Inspiring Initiatives and ECF Princess Margriet Awards Laureates at Borders to Cross conference

In October 2013, we participated as one of the twelve partners to the Borders to Cross international conference in Amsterdam, which was all about sharing new democratic practices and civic-driven change. The three days offered thought-provoking workshops, networking opportunities and theoretical reflection on social and democratic innovation –tying in perfectly with our new strategic focus: Connecting Culture, Communities and Democracy

At the heart of the conference was a series of 21 workshops showcasing 40 of the most inspiring and innovative initiatives from 20 different countries around the world. ECF was delighted to welcome both 2014 ECF Princess Margriet Award laureates to the conference to present their unique perspectives on local innovation and citizen engagement at two of the workshops.

Sylvia de Fanti and Daniele Borgia, representing the award-winning initiative Teatro Valle Occupato, spoke at the plenary and gave a workshop on Arts & Culture, showcasing the strength of culture as initiator of societal change. Teodor Celakoski, the second award winner, presented in the round-table and led a workshop on Activism, together with Olivier Schulbaum of online platform Goteo,  exemplifying how strategic activism can influence policy-making. Here's an overview (PDF) of some of the other intriguing initiatives.

The conference was opened by keynote speaker Geoff Mulgan – Chief Executive of the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts (NESTA). In his opening remarks, he discussed the future of democratic and social innovation.

Other highlights of the conference included the closing session by the Dutch Minister of the Interior Ronald Plasterk followed by a presentation by Jim Diers, who captivated the audience with the inspiring story of his lifelong work with the city of Seattle (USA) and the changes achieved there through participatory democracy.

Highlights from the Borders to Cross Conference 2013 on democratic innovation and civic driven change. (Created by Sebastiaan ter Burg)


One of the main challenges identified was how to connect local experiences to the European level.

A few results identified as being vital to scale up initiatives were:

  • NGO’s need to produce convincing data as they also suffer from a lack of trust from society;
  • Both politicians and civil society must undergo a shift of relational attitude towards each other, to allow information exchange that benefits society;
  • Governance structures in place should not be dismantled, but more spaces to meet for politicians and civil society should be created.

All participants were in favour to sustain the Borders to Cross network and to plan a next conference in 2016. Therefore stay connected on Borders to Cross' social media (TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn group) to follow up the important discussions and new steps ahead.


To bring the Borders to Cross conference to life, the Netherlands Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations partnered with ECF, Ministry of Health, Welfare & Sport (VWS); the Ministry of Infrastructure & Environment (I&M); the Erasmus Prize; the City of Amsterdam; Duurzaam Door; University of Amsterdam and Leuven; Network Democracy; European Alternatives; G1000; European Civic Forum; EYCA; and Kracht in NL.