The Europe Challenge for Libraries

How do different communities around Europe contribute to the building of public spaces? What Is the role of public libraries in this?

In 2021, we've worked with The European Cultural Foundation (ECF) and established the pilot of the Europe Challenge, with the full first now starting. In the pilot year, 2021, ECF in partnership with Amsterdam Public Libraries (OBA), Public Libraries 2030 and us at Democratic Society invited seven libraries to work with their citizens and communities.

We are calling on every library in Europe to apply to the 2022 Europe Challenge: from public libraries to mobile, rural, school, university and prison libraries, municipal and national libraries.

Check out the new Europe Challenge website and learn on how to apply!

The Challenge

Europe today faces great challenges: social, economic and climate crises, especially as it rebuilds after the arrival of the pandemic. Europe’s citizens must lead the response - and while solutions will be local, they will often work for communities everywhere. Wherever you are in Europe, libraries play the same vital roles. Open to everyone, they are centres of learning, places to meet, spaces for reflection, at the heart of communities. No other institution is so local, yet so universally welcoming and recognisable to us all.

The Europe Challenge recognises that libraries have a unique role in helping communities to meet the challenges of where we live, challenges that are common across Europe. We're bringing libraries and communities together to define their most pressing challenges, and supports them to find ways to tackle those.

Participating libraries and communities identified their challenge, responding to the question: How do we contribute to the building of public spaces and engage in democratic conversations? Challenges included:

  • Active citizenship
  • Access to knowledge & digital transition
  • Public health & technology
  • Inclusion & equal rights
  • Environmental sustainability of urban areas
  • Women & technology
  • Democratisation of our public space

Pilot year (2021):

  • Feb, 2021: Seven libraries start learning exchange and citizen engagement
  • May, 2021: Kick-off: Communities invited to set their own challenges
  • September, 2021: Prototyping stage – communities develop their solutions
  • March, 2022: Libraries and communities assess their prototypes
  • May, 2022: Prototypes are showcased at the Europe Challenge Awards
On Europe Day, 9 May 2022, all participants will be presented as part of the Europe Challenge Awards, where they will showcase prototypes to peers across Europe and potential funders – and attract support to implement their ideas at scale.

First edition (2022):

  • May 2022: Communities and libraries are invited to set their challenges through an open call
  • June 2022: Deadline for submitting challenges
  • July 2022: Selected challenges announced and get funding and support
  • September, 2022: Prototyping stage – communities develop their solutions
  • March, 2023: Libraries and communities assess their prototypes
  • May, 2023: Prototypes are showcased at the Europe Challenge Award

2022 & Beyond

From May 2022, the Europe Challenge will follow a recurring annual cycle, starting with an open call, and concluding with the Europe Challenge Award on the 9th of May of the following year. Communities & libraries taking part will benefit from a scalable model of support, including planning, financial, methodological and communications guidance from Demsoc and the ECF. The 2022 round will be open to at least 25 communities.

Further info

Pandora Ellis

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