The Level Up Toolkit

A fun, inclusive, and flexible method of community engagement.

The Level Up Toolkit is a is a comprehensive and flexible guide for anyone seeking to co-create spaces for participatory and deliberative democracy in Europe, backed by science. It can be used at multiple levels of governance and from diverse starting points, whether it’s grassroots, community-led, or institutional. Our inter-disciplinary and international team of researchers has designed it over 14 months of research, collaboration, and testing.

Key Features

Physical > Digital

We curate spaces for meaningful dialogues and creative output. In a world where online interactions are constant and offline connections are limited, we focus on physical encounters.


It’s not politics, it’s fun.

Our approach uses gamification techniques to engage participants. At all levels, games and fun activities allow for more informal connections and effective outcomes.

Equity of Understanding

Our process bridges gaps between participants’ knowledge, cultures, and needs. Emphasising empathy and humility, we create a level-playing field for meaningful engagement.

When to use it?

The Level Up Toolkit provides a structure to facilitate meaningful dialogue for joint decision-making and/or public consultation, to help create sustainable and inclusive solutions. 

Its implementation takes place during events (from a few hours to a few days) aimed at producing clear and impactful proposals.

Who participates?

The composition of the group may vary and is scalable, but would ideally include ⁓ 50 participants equally representing general public, community members, stakeholders from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society organisations (CSOs), academic experts, as well as relevant policy-makers from the local, national, and/or regional level.

Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policy is dedicated to ensuring that  marginalized communities are included throughout.

How does it work?

The Toolkit is divided into a preparation phase and three levels:

  1. connection,
  2. deliberation, and
  3. creation.


Each level provides a framework to facilitate non-hierarchical interactions between communities and stakeholders.

We recommend conducting an impact assessment survey after the event to measure the effects the process on participants (their feeling of political empowerment, their level of connection and participation and the results of the deliberations).


The preparation phase consists of a set of instructions to the facilitators of the event (1) to select participants, (2) to send out consent forms to participants, (3) to conduct a pre-event survey to determine participants’ concerns and (4) to train themselves and participants with the guidelines for diversity and inclusion and disseminate pre-event information.

The first step is the selection of local community members, policy makers, and organisational representatives who will participate in the event. The selection of participants should be diverse and equitable. In the second step the facilitators reach out to the participants and ensure consent through conent forms. The third step determines the topic that will be discussed during the event through a survey. In the fourth step, facilitators are familiarised with the Level Up Code of Conduct which is outlined in our Safe(r) to Brave Space Guidelines. Facilitators then disseminate the guidelines to the participants and inform them about the structure of the event.

1. Selecting and Inviting Participants

The core idea of the Level Up experience is to bring together people with different personal histories and diverse political backgrounds. Throughout the Toolkit, we refer to 4 different groups of participants: community members, representatives from institutions, experts, and stakeholders. We recommend to keep the proportions in table 1 to ensure a balance between all participants.

Table 1: suggested proportions of the overall group composition

Representatives from communities, such as civil society organisations or students from a school.


Relevant specialists for the subject under discussion, such as scientists, policy experts, or lawyers.


Relevant representatives from local, national, regional, and/or international authorities.


Representatives from private and public organisations or groups, such as businesses or lobbying groups.


💡 Remember: The selection of participants will be done according to the topic chosen (see below). The community members can be selected randomly (while following the diversity guidelines), while the participants from the three other groups can be selected based on the topic to be discussed. We recommend inviting the community members and selecting the topic before inviting the other participants.

Diversity of Participants

The selection process of a diverse group remains difficult. The composition of the participants strongly depends on the setting and topic at discussion of the event. The Level Up team is still working on a more inclusive strategy to select diverse groups into events. But the following targets should be taken into consideration:

Diversity targets for the selection of participants should include indicators for ethnicity, gender (including non-binary options), sexuality, ability/health, religion, socio-economic background, age, and/or survivor status. This will be measured in the pre-event surveys and feedback will be sought for improvement in the post-event evaluations.

