Feminist democratic innovations in policy and politics

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Paloma Caravantes Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain

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Emanuela Lombardo Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain

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This article examines the potential of feminist democratic innovations in policy and institutional politics. It examines how feminist democratic innovations can be conceptualised and articulated in local institutions. Combining theories on democratic governance, feminist democracy, social movements, municipalism, decentralisation, gender equality policies and state feminism, it conceptualises feminist democratic innovations in policy and politics as innovations oriented at (a) transforming knowledge, (b) transforming policymaking and public funding, (c) transforming institutions, and (d) transforming actors’ coalitions. Through analysis of municipal plans and interviews with key actors, the article examines feminist democratic innovations in the policy and politics of Barcelona’s local government from 2015 to 2023. Emerging from the mobilisation of progressive social movements after the 2008 economic crisis, the findings uncover a laboratory of feminist municipal politics, following the election of a new government and self-proclaimed feminist mayor. Critical actors and an enabling political context play a pivotal role in the adoption of this feminist institutional politics. The article concludes by arguing that feminist institutional politics at the local level contribute to democratising policy and politics in innovative ways, in particular encouraging inclusive intersectionality and participatory discourses and practices.

Abstract

This article examines the potential of feminist democratic innovations in policy and institutional politics. It examines how feminist democratic innovations can be conceptualised and articulated in local institutions. Combining theories on democratic governance, feminist democracy, social movements, municipalism, decentralisation, gender equality policies and state feminism, it conceptualises feminist democratic innovations in policy and politics as innovations oriented at (a) transforming knowledge, (b) transforming policymaking and public funding, (c) transforming institutions, and (d) transforming actors’ coalitions. Through analysis of municipal plans and interviews with key actors, the article examines feminist democratic innovations in the policy and politics of Barcelona’s local government from 2015 to 2023. Emerging from the mobilisation of progressive social movements after the 2008 economic crisis, the findings uncover a laboratory of feminist municipal politics, following the election of a new government and self-proclaimed feminist mayor. Critical actors and an enabling political context play a pivotal role in the adoption of this feminist institutional politics. The article concludes by arguing that feminist institutional politics at the local level contribute to democratising policy and politics in innovative ways, in particular encouraging inclusive intersectionality and participatory discourses and practices.

Introduction

Democratic innovations in institutional politics are ‘processes or institutions’ aimed at improving the quality of democracy beyond electoral politics to ‘reimagine and deepen the role of citizens in governance processes’ (Elstub and Escobar, 2019: 11) by including the voices, knowledge and experiences of civil society (Martínez-Palacios, 2018; della Porta, 2020) in the definition of policy problems and solutions. Examples of democratic innovations are participatory processes of constitutional reform, participatory budgeting or policymaking that involve civil society in institutional processes (Elstub and Escobar, 2019; della Porta, 2020), be it by ‘invitation’ or by the autonomous ‘irruption’ of actors who offer specific policy proposals to public institutions (Martínez-Palacios, 2018: 112; Alonso, 2019).

This article examines the potential for democratic innovation in feminist institutional policy and politics at the local level. It does so by asking: (a) how can we conceptualise feminist democratic innovations in policy and politics? and (b) how are these articulated in local institutional politics? Feminist politics has the potential for democratic innovation as a political project that struggles ‘to end sexist oppression’ (hooks, 1984: 24) and transform unequal gender and intersectional hierarchies through an ‘analysis of injustice’, ‘a vision of an alternative’, and actions to redress injustice (Dean and Maiguashca, 2018: 386). Reimagining and deepening citizens’ role in governance and policy processes by embedding intersectional inclusion and participation are important concerns of feminist projects. According to Elstub and Escobar (2019: 16), the term ‘democratic innovation’ is connected to feminist politics, appearing first in Leidner’s (1991) point about democratic governance in the National Women’s Studies Association on how ‘majority electoral processes contradict core feminist principles of giving voice to minority groups’.

Our focus here is on institutional feminism or feminism developed by state actors (Stetson and Mazur, 2010). Institutional feminism has contributed to innovations in institutions’ politics at national, subnational and transnational levels through ‘feminist principles such as promoting norms of gender equality, applying a gender lens to policies and consulting with diverse communities of women’ (Sawer et al, 2023: 2). Thus, feminist democratic innovation (Martínez-Palacios, 2018) is conceptualised here as feminist politics which contributes to democratising institutional politics in innovative ways to the extent that it reimagines citizens’ role in governance and policy processes by proposing intersectionally inclusive and participatory policy and politics.

To capture the inclusive and participatory character of feminist democratic innovations in policy and politics, we define and analyse them as oriented at (a) transforming knowledge, (b) transforming policymaking and public funding, (c) transforming institutions, and (d) transforming actors’ coalitions. We identify these categories by drawing on scholarly literature.

This article addresses feminist democratic innovations in the policy and politics of Barcelona’s local government from 2015 to 2023 through an analysis of municipal plans and interviews with key actors. Democratic innovations can emerge in critical junctures like the 2008 economic crisis, as a result of the introduction of new ideas and practices that progressive social movements experimented with (della Porta, 2020). Barcelona has been a laboratory of feminist municipal politics (Cruells and Alfama, 2019) after the 2015 elections that followed civil society mobilisations to deepen democracy and counteract neoliberal policies after the 2008 crisis.

Barcelona’s 2015–23 government embodies the experience of a public institution shaped by the struggles of progressive social movements (della Porta and Zamponi, 2022), in which feminist critical actors from institutions and civil society had the opportunity to tailor politics and policymaking (Lombardo and Alonso, 2020). This, per se, does not constitute a democratic innovation, since capacity for ‘newness’ is always ‘nested’ in former institutional and contextual legacies that constrain policy action (Mackay, 2014). What Barcelona’s 2015–23 government shows is the impact of feminist critical actors shaping democratic innovations. They did so by embedding intersectional inclusion and participation in the epistemic construction of the city, defining policy priorities and public expenditure from feminist perspectives, reconfiguring institutional structures and processes, and expanding extra-institutional relations with civil society. Top-level political support of a self-proclaimed feminist mayor and of the party-in-government legitimated the work of local gender equality administrators and of a broader set of civil society and institutional actors working on equality. The feminist knowledge about gender – intersecting mostly with class – and capacity of local political and administrative actors experienced in participatory processes, supported by material and political resources, favoured a feminist transformation of discourse, policymaking, public funding, institutional structures and coalitions.

