Local Democracy Labs

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Local Democracy Labs

ICLD Local Democracy Labs is a space for local government officers and politicians to meet researchers and have a dialogue on global challenges with a local perspective. They are inspired in efforts to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals with local policies.

Local governments, engaged in either the Municipal Partnership Programme, or our International Training Programme can participate in the labs by sending a question they want to discuss with a group of competent and leading researchers in the field of local democracy. By getting input from experts on a specific question, local government officials can gain an interdisciplinary perspective and be equipped with new knowledge. Researchers can contribute with their expertise, problematize the issues raised, share relevant cases and provide policy recommendations. Thus, researchers contribute with their knowledge and get inspiration for further research.

The Local Democracy Labs does not require special preparation. We would like it to be experienced as a friendly conversation where research and practice meet and where all ideas are welcomed. Of course, the digital format poses both opportunities and challenges when discussing such important matters, but nevertheless we are trying to do something that contributes to a more informed understanding of the questions at hand.


The format is simple:

  • One question from municipal politicians or civil servants
  • One hour for discussion
  • One meeting between researchers and local government officials and politicians.

Prior to conducting a Local Democracy Lab, we at the ICLD reach out to scholars that we think could enrich the conversation with their perspective and knowledge. The conversations in zoom are moderated by the ICLD team and the format during the hour conversation is the following

  • 5 min round of introductions: name, institution and how it relates to your research
  • 5 min for the county representatives to clarify the background of the question and why is important.
  • 40 min discussion
  • 5 min summing up

Upcoming labs

The next Local Democracy Lab is organised together with the Local Democracy Academy on the 7th of June 2022, together with the invited researchers from the following fields:

  • Climate action
  • Feminist cities
  • Child friendly cities
  • Equitable health
  • Tactical urbanism
  • Participatory budgeting
  • Digital services in local governments
  • Transformative local governance

Read more about the research fields here.

All team members within an ICLD municipal partnership can participate and we recommend that both the Swedish team and the partner team are involved to have a discussion that reflects both parties’ needs and problems. Politicians play a key role in the Labs as they can get information and data to make knowledge-based policies. By participating in the Labs, your team can get access to a group of competent researchers that can provide input on a specific question. They can help your team to problematize the issues raised, share relevant cases, and provide policy recommendations.

The format is simple:

  • Local governments send one question they would like to discuss and get input from researchers.
  • Your team meets the researchers on June 7th during 1:15 hours for a discussion online.
  • It does not require special preparation, all questions are welcomed, and the conversations are moderated by the ICLD team.

Deadline for local governments to send their question: 30th of April 2022
The agenda will be ready: 20th of May 2022
Time of the Lab: June 7th 2022 13.00-17.15

Are you a researcher interested in contributing to the discussion or a Local Government interested in participating? Email Robin Alnäs at robin.alnäs@icld.se

Previous labs

The latest Local Democracy Lab was arranged for the participants of the Human Rights Network on the 20th of September 2021 with the following questions:

“How has the pandemic affected gender-based violence, how can it be fixed, and what needs to be done?”
“How do we as local government manage the pressing need for land for housing against the need to ensure the protection of our biospheres and the environment in general?”
“What is the best way to incorporate civic leaders into opening their doors to embrace youth and women participation in decision making and policy formulation?”

Our first lab was on the 4th of March 2021 with the theme “Gender Equal Cities” with researchers with experience or knowledge of East Africa. Their expertise ranged within the fields of gender issues, masculinities, and city planning. The questions covered were:

“What effects has the COVID 19 Pandemic had on gender equality work ?”
“How can we change cultural norms on Gender-Based Violence while protecting family units?”
 “How do County Governments support teenage mothers (child mothers) in terms of continuation of their educational journeys and economic empowerment without negatively influencing other young girls in schools?”
“How should integrated development planning be done in order to reflect social inclusion at City level”
“How to maintain the sustainability of the gains made in the change processes of equal ownership of public transport?”

Read more

Film about the local democracy labs