2. Consent Forms

To ensure a smooth process of the project/event from a legal perspective, it is important to get consent from all participants. For that we recommend to send out a consent form to potential participants before they participate in any of the following steps of the project. We offer a template of a consent form. However, it is important to note that each consent form has to be adapted to the individual project and depending on the project might require additional specifications on the use of data that are not specificied in the template.

3. Topic Selection

Option 1: Topic can be selected before inviting participants by the organisers of the event who want to consult the community and relevant actors on a specific topic.

Option 2: Topic can be selected after selecting participants. In this case, we recommend sending a pre-event survey to determine the participants’ interests through targeted questions. Such a survey can also help for the smaller group composition in Level 2 – Deliberation to anticipate similar interests.

  • Online survey to be sent out for either theme selection or to test what main interests within a larger, pre-set topic (e.g., environment) already exists (e.g., plastic pollution) (2h)
  • Compiling a list and getting contact details of people to send the survey to, drafting the emails and sending them out (depending on the size of the group and the number of different email texts needed, 2-8h)
  • Time for collection of responses (min 2 weeks, 1 day for analysis and summary)

4. Facilitators Training and Pre-event Communication

We strongly recommend having facilitators (who can be the organisers of the event) who will ensure the smooth running of the event with their detailed knowledge of the Toolkit and Level Up principles. Facilitators will be in charge of moderating the event: guiding the participants from level to level and moderate the debates with empathy and objectivity. The facilitators should remain neutral throughout the whole process, even if they are part of the institution organising the event, and must ensure that every participant is able to voice their opinions in a safe environment.

As part of their training, the facilitators should be familiar with our guidelines for equitable engagement and briefing: Safe(r) to Brave Spaces Guidelines (see below). These provide detailed information on how to make the event as safe, brave and as open as possible. We encourage to send it to the participants as well.

Facilitators should then send a brief document with background information on the topic chosen for the event and details about how the event will be run (can include a timetable, rules of conduct, such as the Safe(r) to Brave Space Guidelines, and a list of expectations).

💡 More on the facilitator training package coming soon! The Level Up team is designing a training package, based on the most recent scholarship, to share knowledge on the best facilitation practices aligned with our values.

Make sure that the background information document you send to the participants adheres to the following standards:

  1. Identify Reliable Sources: Begin by identifying credible and authoritative sources of information related to the topic. These sources may include government publications, reputable news outlets, academic research, and expert organizations.
  1. Fact-Checking: Carefully fact-check the information to ensure its accuracy. Cross-reference information from multiple reliable sources to verify its correctness.
  1. Summarize Key Points: Create a concise summary of the key points and facts related to the topic. Ensure that this summary is clear, easy to understand, and devoid of any bias.
  1. Avoid Interpretation or Opinion: Present the information in a straightforward manner without adding personal interpretation or opinion. Stick to the objective facts.
  1. Use Visual Aids (if applicable): If visuals such as charts, graphs, or diagrams can help convey information more effectively, consider including them in the document.
  1. Provide Citations: Whenever possible, include citations or references to the sources of the information. This allows participants to verify the information independently.
  1. Consider Accessibility: Ensure that the information is presented in an accessible format. This may include providing written documents, digital resources, or using inclusive design principles.
  1. Neutral Language: Use neutral and non-biased language throughout the presentation. Avoid language that could be interpreted as opinionated or persuasive.
  1. Review for Clarity: Review the information to ensure that it is clear and easily digestible. Consider the background knowledge of the participants and tailor the explanation accordingly.
  1. Encourage Independent Verification: Encourage participants to independently verify the information by referring to the cited sources or conducting their research.
  1. Address Misconceptions: If there are common misconceptions or myths related to the topic, address them and provide factual corrections.
  1. Respect Participant Input: Acknowledge and respect participants’ existing knowledge and perspectives, even if they differ from the information presented. Encourage open dialogue and discussion during the event.
  1. Provide Additional Resources: Offer participants a list of additional resources and references where they can find more information if they wish to delve deeper into the topic.
  1. Transparency: Be transparent about the sources of information and any limitations or uncertainties associated with the data or facts presented.
  1. Feedback Mechanism: Establish a mechanism for participants to provide feedback or ask questions, in case they require further clarification or additional information.