Conceptualising feminist democratic innovations in policy and politics

To conceptualise feminist democratic innovations in policy and politics, we draw on theories of democratic governance, feminist democracy, social movements, municipalism, decentralisation, gender equality policies and state feminism. The concept of democratic innovations is inspired by analyses of social movements’ transformative potential (IPSP, 2016; della Porta, 2020; Berglund et al, 2022). Della Porta (2020: 8) argues that ‘progressive social movements’, which ‘struggle for an inclusive vision of a just society and for deepening democracy’, play a pivotal role in introducing ‘democratic innovations’ in public institutions. In times of crisis, they provide new knowledge, ideas and practices with which they have experimented, ‘prefiguring alternative forms of democratic politics’ (della Porta, 2020: 13). In this respect, critical junctures such as economic, social and political crises not only challenge public institutions, but also open opportunities for transformational politics and democratic deepening, as they are times of ‘rapid change’ that require new solutions (della Porta, 2020: 2).

According to della Porta (2020), the democratic innovations that progressive social movements introduce – constitutional reform from below as in Iceland, referenda against privatising water in Italy, or movements like Spain’s Podemos – innovate democracy beyond electoral politics by proposing participatory and deliberative mechanisms. We suggest that feminist politics, a project seeking to transform unequal gender and intersectional power hierarchies through a vision of alternative justice (Dean and Maiguashca, 2018), has the potential for democratic innovation in public institutions (Martínez-Palacios, 2018) to the extent that it promotes intersectional inclusion and participation.

Inclusion and participation are key principles of deep democracy according to feminist theories. As Young (1990) and Fraser (1990) argue, since existing structurally unequal societies are biased in favour of hegemonic groups and tend to perpetuate their perspectives, democratic processes should include a heterogeneous public, especially underprivileged groups. Such inclusion can counteract the privileges of dominant groups and promote social justice. Privileges and exclusions are structurally organised around the intersection of inequalities of gender, class, race, ethnicity, sexuality, citizenship status and other social structures (Hill Collins, 1990; Crenshaw, 1991). An inclusive democracy fosters the gender and intersectional inclusion of claims by different marginalised actors (Celis and Childs, 2020). Inclusion and intersectionality are, thus, firmly interconnected in feminist democratic constructions.

Deep democracy also requires participation, as Pateman (1970: 42) argues, meaning ‘(equal) participation in the making of decisions’ and ‘equality in determining the outcome of decisions’. The main argument for defending participatory democracy, in Pateman’s view, is that citizens learn to apply democracy through practice. As such, participation not only provides citizens the power to influence policy decisions, but also offers them chances to learn to deliberate and decide about the common good in ways that are inclusive and respectful of each other’s differences. Crucially, in the process of participation, people’s empowerment tends to grow as they learn to make decisions about collectivity (Ferree and Gamson, 2003).

The aim of feminist democratisation is to transform existing unequal societies and envision future societal projects based on the centrality of the common good (Federici, 2018), caring for people and the planet, interdependence, solidarity (Merchant, 1980; hooks, 1986; Tronto, 2014), and the intersectionality of other structural inequality axes (Hill Collins, 1990). Participation is framed as a feminist tool of democratic deepening (Martínez-Palacios, 2018) because it enables efforts to shorten the distance between policy designers and those who are affected by them, by sharing responsibilities for defining public problems and solutions (Gómez, 2015: 139).

Intersectional inclusion and participation are core principles of deep democracy conceptualised in feminist theory. This makes feminist politics well-suited for introducing democratic innovations in both policy and politics. In relation to policy, feminist politics opens opportunities for transforming policies’ content by including new claims and democratic rights for formerly excluded or marginalised intersectional subjects (Young, 1990; Lombardo and Meier, 2022), and integrating intersectionality in the content of policymaking (Rolandsen-Agustín, 2013; Engeli and Mazur, 2018). Intersectionality, developed in Black feminist activism and theory (Crenshaw, 1991), poses the relationship between inequalities as an open empirical question not determined in advance (Hancock, 2007), but in interaction with the context. In our study we determine the relationship between inequalities based on the analysed feminist policy, which considers how gender intersects other axes of oppression, mostly class. In terms of politics, meant not just as an arena but as ‘processes and practices’ (Hay, 2002: 69) that engage both institutional and civil society actors, feminist politics can transform democratic processes by promoting non-hegemonic actors’ participation (Fraser, 1989) through intersectionally inclusive practices of participation (Martínez-Palacios, 2016; Celis and Childs, 2020).

Critical actors are key in the analysis of feminist democratisation. State feminism theories indicate that collaborative dynamics between institutional actors and feminist organisations are crucial for advancing gender equality policies (Stetson and Mazur, 2010). Feminist institutionalism and feminist studies on decentralised states pinpoint the role of ‘critical actors’ for feminist politics (Childs and Krook, 2009). Such ‘gender equity entrepreneurs’ (Chappell, 2002) engage with the state in a variety of institutional arenas, thus contributing to shaping institutions and policies. Opportunities for feminist democratic innovations are opened by the entry of actors with feminist knowledge within governments, parliaments and bureaucracies, always ‘nested’ in existing legacies (Mackay, 2014).

Some scholars consider that the democratising potential of feminist politics is particularly relevant at the local level, premised upon the capacity of municipalities – as public institutions of proximity – to enable intersectional inclusion and participation in policymaking (Roth and Baird, 2017; Cruells and Alfama, 2019; Russell, 2019). However, the notion that politics ‘close to home’ is better for feminist politics is contested, since decentralised states offer both opportunities for, and obstacles to, feminist politics (Chappell, 2002; Ortbals et al, 2011; Vickers et al, 2013). Literature on gender and decentralisation invites a more nuanced analysis of what specific institutional arrangements and political dynamics condition feminist politics (Kenny and Verge, 2023). Localism can take on competing meanings, from a technocratic interpretation of the city as the basic cell of economic growth (Clarke, 2012), or a purely symbolic idealisation of the local community (Chou et al, 2021), to the understanding of local institutions as sites of civic participation and control over public services (Blanco et al, 2018; Beveridge and Koch, 2019). This article explores the democratic innovations of ‘municipalism’, a project of ‘progressive localism’ (Featherstone et al, 2012: 179) inspired by community-oriented, redistributive and participatory principles (Russell, 2019; García-Agustín, 2020).

