard to provide politicians with more elaborated policies and reforms that can deal with the intricate complexities of the present societal problems.

-A tension between sustainable development and democracy where less energy demanding life styles or social inclusion not always are wanted by large parts of the population.

As a response to this we have launched a researcher network for Alternative Future Making at Malmö University. In this network design researchers have joined forces with a variety of research disciplines covering more than thirty members from four faculties at Malmö University who share a specific interest in interdisciplinarity and in the integration of conceptualization, critique and practice.

The network will:
-Evaluate and articulate risks relating to conventional development where progress mainly is seen to happen by advances in technology and economic growth.
-Elaborate and articulate alternative compelling visions of a better future based on a leap towards great transition with fundamental reassessments and changes of lifestyles, values, and what are considered to be human wellbeing.
-Explore forms for debating these articulations and visions.

Several seminars will be publicly available through the website.

Per-Anders Hillgren

Malmö University

Malmö, Sweden

Fields of Action
It sets a stage on which diverse actors can come together and democratically collaborate in shaping their present and future world. It engages diverse people and publics in co-design and co-production processes concerning different aspects of their everyday life.
It increases the opportunities for citizens to participate in deliberative processes. It focuses on transparency (which enables citizens to be aware of the on-going process of governance) and deliberative methods (which is the opportunity to be better involved in decision making processes).
It refers to all the design initiatives that are particularly responsive to the goals of democracy. It may deal with the provision of basic human rights (such as access to food, shelter, health care, and education) and, more in general, with the transition towards a more resilient, fair and sustainable society.
It addresses the structural elements that function as frames and regulators of human action in a democratic system. It focuses on institutions (such as: branches of government, agencies, bureaus, courts, and offices) and procedures (such as: laws, regulations, rules, and protocols).