Level 1

The core aim of Level 1 is to create engagement and links between a diverse group of participants through an interactive format. This step is crucial to ensure a non-hierarchical and equal environment for the up-coming levels.

We offer four silos of activities, with different objectives to connect participants. Each silo includes a list of different sample activities. Facilitators choose and implement at least one activity from each silo which are tailored to the participants group (e.g., considering age, gender identity, language, professional background, etc). Facilitators are not limited to the sample activities offered in the silos and can include other activities. However, we propose to choose activities that reflect the underlying objectives of our silos.

💡 This level can be tricky if you know the participants and different groups you are bringing together are in a conflict. The Level Up team is coming up with an adapted version of the level where the groups are prepared individually before coming together to connect. We are also working on a training package for facilitators, based on the most recent scholarship, to share knowledge on the best facilitation practices aligned with our values. This training package will reflect on situations of conflict and how to navigate them.

The four silos of activities are: (Re)connection, Communication, Diversity/Inclusion, and Knowledge-Sharing. Click on the icons below for more information on each silo and examples of activities. 

Activities dedicated to fostering meaningful bonds between people. These prioritise shared experiences, open communication, and impactful interactions.


Activities that empower individuals to enhance their conversational skills and foster understanding.

Activities that raise awareness of differing perspectives and experiences while promoting equitable participation.

Activities providing the opportunity for experts to inform other participants about the latest advances and developments in the topic(s) under discussion.

Level 2

This level consists of deliberation in small groups leading up to policy proposals and a preferendum vote. First, the scenario setting provides a basic context of the general problem to be discussed. Second, the participants are broken into smaller groups to design policy proposals. The groups respond to targeted challenges (e.g. budget, social justice, environment etc.) utilizing our LEVEL UP system of guided debate. Third, the groups reconvene to share their proposals. Through a preferendum system, the participants rank the different proposals in terms of preference.

The deliberation phase should be moderated to ensure smooth running and engagement of all actors, with the moderator(s) involved in the preparation of the meeting, meeting itself, and after the meeting. This would mean that ideally the same moderators would be involved in the Preparation, Dialogue, and Outcome Phases of the methodology, as that would also build trust in the participants and contribute to the achievement of psychological safety. The moderator should be experienced and paid for by the institution. However, in order to ensure accountability of the moderator(s) to other groups as well, a vetting and veto procedure should be established.

1. Scenario


5-10 min for scenario setting presentation. 5 min for quick What/So What/What Now presentation. 15-20 min for discussion of the scenario setting (TOTAL 30 min)

The scenario provides the context for deliberations between participants.

Who should be responsible for preparing the scenario? What should they look out for?

Someone from the relevant institution (the organiser, a facilitator, the institution to consider final policy proposals, a knowledgeable actor in the field) provides the scenario for the deliberations. The scenario:

  • Should be based in reality, without needing to invent fictional scenarios.
  • Should provide a basic context of the general problem to be discussed and then real constraints and limitations (budgets, timeframes, man power, current political constraints, competences, etc.)
  • This scenario will allow the participants, especially community members, to gain knowledge on the policy process (e.g. what is my city’s budget for this year? What laws could potentially be a barrier to a project?)
  • The name ‘scenario’ is part of a gamification strategy, but we suggest not fictionalising the context as this part of the event is about getting people to debate and discuss their ideas, based on a real-life scenario, and to share their knowledge. A fictionalised scenario would lead to biased results and will not allow for a real representation of the community’s concerns.

Dependent on the time available: The scenario can be debated and challenged by participants (i.e., if the available budget is wholly insufficient, there can be pushback to explore how it would be possible to increase it).

  • If there is not time to debate this aspect, participants can be encouraged to debate it among themselves once they have an idea. This will allow for more creativity and for democratic openness.