The project of municipalism seeks to politicise the ‘everyday’ (Cooper, 2017) – for instance through the reorganisation of urban space to promote sustainable and gender-inclusive cities (Diz et al, 2020) – and to prioritise the ‘politics of the common’ (Federici, 2018), where a community takes care of a collective good together through practices that redistribute locally-generated wealth (Hamilton-Jones and De Groot, 2021). The concept of the ‘common’ produces a spatial ‘imaginary’ that prioritises community life over the extractive production of commodities (Russell, 2019), while allegedly redefining the relation between the public and the private due to both spheres’ permeability at the local level (Baird, 2018).

Responding to the legitimacy crisis of political institutions with renewed investment in institutional politics, municipalism involves a pre-figurative orientation (Cooper, 2020) that entails reimagining local government to retake sovereignty (García-Agustín, 2020). Literature on ‘municipalism’ presents local governance as a platform for communities to advance their ‘common interest’ on decisions that affect their everyday lives (Russell, 2019). Core aspects of this redistribution of power and the reconnection of institutions with the common good (García-Agustín, 2020) are inter- and extra-institutional participation and the ‘co-production’ of policies to complement electoral democracy (Baird, 2018). These take the form of participatory mechanisms, such as neighbourhood forums, participatory budgeting, or open-source voting platforms (Font et al, 2014; Rubio-Pueyo, 2017), and institutional support for and collaboration with feminist organisations and community-based initiatives (Cruells and Alfama, 2019).

The scholarly debates discussed thus far and the literature on feminist policies, institutions and social movements provide ideas for conceptualising feminist democratic innovations in policy and politics as (a) transforming knowledge, (b) transforming policymaking and public funding, (c) transforming institutions, and (d) transforming actors’ coalitions. The first two categories are more connected to policy, while the latter two are more connected to politics. ‘Transformation’ involves reimagining democratic governance. Inclusion and participation cut across each category.

First, feminist politics entails processes of knowledge construction about gender inequality as a policy problem, by collecting data on inequalities, awareness-raising action, and alternative feminist discourse (Cruells and Ruiz, 2014; Cavaghan, 2017; Korolczuk, 2020; Kantola and Lombardo, 2022). Critical junctures, such as economic crises and democratic backsliding, open opportunities for feminist democratic innovations geared towards transforming knowledge about political practices and content. Post-crisis movements in Spain constructed alternative knowledge framed around social and economic ‘justice’ to resist inequality produced by neoliberal austerity politics (Calvo, 2013). This knowledge, which included feminist and intersectionality discourses (Cruells and Ruiz, 2014), was partly channelled through the Podemos party and related citizen electoral lists, resulting in policies that represented some of the movements’ claims (della Porta, 2020).

Second, feminist politics includes action to mainstream gender into policymaking (Lombardo et al, 2017) and public budgeting (Costa and Sharp, 2023). Feminist democratic innovations can transform policymaking and public budgets at critical junctures, such as economic crises or decentralisation processes. Following the 2008 austerity crisis, the Spanish feminist platform ‘Gender Impact Now!’ gendered policymaking by demanding a gender impact assessment of the government’s budget. The platform produced a UN Shadow report to criticise the deterioration of gender equality in the government’s austerity politics (San José, 2015; Lombardo, 2017), which led to the introduction of gender impact assessments of the budget law from 2009 onwards. Gender budgeting and taxation, gender impact assessments, the redistribution of public expenses using gender criteria, and ‘gender-responsive public procurement strategies’ (Kneeshaw and Morgan, 2019; Ruiz-García, 2022: 15–18) are feminist policy innovations that democratise the access, use and accountability of public funding.

Third, feminist politics includes exposing the ‘genderedness’ of institutions (Mackay et al, 2010; Waylen, 2017) and acting to make institutions gender equal. Innovative institutional practices of gender mainstreaming, as participatory-democratic approaches, have emerged in devolution processes, such as Northern Ireland’s (Beveridge et al, 2000; Barnett-Donaghy, 2004). In 1998’s critical juncture, the need to mediate among the plurality of civil society groups and involve them in policymaking led to a new institution’s establishment to structure processes of participation of feminist and other civil society groups, such as those working on rural or LGBT issues affected by policy proposals (Barnett-Donaghy, 2004). This feminist innovation contributed to the political agenda becoming more open to the concerns of discriminated groups (Barnett-Donaghy, 2004).

Fourth, feminist politics includes coalition building between different actors to advance feminist goals. Coalitions to advance feminist politics can be forged between feminist organisations, between feminist and other social movements, between institutional and civil society actors (Krizsan and Roggeband, 2021a), or between different institutional actors (Kantola and Lombardo, 2022). The institutional transformation of actors’ coalitions to strengthen support for feminist politics is a feminist democratic innovation that can emerge at critical junctures. Transitions to democracy can create space for bringing women within institutions and feminist organisations to the table (Waylen, 2007), thereby building new coalitions of pro-equality actors (Tripp, 2013). Top-level legitimation by newly elected political officials can facilitate the entry of actors with knowledge of feminism and participatory processes within bureaucracies. This builds inter-institutional alliances that provide feminist administrators with material and knowledge resources needed for making inclusive and participatory policies.

Inclusion and participation are a constant in feminist democratic innovations in policy and politics across the four categories conceptualised here. The municipality of Barcelona offers a strong case for understanding how feminist democratic innovations are articulated in local institutional practice.

Barcelona City Council 2015–23

Barcelona’s 2015–23 government has been described as introducing democratic innovations experimented by a progressive social movement (della Porta and Zamponi, 2022) which developed a municipalist project to ‘expand democracy, social empowerment and the reconnection of institutions with the common good’ (García-Agustín, 2020: 58–59). The minority government was formed after the electoral victory of the citizen electoral platform, Barcelona en Comú, in 2015. This allowed political and administrative personnel from existing progressive and feminist civil society into the municipality (Eizaguirre et al, 2017). Led by a self-proclaimed feminist mayor from the anti-eviction movement, Ada Colau, and framing the local and community-oriented government as ‘necessarily feminist’ (BCC, 2016a: 7), the 2015–23 Barcelona City Council has adopted pioneering democratising and feminist policies, such as Barcelona Cares (BCC, 2021a), the Strategy against the Feminisation of Poverty and Precarity (BCC, 2016b), and instruments of citizens’ participation like ‘We Decide Barcelona’. It has prioritised the gender equality agenda by restructuring and creating new mainstreaming structures, such as a network of gender mainstreaming units, as discussed later in the article. Discursively, these feminist policies and politics were framed to confront, first, the anti-democratising and discriminatory dynamics generated by the 2008 political and economic crises (BCC, 2016a); and later, the populist and demagogic discourses that oppose gender equality (BCC, 2021b).

