INSPIRE – Intersectional Spaces of Participation: Inclusive, Resilient, Embedded

INSPIRE – Intersectional Spaces of Participation: Inclusive, Resilient, Embedded

Sonia Bussu
Other Organisations
Charles University, Prague
Platoniq Foundation
University of Edinburgh
Aphelion Ltd (CiviQ)
University of Lisbon
University of Warsaw
University of Cork
Institute of Philosophy, Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS)
Tarsadalomtudomanyi Kutatokozpont (TK)
King’s College London
Prossima Democrazia
Lancaster University
Autonomous University of Barcelona


This project responded to a Horizon Europe call on Intersectionality and equality in deliberative and participatory democratic spaces. 

We propose a transdisciplinary approach that brings together 17 partners from Northern, Southern, Central and Eastern Europe, including researchers, practitioners and digital designers with extensive knowledge of democratic innovations. In line with a transdisciplinary approach, we employ three key ideas: the political economy of participation, co-design, and assemblage theory.

Our premise is that Democratic Innovations (DI) designs too often decouple citizen participation from the socio-economic context in which it happens. INSPIRE takes a holistic approach that examines how participatory practices emerge, interact and change in relation to a situated context with a strong focus on socioeconomic factors that affect people’s capabilities to participate, or the political economy of participation.

We also argue that the predominant approach to designing democratic innovations across Europe has so far been mostly top-down and ad hoc, with a tendency to universalise modes of participation that respond to the expectations and resources of a narrow demographic (e.g., white, educated, middle-class, older). We will co-design participatory spaces in seven pilots involving different groups historically marginalised in policymaking and public life. To strengthen inclusiveness, we will use a range of methods, including arts-based and creative methods such as legislative theatre and game-like frameworks for interaction. To support our intersectional approach across the pilots, we will work with our partner Platoniq (responsible for the development of the participatory civic tech platform Decidim) to establish Decidim as a usable, accessible, and margin-responsive platform.

To analyse intersectional equality within these participatory spaces, we’ll use assemblage theory, a conceptual framework that emphasises the interconnectedness and the dynamic nature of reality. It acknowledges the agency of various  components, both human and non-human, and how these interact and coalesce to form temporary and ever-changing configurations known as "assemblages." We hope this framework will help to overcome the linearity and oversimplification that sometimes characterise methodological approaches in the field, which tend to overlook the dynamism, complexity, and messiness of participatory practices. Thus, it can help us to develop conceptualisations of democratic innovations, beyond just institutional characteristics and arrangements, as plural, experimental and multifaceted, highlighting interactions between different democratic practices, contexts and actors.

The project includes 5 research WPs that carry out

  • macro and meso-level research on the social, economic, political and cultural conditions that shape intersectional equality within participatory assemblages and affect embeddedness and resilience of DI processes;
  • micro-level analysis of spaces of participation co-designed with marginalised groups (e.g., young people; migrant women; disabled people) through a series of pilots across consortium countries, to test our intersectional assemblage-informed approach, tapping into the consortium expertise in arts-based, creative and digital methods;
  • coproduction of new knowledge with public officials and a range of stakeholders to evaluate and compare inclusive approaches to digital and analogue participation and reflect on ways to pragmatically design and implement intersectionally-inclusive participatory processes.
Participation Spectrum

When and Where

Start Year
End Year

Policy Context

Policy Stage
Context of activity
Science or Policy Field


Other participants
Communities or representatives involved
Young people, migrant communities, disabled people, social housing tenants
How were the Participants selected?


Methodologies used
Methodology description
• Legislative Theatre (LT) (Boal 1996) is an established participatory approach for creative, community-led policy change. It helps re-design the power dynamics of traditional policy-making spaces, so that communities most impacted by oppressive institutions take the lead on identifying problems and co-developing solutions with public officials and an audience of spect-actors from the wider community (UK and Portugal pilots).
• Participatory Performance Lectures combine simulated practice integrated with an art-based teaching strategy. This includes firstly a presentation of the problem by the facilitators using both artistic and cognitive tools (sound design, light design, dance, argumentation, schemes presentation, critical analysis). The art-based argumentation opens and frames the so-called “facilitating environment” or “participatory playground” for the audience. Participants are then offered to share, express and discuss their standpoints, doubts, experience within the frameworks and discover their personal resources for resilience, problem shooting, collaboration, trust and well-being together with others (Czech pilot).
• Living labs are characterised as user-centred, open innovation ecosystems that integrate research and innovation processes in real communities and locations (Durose, Escobar et al. 2019). They are built on a systematic user co-creation methodology. Combined with research methods such as action research they open opportunities for participants to gain and coproduce knowledge and apply it in their day-to-day life (Bulgarian and Irish pilots).
We will use these and other creative methods to bring fun, creativity and joy to the forefront of participation and policy-change, while sensitively naming structural racism, sexism, ageism, classism, and ableism as forces in institutional practice. We gamify the policy process to prioritise access, radical creativity, and sustained and equitable participation.


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The project starts in April 2024 - we'll add more information over the next three years.


Main Challenges
Lessons Learn
The project starts in April 2024 and will last 36 months.
The project starts in April 2024 and will last 36 months.