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International Observatory on Participatory Democracy (IOPD)

December 2, 2019 ferraiolifrancisco
May 8, 2019 Scott Fletcher, Participedia Team
November 20, 2015 Carolina
Avinyó 15 1a planta

The International Observatory on Participatory Democracy is a global centre of reference for the production of knowledge, research and development of participatory democracy. Its network is made up of over 800 members.

Mission and Purpose

The International Observatory on Participatory Democracy (IOPD) is a global network open to cities, associations, organizations, and research centres interested in learning about, exchanging knowledge, and implementing and innovating forms of participatory democracy. The IOPD is mainly focused on growing participatory government on the local scale with the aim of deepening the roots of democracy in municipal government.[1]

As an international network, the IOPD goes under several different names: Observatorio Internacional de la Democracia Participativa (OIDP),[2] Observatoire international de la démocratie participative (OIDP),[3] and Observatório Internacional da Democracia Participativa (OIDP).[4] 

Origins and Development 

The network was created in 2001 within the framework of the European Commission’s URB-AL programme for decentralized cooperation. It was officially constituted in November 2001 during the 1st Annual Conference of the IOPD in Barcelona, where their internal operating regulations were approved. Since 2006 the IOPD has coordinated with United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), mainly on the design of a joint framework of collaboration with the Committee on Social Inclusion and Participatory Democracy (CSIPD).

Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding

The IOPD Presidency and the Technical Secretariat are the two basic internal bodies and are held by associates of the cities and local governments that belong to the IOPD network. Appointments to these posts are reached through consensus vote held at the annual assembly. The Presidency is held for one year and the winning candidate city must agree to host that year’s annual conference. The conference is hosted by a city on a different continent each year. 

The General or Technical Secretariat post is held for 3 years and is renewable. The position has been held by the Barcelona City Council since the creation of the network.[5]

The Technical Secretariat carries out the daily work of the network, including management of the website and media library, preparation and publicisation of the IOPD initiatives and annual international conference. The Technical Secretariat is also the public face of the the IOPD, acting as the network’s representative and maintaining relations with the member institutions.[6]

The Coordinating Committee was created in 2004 to improve network efficiency. Comprising “the most active, committed associate and collaborating members of the network,” the committee meets several times a year, following up on projects and initiatives, and contributing proposals and suggestions for the improvement and development of the IOPD.[7]

In November 2011, a collaboration agreement was reached with the city of Porto Alegre to head the regional office of the OIDP for Latin America. This decentralisation of the organisation's structure was taken in an attempt to improve efficiency. In line with this need, the International Observatory for Participatory Democracy Platform for Africa was launched in Dakar on December 2012. Coordinated by ENDA-Ecopop, the platform focuses on local community initiatives, resources for participatory innovators, a forum for discussions on topics related to democratic governance, and online training and web conferencing.[8]

Established in 2001, the IOPD network now has over 800 members in 91 countries including towns, cities, associations, organisations, and research centres dedicated to the study and implementation of participatory democracy. There are no membership dues and membership is open to all who apply.[9]

Specializations, Methods and Tools

Since 2011, the IOPD has focussed its efforts on becoming a space for the production and exchange of knowledge around participatory democracy and good governance among the towns and cities that are party to the network. This work is largely carried out through its online repository of publications and case studies, annual conference, working groups, and ‘Best Practice in Citizens’ Participation’ Award. It is committed to diversifying the composition of its network and to decentralize its structure to help identify, evaluate and orient the development of participatory democracy in local contexts. The IOPD actively pursues collaboration and relationships with international organizations.[10]

Major Projects and Events

International Conference

Every year since its creation the IOPD has held an international conference to advance discussions on participatory democracy and enable those attending to share experience and information in this field.[11] 

IOPD Distinction for Good Practice in Citizen Participation

An award to recognize innovative experiences in participatory democracy that favour citizen participation and involvement in the preparation and implementation of public policies.[12]

Local Observatories on Participatory Democracy

In 2004, the IOPD undertook a project to create a network of “Local Observatories on Participatory Democracy” (LOPDs) to develop an evaluatory method for participation, informed by a wide variety of political, social, economic and regional perspectives. Ten LOPDs were established in Europea and Latin America. While the choice and developed of the LOPDs’ goals and methodologies depended on the needs and characteristics of their social realities, their work was to be carried out with an eye to joint action. The project was carried out within the framework of the URB-AL Programme and concluded in April 2007.[13] 

IOPD Work Groups

The definition of the IOPD work groups has taken shape within the framework of the annual conference. Reflection focuses on ways of promoting tools that strengthen democracy and give added impetus to the active participation of citizens in debates, designs, decisions and the implementation of public policies. All interested IOPD members may participate in the work groups and contribute to them. Each group is coordinated by a city, which, with the support of the Technical Secretariat, is responsible for issuing framework documents on work to be carried out, collecting contributions from members and making the work group as dynamic as possible. One of the results of these work groups is the Local Observatories on Participatory Democracy project, which was originally included within the framework of the European Commission’s URB-AL programme for decentralized cooperation. Its main goal is to create local observatories in a number of European and Latin American cities to identify, evaluate and orient the development of different forms of participatory democracy and thereby to help direct the course of experiences that are under way.[14]

Analysis and Lessons Learned

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The IOPD website offers a publicly-accessible database of original and member-contributed case studies, papers and other documents, news, links, and event invitations.[15]

See Also


[1] “About IOPD,”




[5] “Structure,”

[6] “Structure,”

[7] “Structure,”

[8] “Structure,”

[9] “International Observatory on Participatory Democracy: 15 Years Sharing Experiences,”

[10] “About IOPD,”

[11] “IOPD Conference,”

[12] “Distinction ‘Best Practice in Citizen Participation’,”

[13] “Local Observatories on Participatory Democracy,”

[14] “Work groups,”

[15] “Publications,”

External Links

English Website: 


Lead image: International Observatory on Participatory Democracy - IOPD/Facebook,