The feminist and democratising policies and politics of the 2015–23 Barcelona City Council are better understood in the Spanish context of the progressive politicisation of local governments, and the federal distribution of competencies. After years of technocratic governance, Spanish municipalities have become increasingly politicised in the past decade (Blanco et al, 2018; Roth et al, 2019; Ubasart-González, 2012). This process peaked in 2015 with the electoral victories of municipalist platforms in major cities, including Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza and Valencia. The municipalist movement – branding itself ‘governments of change’ – sought to ‘re-territorialise power differently’ by strengthening local governments’ role (García-Agustín, 2020: 58). This included articulating responses to the crisis other than austerity (Alfama and Paleo, 2022) and generating a ‘new political culture’ of local governance to close the gap between political institutions and citizens (Eizaguirre et al, 2017; Thompson, 2021). Feminist goals are central to the municipalist project, including the gender-inclusive redistribution of power and participation, the inclusion of feminist goals across all municipal areas, and the gender egalitarian reorganisation of the economy (Cruells and Alfama, 2019).

The multi-level distribution of competencies and Spain’s federal structure enable local powers to develop gender equality policies. The Law of Local Regimes awards local institutions power over welfare policies, while the Law 3/2007 empowers them to design and implement gender equality plans (Otero-Hermida and Bouzas Lorenzo, 2019), which are the main instruments for developing gender equality policies in the country. Since the 1980s, gender equality has been institutionalised at the local level through the creation of equality bodies, including technical departments, citizen services, and participatory women’s boards (Alfama and Paleo, 2022). The scope and breadth of gender equality interventions has increased, shifting from responsive and individualised action towards more structural and preventive measures (Alfama and Paleo, 2022). In the past decade, post-2008 austerity measures adopted at the central level have deeply affected local governments’ capacity to develop gender equality policies by limiting their competencies and resources (Alfama and Paleo, 2022). Nonetheless, some local governments have offered a fulcrum of resistance against neoliberal policies (Lombardo and Alonso, 2020), including the Barcelona City Council.

Methodology

To analyse feminist democratic innovations in policy and politics, we have undertaken an in-depth qualitative content analysis (Nowell et al, 2017) of the Barcelona City Council’s two main gender equality policy documents during the period studied: the Plan for Gender Justice 2016–20 (BCC, 2016a) and the Second Plan for Gender Justice 2021–25 (BCC, 2021b). We further selected three key documents to better understand local gender policy and politics: the Regulation for Gender Equity (BCC, 2019) – aimed at ‘establishing a legal framework that guarantees gender equality within the municipal area’ (BCC, 2019: 15) – the latest follow-up report on the regulation (DGSTP, 2022), and the Final Evaluation of the Plan for Gender Justice 2016–20 (Amblàs et al, 2021). We also consulted other relevant plans and reports, such as the Strategy against the Feminisation of Poverty and Precarity (BCC, 2016b) and the Government Measure to Democratise Care (BCC, 2017a). Since our interest is understanding the institutional potential for reimagining democratic governance at critical junctures, the selection of material focuses not only on policies targeting the population but also, importantly, on documents affecting bureaucratic structures and processes. These allow for the detection of transformations within institutions and actors’ coalitions.

The continuity between the first and the second Gender Justice Plan allows for a comparative analysis of policy evolution. The plans share four main axes of municipal action: (a) institutional change, (b) economy for life and time management, (c) a ‘city of rights’, and (d) liveable, inclusive neighbourhoods (in the first plan) and close-knit sustainable neighbourhoods (in the second). To analyse these plans in depth, we used concept-driven close coding due to our predetermined focus on feminist institutional democratic innovations, alongside two key criteria of feminist democratic quality: inclusion and participation.

First, we classified the actions included in these plans according to these four feminist democratic innovations. The first two are more policy-related (knowledge; policymaking and public funding), while the other two are more politics-oriented (institutional structuring and coalition-building). Knowledge allows us to grasp both the policy content oriented at promoting a cultural shift towards equality – such as integrating gender in labour market diagnosis – as well as the knowledge construction implicit in the meta-discourse of policy plans, such as the local level’s adequacy for implementing gender equality politics or framing the politics of the common as ‘necessarily feminist’ (BCC, 2016a: 7). Policymaking refers to advances in, for instance, the protection of rights and the inclusion of intersectionality in gender equality plans. Public funding refers to establishing equality clauses in the allocation of funds and/or reinforcing pro-democracy actors and feminist expertise/knowledge by granting resources to feminist and women’s organisations. Institutional measures are those that strengthen feminist institutions and actors, and which institutionalise gender mainstreaming, intersectionality and gender training. Coalition-building refers to pro-democracy and/or pro-equality alliances among institutional actors and with civil society, as well as establishing extra-institutional participatory mechanisms of responsiveness and accountability.

We developed a second layer of categorisation to explore the extent of intersectional inclusion and participation of the codified strategies. Within the analysis of inclusion and participation, we distinguish between actions related to content and process. This allows us to add a level of complexity to the type of inclusion promoted by a given action, whether raising awareness about equitable care provision (inclusion in the policy content) or implementing gender criteria (clauses) in public recruitment (inclusion in the policy process). In the case of participation, the distinction between content and process proved less useful since participation already involves a process-related dimension, such as including feminist and women’s organisations in policymaking processes. To complete this twofold categorisation, we searched for the use of key concepts such as intersectionality, participation and democracy.

Seventeen semi-structured interviews with key actors allowed us to detect informal dynamics that go beyond the information gleaned from analysing key documents. These included 15 interviews with key public administration and political personnel within the municipality of Barcelona during May–June 2022 and October–December 2022. In the second period, we also interviewed two representatives of feminist organisations in Barcelona. Interviews with Barcelona City Council’s personnel enabled critical understanding of the policy documents, especially of opportunities and challenges during the design and implementation of the Gender Justice Plans and the Regulation for Gender Equity. Through the interviews, we also identified critical actors that enhance or hinder feminist democratic innovations, and the importance of the organisational changes implemented in the municipal structure. Interviews with feminist activists allowed us to grasp opportunities and challenges of the participatory dynamics promoted by the municipalist project. Collected data were treated confidentially and the interviews are referred to with a code of letters and numbers (for instance, I_13E22) to preserve informants’ anonymity.