Ideally, the scenario phase will end with some time to reflect and informally discuss (e.g., coffee break)

Scenario setting should also include a brief presentation of “What? So What? What Next?” framework for thinking and formulation of policy proposals. This will allow participants to understand what it expected of them (the presentation of their proposal to other teams/groups) and learn about the method of policy writing.

2. Agenda Setting and Group Formation

For deliberations, group composition should ideally be small (12-15 participants), respectful of the integrity of communities. The numerical superiority in the groups should be distributed along the inverse power gradient (see table 1).

Two possibilities for group formation:

(1) Random allocation (if time is short) – Pre-event allocation

  • Benefits of able to preform the groups and ensure “ideal” composition of different types of participant in each group, while losing little time, if allocation is done during the registration for the event, for example. And in settings, where people might just stuck with their friends or colleagues and refuse to engage with others, this can be an effective method to push them to engage with different people.
  • But this also constrains the formation of groups around shared interests or expertise
  • How? A day or two before the event, one of the organisers pre-allocates participants into groups, ensuring a good mix of people from different backgrounds in each group. If possible, it would be good to also at least try to make sure they are roughly grouped around common interests to make the start of settling on proposals easier. The registration materials also have to be prepared ahead of time, so that people can be easily sorted into those pre-assigned groups. (1 day in preparation, more printed materials)

(2) Open circle harvest of ideas (during the event)

  • After Connection phase and Scenario setting, participants (who know should be a bit more comfortable with each other) form a large circle and anyone can propose ideas to be discussed during the debate in teams. Each idea is briefly introduced by the proposing participant and then the moderator/facilitator of the even places it on a large board (post-its or the like). As more ideas come in, the moderator attempts to group them into groups with similar proposals, until most ideas have been collected and the same number of groupings emerge as the number of groups that the participants will divide into (1 group per 5-8 participants).
  • Each grouping of ideas is allocated a working space (can be a separate breakout room, or just a corner of a larger room with some writing supplies – pens, markers, flipcharts, large pieces of paper, etc.)
  • Participants can thus “naturally” subdivide into groups to work on policy proposals that they want to work on and/or can bring most of their knowledge to.
  • The issue with this can be to ensure that groups will be composed of participants from different backgrounds.

3. Deliberation

The deliberation unfolds via a number of levels through which participants elaborate policy proposals and which structure their discussions.

On competitive aspects and time pressure:

  • Scoreboards (digital or printed) should be used to introduce an element of competitiveness, without “forcing” all groups to conform to the same timing at the same level to reduce the among of hurrying everyone along.
  • The scoreboard will be a visual representation of how many levels each group has already passed (levelled up) at any given moment, and will as such introduce the psychological competition in any case (proven to heighten interest and participation).
  • The groups are thus given the total amount of time that they have for developing their policy proposal and a recommendation how much time to spend at each level, although how long they actually spend discussing each of the levels is ultimately up to them.
  • One core principle to remind the participants is whatever comes out of the process, it is the right thing to happen. While time pressure allows for heightened participation, this principle can help avoid feelings of being rushed and of frustration at the end of the process.

Levels (stations, moving around):

  • The ideas of levels stems directly from the principle of ‘levelling up’, of encouraging community members to debate a proposal in teams and to accompany them in this process with different levels that guide them through essential questions in order to build a proposal. The idea of levels also adds to the gamification of the process, thus contributing to the overall engagement.
  • The first one or two levels (depending on the time available and the context), should be done at each groups base working area station (where they are sent after groups are formed). These levels include settling on one policy idea and determining the preferred sub-measures or interim goals, to flesh out that idea among themselves. The time allotted to those levels at the working area station are flexible, just like the rest of this phase.
  • After that, the rest of the levels (Social justice, Environmental concerns, Finances, etc.) should be fixed, each with a facilitator. The groups thus move from their stations to the Level stations with facilitators to discuss the issues linked to each of those level.

4. Proposals Presentation


At the conclusion of the deliberation, each team presents their proposal (max. 5 minutes). If time allows, there can be additional max. 5 minutes for Q&A after each presentation.

