How we helped the region of Wallonia identify promising democratic innovations

A 2-day workshop with the Public Service of Wallonia to guide the region's participatory democracy efforts and identify further democratic innovations for 2024-2029

Hackathon Wallonia Namur Democratic innovation

 On 24-25 October 2023, Smarter Together brought together 5 experts of Collective Intelligence from its network to work alongside 20 civil servants from the Public Service of Wallonia in Belgium (Service Public de Wallonie) to brainstorm possible governance innovations for the next 5 years.

Identifying concrete democratic innovations for Wallonia’s public service

Democratic innovation – finding new ways of including more citizens, experts, data and technologies in democratic life – has become a key concern for many countries and regions. But which ideas have concrete chances of success and potential for impact?

To find out, this workshop aimed to identify and formulate such proposals for concrete democratic innovations that could be implemented by the Region over the coming legislature (2024-2029). 

This creative exercise builds on the lessons learned from recent citizen participation schemes implemented in Wallonia and beyond, as well as other governance schemes likely to bring greater inclusivity and diversity to the shaping, implementation and evaluation of Wallonia’s public policies.

Our democratic innovation hackathon program:

Day 1:

Together with volunteer members of Wallonia’s public service, we identified the challenges that citizen participation faces in Wallonia, based on the participants’ shared vision of what it should look like by 2029.

20 civil servants built a shared vision using photo language, a SWOT diagnosis, and identified the main challenges facing citizen participation in Wallonia.

Then, using a creativity boosting exercise, participants reformulated these issues and sorted them into four priority categories of challenges.

Using the “brainwriting” method, participants finally drew out the various dimensions of these challenges (impact, feasibility,…), then converged around several key proposals for action, while striving to respond to the most pressing issues.

Day 2:

From these initial ideas, we identified the highest priority challenges for citizen participation and formulated 19 concrete actions that will enable Wallonia to address these challenges in the coming 5 years.

Together, experts and public servants fostered:

19 innovative, bold reforms that the civil servants agreed upon, such as: a charter setting out the main principles of participation to be respected to avoid civic washing, a cross service community of practice around citizen participation, a training programme for public agents around participation and listening skills. Among the 19 initiatives, some are to be implemented by the public service of Wallonia themselves, while others will fall under the jurisdiction of the next government of Wallonia.


Renewed commitment and a strengthened community: The seminar was the opportunity for an unprecedented dialogue across departments within Wallonia’s public service, including officials involved in devising democratic innovations and implementing citizen engagement processes in one form or another. This cross-cutting dialogue led to renewed commitment, and set up the exchange of lesson learned and best practices in the coming months.

A shared map of the risks and challenges facing new democratic processes in the coming years (unchecked AI, insufficient political interest, lack of coordination between services, insufficient legal framework…).


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Looking for expert input to boost your own democratic innovation? We can help

We offered this workshop pro bono thanks to the support of the Porticus Foundation.

If you are interested in benefiting from and/or sponsoring such a Smarter Democracy Hackathon at the local, regional or national level, reach out to us at: [email protected] 

How we can help you: 

  • Experienced collective intelligence experts: for over 20 years, Stephen Boucher has advised governments, regions and cities on how to best leverage their citizens’ collective brainpower. His team at Dreamocracy includes facilitators specialized in participation, collaborative governance and change management.
  • Fresh and evidence based insights: our recently published Routledge Handbook of Collective Intelligence for Democracy and Governance serves as a rich source of knowledge, with inspiring case studies and expert insights into the principles of collective intelligence.

Inspiring case studies on Collective Intelligence and governance

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Handbook of Collective Intelligence for Democracy and Governance

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