Publications

    Disrupting the Party: A Case Study of Ahora Madrid and Its Participatory Innovations

    Quinton Mayne and Cecilia Nicolini, September 2020 

    In this paper, Quinton Mayne and Cecilia Nicolini examine the rise of Ahora Madrid, a progressive electoral alliance that—to the surprise of onlookers—managed to gain political control, just a few months after being formed, of the Spanish capital following the 2015 municipal elections. Headed by the unassuming figure of Manuela Carmena, a former judge, Ahora Madrid won voters over with a bold agenda that reimagined the relationship between citizens and city hall. Mayne and Nicolini’s analysis is a case study of this innovation agenda. The paper begins by exploring how Ahora Madrid’s agenda emerged as a response to, and built off of, historic levels of political disaffection and mass mobilization spurred by the 2008–2014 Spanish financial crisis. The authors examine how the alliance’s agenda of democratic disruption was realized, first through an unusual bottom-up electoral campaign and then, after taking office, by challenging and rethinking established relations between public officials, civil society, and city residents.  

    Mayne and Nicolini show that while Ahora Madrid’s time in power was not without its challenges, it still successfully implemented a set of far-reaching democratic reforms centered on institutional innovation. This included the creation of an internationally recognized online civic engagement platform, the establishment of neighborhood forums, and the implementation of a €100 million participatory budgeting process. Although Ahora Madrid lost the 2019 elections and the city swung back to the right, a number of its reforms, explored by Mayne and Nicolini in the case study’s conclusion, live on in an altered form, serving as a reminder of the alliance’s original bold vision for the city. 

    Sanderijn Cels, Jorrit de Jong, Marijn Groenleer, and Erica Weinberger; July 2020 

    In June 2015, a task force convened in the Netherlands to consider cross-sectoral approaches to fighting organized crime in the south of the country, particularly in the homegrown marijuana industry. From that larger group, five professional managers and officials were tasked with devising an approach to target and break up criminal drug gangs that paid or coerced residents in beleaguered neighborhoods to grow pot in back rooms or attics; activities which put a huge strain on the power supply and greatly increased the risk of fire.

    The five men did not know each other and came from different organizations or professional backgrounds with their own training and ideas: the police, the regional utility company, the national tax bureau, the mayor’s office in nearby Breda, and the public prosecutor’s office. A policeman would not see the problem, or the solution, in the same way as a utility company manager. How would the five manage to work together—not just devise an approach, but return to their organizations and convince their bosses and colleagues this could work? Not all of the team were based in the City of Breda, but Breda, under the auspices of Mayor Paul Depla, would serve as the first trial ground to identify a neighborhood and carry out an operation to see if the new cross-sectoral approach could work.

    Thanks to a gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies, no permission is required to teach with, download, or make copies of this case.

    Fernando Monge, Jorrit de Jong, and Linda Bilmes; June 2020  

    In 2018, Bilbao was presented with the Best European City award, adding the prize to a long list the Spanish city had collected since the mid-2000s. The success was often attributed to the Guggenheim museum, giving name to the "Guggenheim effect." This was based on a fairly shallow assessment of the City's transformation. In fact, the building blocks of Bilbao's transformation are to be found in the collaborative efforts established by government entities during the 1990s, in the context of a deep economic, political, and social crisis.

    Thanks to a gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies, no permission is required to teach with, download, or make copies of this case.