Future of Democracy Event

“How do we master transformation?”

Over 700 progressive thinkers came together on 10 October 2019, to discuss their ideas for the transformation of our democratic system. 32 speakers from over 11 European countries hosted workshops, inspire-talks, and a panel discussion.

“This day is not about the incremental reform of our system. We certainly do believe that we need more incremental innovation both with regards to the political space and the economic space. But we also realized that this is not enough. This is why we focus on democratic transformation today,” explained Innocracy’s Strategic Lead Hanno Burmester in his opening remarks.



With these words he signalled the objective of the day: “Instead of asking how we can improve the given picture – as innovation would do – we ask how we must reconfigure its frame – which is what transformation aims to do. So we will ask which new ground rules our societies need to be able to meet those existential challenges which today and tomorrow will bring.”

In total, more than 700 participants followed this call to action and joined 22 sessions at the Innocracy Conference and subsequent Golden Autumn Night of Das Progressive Zentrum.



The conference rested on three conceptual pillars, namely Sustainable Democracy, Digital Democracy, and Democratic Mindset. 32 speakers from 11 European countries gave inspire-talks, keynotes, workshops and participated in panel discussions on the matter (see full programme).

Innocracy 2019: An incomplete list of highlights

Among the hosts was Uffe Elbæk. The founder and leader of “The Alternative” party in Denmark stressed in his keynote speech that relationships – to one’s community, oneself and nature – have a crucial role in revitalising our democracy. He called upon the audience: “Please wake up, feel, relate, speak up, make friends and most importantly, act together.”



Ana Babovic, who is the Executive Director at the “Leading Change Network” in Serbia, gave a workshop on “Finding the courage to take action! – Using narratives as enabler for change”. She made the case that no movement or political system can sustain itself without appealing to the emotions of its subjects.

Her approach is to develop leadership strategies that focus on telling personal, engaging stories:I understand ‘personal narrative’ as a leadership skill, so skillfully using personal narratives as drivers for change. These narratives tell us what the people care about, why it is that they care about it and then because they deeply care they feel inspired to act and to involve others to act.”

A third perspective on the future of democratic engagement was given by Neal Lawson, author, journalist and director of “Compass” in the United Kingdom, who talked about “Top-down and bottom-up? Citizen participation in times of transformation”.

He attempts to reconcile the dichotomy between the two approaches, since “a future that is negotiated has to come from the bottom-up and the top-down. We see the emerging practice from civil society in localities everywhere. But it has to be nurtured, it has to be supported, it has to be accelerated and aggregated and that means the role of the state nationally and locally has to facilitate active citizen participation. So top-down and bottom-up have to come together in a fault-line in the good new society.”

We have recorded more than 10 sessions!

Innocracy 2019 Videos

Golden Autumn Night

The Golden Autumn Night was inaugurated by Sabrina Schulz, Policy Fellow at Das Progressive Zentrum, who spoke about “The just transition and its discontents”. She stressed the need to combine social justice and climate policy demands, to account for an equal distribution of the costs of the climate crisis in society. 

According to her, this can only be done through an active state: “By definition, a just transition is about an active state. A state that provides very clear regulatory frameworks on the permitted amount of emissions for all sectors of the economy in a given period. But it’s also about a state that makes sure that the burdens of climate policy are distributed fairly in society.”

Speaker Sabrina Schulz during her Keynote speech

The day culminated in a panel discussion titled “… And now what?! How to master the socio-ecological transformation of democracy”, featuring Emma Fuchs, a climate activist at “Fridays for Future”, Sven Giegold, MEP for the Greens/ EFA, R. Andreas Kraemer, who is the founder of the “Ecologic Institute” and an adjunct professor at Duke University, Ophélie Omnes, a presidium member of the Young European Federalists, as well as, Ria Schröder, the president of the Young Liberals Germany. Among others, they debated the possibility of a European approach to climate protection, in which they criticized, both, the insufficiency of the European institutions and the market to regulate itself.



We would like to thank all participants for making this day a memorable one full of inspiring talks and exciting new connections. We would also like to particularly thank all session hosts which made their way to Berlin for this special occasion, and hope that lasting relationships and connections will arise from this conference. Above all, we would like to thank our partners the BMFSFJ (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend), the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft as well as the Tagesspiegel for the media partnership.




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Noémi Shirin Unkel

published on

28 October 2019