Barcelona’s feminist democratic innovations in policy and politics

The municipality of Barcelona (2015–23) reflects feminist democratic innovations in policy and politics oriented at (a) transforming knowledge through the discursive construction of feminist policy, (b) transforming policymaking and public funding, especially regarding policies related to care, time and space, as well as mechanisms for assigning and distributing public funding based on gender-related criteria, (c) transforming institutions by including a variety of institutional structures working on multiple inequalities and widening decision-making processes to move towards policy co-production, and (d) transforming actors’ coalitions by increasing feminist organisations’ participation in policymaking processes. Critical actors determine the opportunities available for these feminist democratic innovations: newly elected politicians who adopt a municipalist (participatory and feminist) agenda, including the legitimation offered by a self-proclaimed feminist mayor, and public administration personnel with feminist knowledge and expertise in gender mainstreaming. They also include social movements and civil society, both through their contribution of knowledge to participatory processes, as well as their role as watchdogs scrutinising municipal work, despite the limitations of these spaces of extra-intra institutional interaction.

Transforming knowledge: a feminist city

Knowledge has a prominent role in Barcelona’s gender equality policy, both as a meta-level discourse about gender justice, and as a tool for gender diagnosis and policy solutions. The discourse of an inclusive and feminist city is reflected in policy documents and our interviews, showing that it not only permeates official rhetoric, but also pervades local administrators’ perspectives (BCC, 2016a; 2019; 2021b; Amblàs et al, 2021; I_13E22). ‘Gender justice’ (BCC, 2016a; 2021b) is the concept employed for imagining a ‘feminist city’ – one in which women are full citizens, care is equally redistributed and recognised, people can love freely, the feminisation of poverty is reduced, women experience lives free from violence, masculinities are diverse, urban spaces are responsive to everyday (gendered) needs, and ecofeminism and intersectionality pave the way towards new socioeconomic models (BCC, 2021b: 9). Gender justice recognises that the ‘institution is indebted in the struggle, goals and tools of the feminist movement’ in the search of a ‘just and equitable society’ (BCC, 2016a: 13). This sets the scene for the participatory and inclusionary dynamics central to the municipal project. The Gender Justice Plans’ goal is ‘advancing towards a gentle, sustainable, accessible to all people and truly inclusive Barcelona’, which is ultimately associated with a ‘feminist Barcelona’ (BCC, 2021b: 16). Knowledge is connected to emotions in this discourse that speaks of justice, care, inclusion and of affectively involving the population in the desired feminist social change.

Democratisation is a key component of the municipalist discourse. It is understood both as the co-production of policies between the municipality and social movements, associations and citizens (BCC, 2021b: 27), and as community-based co-responsibility over ‘private’ matters traditionally considered outside public policy. Local governance – where gender and intersectional inequalities are most visible due to territorial closeness to the population (I_17K22) – is construed as having tools of proximity to reverse multiple crises, including ‘economic, sustainability of care, environmental and representative’ crises (BCC, 2016a: 13). It better responds to citizens’ needs by ‘situating daily life at the centre of public space and municipal political action’ (BCC, 2016a: 18) and transforming the unfair social distribution of care work (BCC, 2016a: 56; 2021b: 59).

Intersectional inclusion and participation are the driving principles of municipal action on gender equity connected to democratisation (BCC, 2016a; 2021b; I_13E22). ‘Intersectionality’ was considered ‘the main challenge when designing the second Plan for Gender Justice’ (I_13E22) and was more systematically addressed and operationalised in this plan, both in terms of process and content (BCC, 2021b: 16). Discursively, intersectionality legitimates institutional and civil society actors’ participation, as well as the incorporation of diverse feminist knowledge. Both plans frame feminist organisations’ and women’s voices, knowledge and experiences as essential for elaborating gender policies because ‘they are the ones who know first-hand the priority needs and goals we must pursue in the current context’ (BCC, 2016a: 20).

Knowledge is not only employed to present the philosophy underlying the ideal of a feminist Barcelona, but also as a tool for policy diagnosis and solutions. Gender and intersectional diagnosis is proposed for economic policy, and renamed ‘economy for life’, so as to account for the interdependency between the formal labour market, domestic work, care work and affective labour (BCC, 2016a: 51–52; 2016b). Although not all intersections are always addressed, efforts to develop intersectional gender diagnosis are evident in the planned collection of disaggregated data on issues like the digital gender gap, intersecting with age–origin–territory and class (BCC, 2021b: 65–66). An intersectional approach to the analysis of masculinities beyond violence is singled out as requiring further knowledge, both through programmes and networks between social agents, movements and the municipality (BCC, 2021b: 93). An example is a recently opened centre dedicated to promoting a plurality of masculinity models, inspired by anti-gender-based violence and LGBTQI+ perspectives (Calderón, 2022).

Gender knowledge is the municipality’s key strategy for evaluating all bills, budgets, fiscal instruments and urban planning through gender impact reports (BCC, 2019: art 9), and for building administrative and political personnel’s capacity through mandatory gender training (BCC, 2019: art 17). Trainings are organised for political and administrative personnel on gender mainstreaming, sexual harassment, inclusive communication and using the variable of ‘sex’ in data collection (DGSTP, 2022: 14–17). While the Regulation for Gender Equity consolidated a systematised training strategy throughout the institution (BCC, 2019; I_21L22), our informants indicate the desirability of more specialised and interactive gender training adapted to existing technical profiles (I_17K22; I_18K22; I_29K22; I_30K22). Knowledge is also constructed as part of the solution. This is illustrated by the inclusion of eco-feminist knowledge to support a socially and environmentally sustainable economy (BCC, 2021b: 57–59; Morán et al, 2022), as well as awareness raising efforts to incentivise equitable care provision (BCC, 2016a: 57) and the more egalitarian organisation of time (BCC, 2016a: 57; 2021b: 52–67; BPC, 2022).

Transforming policymaking and gendering public funding

The municipality of Barcelona promotes the democratisation of policymaking in terms of inclusion and participation largely through gender mainstreaming and, in its most recent Gender Justice Plan, by mainstreaming gender and its intersections with class, partly with age, and, to a lesser extent, with sexuality, ethnicity and migration. Important efforts have been made in the sphere of feminist economy, women’s work and care, revealing attention to the intersection of gender and class-related inequalities that have intensified with the economic crisis and pandemic. This includes promoting gender equality in employment policies (BCC, 2016a: 55) and efforts to overcome the gender pay gap (BCC, 2021b: 52). A focus on unprivileged groups is also evident in the 2016–24 Strategy against the Feminisation of Poverty and Precarity (BCC, 2016a: 60; 2016b; 2021b: 63).

