Across Europe there is a rise of political movements that claim to challenge liberal elites and speak for the “ordinary person” – movements that can be loosely categorised as “populist”. Many of these movements have undesirable tendencies including: intolerance of others, a tendency to polarise issues, reductionist decision making and the weakening of democratic accountability. However, not all anti-elitist movements are like this; for example, in Iceland the response to corruption and their banking crisis of 2007/8 was towards more liberalism and constitutional reform.
The Populism and Civic Engagement project (PaCE) is responding to a key political and institutional question of the contemporary moment – what is the meaning of the rise of different types of populist movements for democracy and for EU political and liberal institutions, and how should these institutions respond?
PaCE aims to combat the negative tendencies of populist movements, to build upon the lessons of positive examples (such as Iceland’s response to corruption), and hence play a part in constructing a firmer democratic and institutional foundation for the citizens of Europe.
The project will use an innovative mix of research methods, including machine learning, model-based simulations, narrative analysis and foresight methodologies.
Trilateral will be:
PaCE cannot solve the deep problems of negative populist tendencies on its own, but it does aim to develop the analysis, tools and outcomes to underpin the development of new structures and responses that will mitigate these aspects in a context-sensitive manner.
The project will look further into the future, developing new visions concerning the directions our democracies could take (positive and negative) and it will warn about emerging threats to democracy itself.
The analysis and machine learning tools developed within the project to identify and tag narratives will allow these to be identified and tracked in near real-time, facilitating a deeper understanding of how these relate to underlying concerns. They will thus help inform better directed democratic responses, showing where and how citizen voices need to be listened to and responded to.
Furthermore, PaCE will be integrative in its impact by building in engagement and citizen input from the start so that analytic insights are shaped and guided by democratic engagement.
The ultimate ambition of PaCE is to contribute to the groundwork for a more permanent “Populism Watch” network that can continue this work after the project has finished.
Please contact our team for more information:
The PaCE project – Populism and Civic engagement – has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 822337.