In June 2019 researchers from around the world gathered for the first Local Democracy Academy organized by the Swedish International Centre for Local Democracy (ICLD) in Umeå, Sweden. The objective of the academy was to discuss and present the latest research in the field of local democracy, explore directions for future research and foster collaborations.
Held under the theme ‘Global challenges and Local governments: Towards Transformative Policy and Practice’, the academy was organized in collaboration with United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and the Department of Political Science, Umeå University.
A total of sixty participants joined the academy for the entire week: 43 laureates, 14 faculty members and 3 representatives from UCLG. Delegates received training in participatory research and in writing policy-relevant research proposals. Over the final two days, another 25 participants – researchers, practitioners and government officials – joined local policy labs to brainstorm together around concrete problems to suggest policy recommendations and identify potential research topics.
The sessions were interactive and stimulated cross-disciplinary collaboration and the exchange of ideas in response to some of society’s most pressing challenges. Some of the key learnings from the discussions were:
- Many of the policies adopted by local governments are not transformative but instead reactive and often seek to simply quell conflict at one moment in time, rather than addressing the issue of inclusion in a way that is more forward-looking.
- A fully transformative agenda must seek to engage with competing interest, complexity and messiness, the unknowns which are inevitable in the future, and questions of power and politics.
“Best academic conference of my life”
The academy resulted in a new international network of scholars in the field of local democracy. The incredible depth and breadth of knowledge on display at the academy led many participants to describe it as the best conference the had attended. Feedback from participants included:
– It was a fruitful experience which enriched my understanding on local democracy worldwide.
– An excellent opportunity to develop longstanding relations between researchers.
– Best academic conference of my life!
For more information about the Local Democracy academy, go to: www.icld.se/LDA