Care is accorded a central role in policymaking by explicitly advocating for its ‘democratisation and socialisation’ (BCC, 2017a; 2021b: 59). The municipality promotes co-responsibility for care by public administrations, the community, companies, and men, and seeks to improve the conditions of paid and unpaid carers, and of people who are cared for (BCC, 2021a; 2021b). Care and domestic work are part of a broader area concerning ‘economy for life and the organisation of times’ (BCC, 2016a: 51; 2021b: 52) that seeks healthier, more egalitarian, sustainable and efficient use of daily time by involving companies, public administrations, and society in a ‘Time Pact’ (BCC, 2022a). Aimed at cultural change that identifies time as a ‘citizen right’ (Baraza, 2022), time politics address the problem of ‘women’s time poverty’ caused by the unequal gendered organisation of work and care (BCC, 2021b: 58).

Alongside the re-conceptualisation of time and the central role of care, the re-appropriation of public space is particularly interesting for understanding feminist democratic innovations in local policymaking. This includes promoting a city that responds to everyday experiences and needs, facilitates care and social relationships, and eliminates gender-based and intersecting inequalities (GMD, 2019). Building ample sidewalks that are friendly to pedestrians, children, strollers, wheelchair-users and trolleys (BCC, 2021b: 98), and developing public transport sensitive to women’s mobility patterns, exemplify these urban strategies (BCC, 2017b). Gender, social and environmental sustainability are also mainstreamed in ‘proximity policies’ that promote district shopping, neighbourhood relations, and access to public facilities like libraries, sport centres and social services (BCC, 2016a: 103; DGSTP, 2021; Morán et al, 2022).

Gendering public funding in the municipality largely involves using gender criteria for public awards, subsidy calls and procurement, including to reduce the gender pay gap in municipality-related companies (BCC, 2016a: 55, 83). As the 2019 Regulation sets out, subsidy calls must evaluate the gender equality mechanisms employed by applicant organisations, including the use of sex-disaggregated data, the gender composition of decision-making bodies, the gender dimension of evaluated projects, the adoption and implementation of equality plans, anti-harassment and LGBTI anti-discrimination measures, and the promotion of women in leadership positions (BCC, 2019: art 11). While these mechanisms contribute to increase funding for organisations that challenge intersectional inequalities and a lack of participation, the gender criteria for municipal subsidies tend to be limited to traditionally gendered areas, such as gender, LGBTQI+, health and care policies, rather than to urbanism or global justice (DGSTP, 2022: 10).

The Barcelona City Council uses nine gender equality clauses to evaluate and grant public contracts. The most frequently used are the existence of an equality plan in the companies hired, the promotion of inclusive communication, and anti-harassment measures (DGSTP, 2022). Other clauses refer to gender parity across professional profiles and positions, LGBTI anti-discrimination measures, women’s recruitment, gender training, sex-disaggregated data, and shared responsibility for work–life balance (DGSTP, 2022; BCC, 2019: art 12). The municipality provides advisory services and self-assessment tools (BCC, 2018) for entities interested in implementing these clauses (BCC, 2019: art 12; CERW, 2017), and their use has risen ten-fold, from 23 public contracts including gender clauses in 2017 to 283 in 2021 (DGSTP, 2022).

Gendering public expenditure also involves the progressive implementation of a gender perspective in budgeting (BCC, 2019: art 10), including the elaboration of annual Gender Impact Budget Reports (BCC, 2022b), leading to an estimated 41 per cent of municipal expenditure dedicated to equality-transformative activities (BCC, 2021b: 43; DGSTP, 2022). Among the limitations of these reports is that, while mandatory, they are not binding and their ‘public shaming function’ is considered insufficient (I_17K22; I_05L22). The 2019 Regulation establishes an increase of the budget dedicated to gender equality-oriented bodies, currently 0.61 per cent against a target of 1 per cent (BCC, 2019: art 23; DGSTP, 2022), and of the budget for actions promoting gender equality in the rest of municipal institutions, currently 4.52 per cent against a target of 5 per cent (DGSTP, 2022).

Transforming institutions

Transforming institutions is a feminist democratic innovation that particularly targets politics. The policy documents analysed claim that constructing Barcelona as a feminist city requires a deep change of institutions and their relationship with civil society. Internally, promoting an ‘inclusive and democratic administration’ (BCC, 2016a: 33) involves mainstreaming gender in policies and budgets, gender training for all political and technical personnel, and equal labour conditions for administrative personnel. Externally, institutional change requires ‘integrating the feminist movement, civil society and experts in the design and monitoring of policies’ (BCC, 2016a: 33). We address external alliances in the coalition-building section.

Intra-institutional change is implemented through the creation, strengthening and reframing of gender equality machinery. In its first term (2015–19), the administration established a Department of Gender Mainstreaming with executive and technical competencies in co-leadership with the political Councillor’s Office for Feminisms and LGBTI Affairs, and under the Resource Management Office. This institutional change granted it a strategic position to access resources (BCC, 2016a: 19–20). The subsequent creation of a Directorate of Gender Services and Time Policies (DGSTP), directly under the Municipal Management Office, reinforced the institutionalisation of gender mainstreaming (I_13E22; I_23K22; I_29K22), allowing gender equality actions ‘to enter through the front door’ (I_30K22). The DGSTP’s strategic position within the municipal structure, combined with the team’s high specialisation in gender mainstreaming, favoured an ample capacity for policy innovation and impact (I_17K22; I_18K22).

The consolidation of a legal gender mainstreaming framework (BCC, 2019) has enhanced the legitimation and prioritisation of feminist policies and politics. Our informants emphasise the importance of the 2019 Regulation for ‘safeguarding’ and ‘underpinning’ the gender equality structure, and for involving all Barcelona City Council personnel (I_21L22; I_23K22; I_23L22; I_29K22; I_30K22). However, they worry about its lack of ‘coercive’ or ‘sanctioning’ mechanisms (I_17K22; I_23L22; I_29K22; I_05L22), making it dependent on political will. Some highlight the need to capitalise on ongoing feminist institutional developments to prepare for more adverse political climates, especially with the global rise of anti-gender actors, since ‘the feminist wave will not be eternal’ (I_17K22).

The 2019 Regulation demands mandatory gender mainstreaming strategies and gender equality plans for all institutional policies (BCC, 2019: art 6). These require the gendering of all policymaking and institutional processes by elaborating gender impact assessment reports for municipal plans and legislation (BCC, 2019: art 9), positive actions promoting equal representation in public recruitment and staff management (BCC, 2019: art 12, 13), or social clauses requiring or rewarding measures against sexual and gender-based harassment in public contracts and subsidy applications (BCC, 2019: art 12, 13). In 2022, an internal equality plan and protocol against gender and sexual harassment existed in 71 per cent of municipal entities (DGSTP, 2022: 13–14). The elaboration of annual reports and the Regulation’s Monitoring Committee – comprised of administrative personnel, parties, unions and feminist movements – enable external critical actors to supervise the implementation of Barcelona’s main gender mainstreaming legal framework (BCC, 2019: art 25; I_29K22).

Diverse institutional and civil society stakeholders’ participation in policymaking promotes intersectionality, such as in the elaboration of Gender Justice Plans (BCC, 2016a: 20–27; 2021b: 19–23). Institutional participation in the development of the 2021–25 plan involved municipal departments working on different inequalities: Feminisms and LGBTI, Childhood, Youth and Elderly People, Migration and Refugees, Citizenship, Interculturalism and Religious Pluralism, and the Municipal Institute of People with Disabilities (BCC, 2021b: 10). It also involved other administrative actors, including elected officials and technical personnel (Amblàs et al, 2021: 26). Informants emphasise the importance of strengthening alliances with personnel committed to gender equality within the municipality, and involving actors who are sometimes reluctant to implement gender equality measures, such as legal services (I_29K22).

Part of the desired institutional transformation lies in breaking internal municipal boundaries and seeking collaboration across territorial districts and administrative departments, such as fiscal, sports and culture departments. Consultations held to elaborate the Gender Justice Plans are one example of such collaboration (I_17K22; I_23L22), although our informants recognise that there is room for improvement in terms of co-responsibility for implementation (I_18K22; I_29K22; I_23L22). A central instrument of this transformative strategy is the recently created network of gender mainstreaming units in all municipal areas, districts, public companies and entities linked to the Barcelona City Council (BCC, 2019: art 21; 2022c). This structure reflects the centrality of territorialisation in the localist agenda and the importance of critical actors for the successful ‘capillary’ implementation of gender equality perspectives (I_17K22; Amblàs et al, 2021: 30–31). Informants regard this network as an innovative, logical step to consolidate the expansion of the gender mainstreaming structure and strategy (I_21L22; I_29K22; I_05L22).

Transforming actors’ coalitions

A crucial democratic innovation in the municipality of Barcelona’s political processes and practices is the move to transform its coalitions with civil society by strengthening feminist and women’s organisations’ participation in policymaking processes (BCC, 2016a; 2021b). Coalition-building with the citizenry, distinctive of both localist and feminist orientations, seeks the ‘co-production of policies’ and ‘collaborative work’ required to achieve gender justice (I_13E22). Women’s political participation is framed as a fundamental right necessary for ‘democratic progress, revitalization and deepening’ (BCC, 2021b: 27). Strengthening the ‘mechanisms of [women’s] political, social, and technological participation’ and ‘giving a central role’ to women and feminist movements’ voices is championed for the ‘collective construction of a really habitable city for all’ (BCC, 2016a: 13–14).

Broadening institutional and civil society actors’ participation in local governance is also part of the institutional change which seeks responsibility-sharing (‘co-producing’ policies) with key actors (BCC, 2021b: 107–108). As one informant put it, ‘We know the importance of being interconnected’ (I_13E22). For this purpose, the municipality regularly reports on its gender policies to Barcelona’s Women Council – the main participatory channel for women and feminist groups – and the Regulation’s Monitoring Committee (BCC, 2016a: 108; 2019: art 25; 2021b: 108). However, the evaluation of the first Gender Justice Plan, and conversations with our informants, reveal the Women Council’s ambivalent role. It actively participated in the plan’s design but contributed less to implementation and evaluation (Amblàs et al, 2021: 6, 34–35; I_18K22; I_29K22). Similarly, feminist organisations do not fully use the Regulation’s Monitoring Committee to hold the institution accountable, missing an opportunity to proactively request follow-up reports or modifications after negative gender impact assessments (I_29K22).

Participatory processes that include feminist and women’s organisations, or gender criteria and action, have increased by 66 per cent (from 3 per cent in 2017 to 69.2 per cent in 2021) – a marked shift towards the inclusion of feminist knowledge in policymaking (DGSTP, 2022). The municipal Regulation on Citizen Participation outlines mechanisms to make participation accessible and more diverse (BCC, 2017c; 2022d). These mechanisms required ‘up to four gender impact assessment reports to ensure the inclusion of a gender perspective’ (I_13E22), and involve inclusive measures such as offering babysitting services and recording and uploading sessions with subtitles. Participation in elaboration of the 2016–20 Gender Justice Plan involved 35 meetings and 293 gender-related proposals (Amblàs et al, 2021: 23–24, 29, 67), while the 2021–25 plan’s development involved 64 municipal bodies and 280 participants from feminist groups, women’s associations, and individual citizens (BCC, 2021b: 18).

Other participation (or ‘co-production’) formats include organisations’ involvement in designing and, occasionally, implementing specific policies. Some feminist and women’s organisations were involved in the creation and implementation of a ‘shared agenda’ for the Strategy against the Feminisation of Poverty (BCC, 2016b; I_13E22; I_18K22; I_05L22). Internal reflexivity exists about the real participatory reach of democratic innovations: some informants criticise the language of ‘co-production’ as a political ‘imaginary’ that, in practice, is uncritically conflated with citizens’ participation, although it is mainly an instrument through which citizens or external committees can exercise ‘watchdog’ functions (I_23K22; I_17K22).

Interviews with feminist organisations involved in these participatory processes reveal a perception of the Barcelona City Council as the ‘closest interlocutor’ for them (I_20J22), especially the current administration (I_11K22). Our informants positively value the participatory process for elaborating the Gender Justice Plans, despite the lack of feedback on their contributions to policy design (I_11K22) and the top-down logic of participation by invitation (I_20J22). Informants from the institution highlight limitations in the participation sessions, which could be more transparent and inclusionary, including explaining the municipal competencies for addressing citizens’ expectations, and using approachable language instead of fitting participants’ contributions in institutional categories (I_18K22; I_05L22). Feminist organisations indicate a similar obstacle to collaboration with the administration regarding the complex language and excessive bureaucratisation of funding assignment, especially for small entities that struggle to justify their activities in a manner that fits institutional requirements (I_20J22; I_11K22). Informants also highlight the negative impact of funding decisions that privilege established organisations with stronger administrative capacities (I_20J22; I_11K22).

Conclusions

Inspired by the concept of democratic innovations in public institutions that spring from progressive social movements at critical junctures (della Porta, 2020), we conceptualise such innovations from a feminist perspective (Martínez-Palacios, 2018) and examine them empirically in the policy and politics of a local government. Our theoretical contribution is to conceptualise feminist democratic innovations in the policy and politics of public institutions as reimagining democratic governance by embedding intersectional inclusion and participation in transforming knowledge, policymaking and public funding, institutions, and coalitions with civil society. This envisioned transformation is part of feminism as a political project that challenges gender and intersectional power inequalities by analysing injustice and proposing actions to redress it. The feminist contribution to democratic governance, then, echoes Leidner’s (1991) feminist definition of democratic innovation as linked to ‘giving voice to minority groups’ (Elstub and Escobar, 2019: 16). Intersectional inclusion and participation’s centrality to feminist theories (Pateman, 1970; Fraser, 1990; Hill Collins, 1990; Young, 1990; Martínez-Palacios, 2018) substantiates this principle, orienting political projects aimed at reimagining and deepening citizens’ role in governance processes towards intersectional justice.

Intensified dialogues between theories of democratic governance, social movements and institutional feminism would enrich democracy theorising. Our study shows how the feminist project, both in movements and institutions, advances democratic innovations in public institutions. As a project struggling for an inclusive society and democracy, feminism contributes through knowledge and action to prefiguring alternative democratic practices (see Eschle, 2001; della Porta, 2020: 13; Eschle and Bartlett, 2023). Within institutions, feminism has contributed to influencing, guiding and innovating state governance through the integration of gender and intersectional perspectives into policymaking and the involvement of women’s and feminist groups (Sawer et al, 2023).

Critical actors play a key role in making feminist democratic innovations a reality (Childs and Krook, 2009), bringing feminist knowledge within institutions, and acting to advance gender and intersectional equality. In the case of Barcelona, high level support by the self-proclaimed feminist mayor and government legitimated feminist local bureaucrats’ work and offered them material and political resources. Local bureaucrats, in turn, showcased specialised knowledge (Bustelo et al, 2016) on gender mainstreaming and participatory mechanisms that capacitated them for democratic innovations in policy and politics. They enacted an epistemic shift towards constructing a ‘feminist city’ and transforming policy and public funding based on gender knowledge, intersecting mostly with class. The material and political resources granted by the 2015–23 local government also allowed for the gender equality machinery to be strengthened and for the inclusion in policymaking of a wider set of institutional actors working on different inequalities, as well as civil society and feminist actors. Feminist movement actors bring bottom-up knowledge and experiences and can act as watchdogs scrutinising institutional work. Therefore, extra-institutional alliances with feminist movement actors are vital for democratising institutional politics, signalling that the substantial increase in feminist and women’s organisations’ participation and the establishment of extra-institutional monitoring mechanisms in Barcelona’s policymaking processes are democratic innovations.

The local level can open both opportunities and obstacles (Kenny and Verge, 2023) for democratic innovations, considering that innovations are ‘nested’ in former legacies. In the Barcelona City Council’s case, opportunities for ‘nested newness’ (Mackay, 2014) derive from the political project of progressive municipalism that emerged from the post-2008 austerity cycle of social protests and the election of local ‘governments of change’ after 2015 (Roth et al, 2019; della Porta, 2020). This political cycle equipped some institutions with knowledge and experience of participatory processes and alternative democratic forms, including from existing feminist actors in the administration, showing the potential of connecting feminist and democratisation goals beyond the Barcelona case.

The government change to the Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) after the 2023 municipal elections shows shifts in the top-level legitimation of feminist democratic innovation, as the displacement of the Gender Directorate to a third-tier level under General Service Management indicates. Yet, feminist knowledge and capacity of local administrators remain, leaving an open question as to whether the cultural institutional change towards the construction of a feminist city will stay. A dispute over the interpretation of feminist politics between Barcelona en Comú and PSC (echoing national disputes between the Socialist Party and Podemos) could determine the PSC’s interest to distinguish current gender equality policies from those of its predecessor.

Our study has some limitations that call for future research. First, while we consider democratic innovations emerging from ‘progressive social movements’, not all social movements are progressive in that they seek social justice and equality. Some movements, and some states (Krizsan and Roggeband, 2021b), oppose gender equality and the feminist project (Verloo, 2018). Research is needed on how oppositional movements and states affect feminist policy and politics. Second, gender and other power dynamics also exist within progressive social movements, creating internal struggles within feminist movements themselves (Roggeband, 2018), and gendered practices of hegemonic masculinity in progressive parties (Caravantes and Lombardo, 2022). Future research could explore how such internal power dynamics affect the democratising potential of public institutions committed to a feminist politics. Finally, this article analyses policy design; future studies need to examine implementation and identify how intersectional inclusion and participation are put into practice.

Funding

State Research Agency of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation for the ‘Juan de la Cierva’ postdoctoral fellowship (Ref. FJC2020-042827-I); Spain’s Ministry of Universities Mobility for requalification of academic staff (Ref. MV24/21 29675); European Commission for the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship (LODGE, Ref. 101067130); State Research Agency of the Spanish Ministry of Research, Grant/Award Number: Fem2017-86004-R.

Acknowledgements

We wish to thank interview informants for sharing their time and knowledge with us, editors and reviewers for their insightful and constructive comments, and the CCINDLE team for inspiring debates. Paloma Caravantes thanks the State Research Agency of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation for the ‘Juan de la Cierva’ postdoctoral fellowship (Ref. FJC2020-042827-I); the European Commission for the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship (LODGE, Ref. 101067130); and Barcelona City Council for a three-month research stay during the Fall of 2022. Emanuela Lombardo acknowledges Spain’s Ministry of Universities for funding her research visiting through the Mobility for requalification of academic staff (Ref. MV24/21 29675) and the Scuola Normale Superiore in Florence and Cosmos group coordinated by Donatella della Porta for hosting the research stay.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

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Paloma Caravantes Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain

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