The facilitator’s role during the presentation stage is to reconvene all groups in a common space and to act as moderator. The facilitator thus coordinates the order of presentations, acts as timekeeper, and moderates the Q&A sessions.

Visual aids can be a helpful way for teams to share their work. We recommend that the groups design flip charts, large posters, or powerpoint slides throughout the Game during the Deliberation phase, to support their presentations. What visual aids groups should use, and what the content of the visual aids should be, needs to be clearly specified on the Game instruction cards.

If there is more time available, it would be great if another coffee break can be combined with a conference poster session. So before voting, participants can walk around and chat to each other about what different proposals entail and what they think.

This could also be structured as an actual debate between different groups (although then it probably is not a coffee time activity)

5. Preferendum

Participants are asked to vote on the proposals through limited ranking voting using borda count. This concretely means that voters assign the proposals preferences a descending score, with 0 being attributed to the last preference. The most popular option must always be assigned the highest number of points possible (if there are 5 options, but the voter only ranked 2, the highest ranked option still receives 4 points, followed by 3 for the second option). This has the benefit of the voter being able to express their favourite opinion, while also being able to indicate which options are actually acceptable to them.

The results can offer a resolution to the inter-team competition, but also provide nuanced information about different levels of support for different policies presented, that go beyond the simple voting for the best proposal.

The preferendum is entirely confidential.

Level 3

At this level participants move towards articulating the process by materialising and embodying the experience through collective creative expressions. This celebratory transformation of the intangible into the tangible is based on the concept of the Arts-Based Initiative (ABI).

We use creative means to achieve four aims:

  1. To use creativity as a common language that transcends boundaries and serves as a link between different groups. This empowers participants to reflect individually and collectively.
  2. To create “spaces of encounter” that allow different actors to engage the public sphere in equal and dialogic ways.
  3. To materialise the democratic concepts learned and shared during the Level Up experience through the imaginative reframing of an object or the creation of something material to embody the lesson.
  4. To disseminate and connect the final proposals of the Level Up participants, to become a part of the living archive on the Level Up website.

1. The Importance of Celebration

At the end of a day of hard work and (re)connection, it is important to celebrate the success of all teams. Success is understood as a process of debate, play and shared proposals that seek to transcend the LEVEL UP experience. This transcendence is based on the experiential learning that takes place during the Level Up event. Participants move towards the materialisation of the process through collective artistic objects, thus transforming the intangible into the tangible.

Celebration is based on the concept of the ABI which can be defined as any organisational and management intervention that uses one or more art forms enabling people to have an arts experience within an organisational context. It is primarily and fundamentally an experiential process that involves and engages people both rationally and emotionally through active or passive participation (Schiuma 2009).

The tool is structured around concepts of participation and fun. In the final stage these concepts constitute the spirit of the activities and simultaneously serve to:

  • Highlight the role of the arts in the transmission of ideas and generation of knowledge.
  • Explore interdisciplinarity.
  • To establish links between fields typically perceived as disconnected such as the idea of democracy, culture and the arts.
  • Favour the integration of the neurodiverse perspectives.
  • Facilitate collective reflection through the use of varied languages.
  • Promote cultural  leadership and personal development through artistic activities.
  • Give continuity to Level Up’s actions and facilitate communication between proposals.

2. Dissemination

For the event to be successful, we strongly recommend implementing a follow-up strategy to make sure the results of the event are not lost and that the connections made during it are maintained. The follow-up could include direct and concrete information about how the policy proposals have been used for policy.  

Examples of follow-up strategies 

  • Post-event report/feedback survey
  • Personalised letters (thank you, etc.)
  • Newsletters on outcomes and next steps regarding specific projects
  • Future professional or social events to catch up with peers
  • A social platform for participants to stay connected and share ideas
  • Future events directly related to the topic
  • Prompts to take initiative and organise similar events in their own communities using the toolkit, and share the outcomes of those with the relevant stakeholders

💡 The Level Up team is currently working on expanding our website to build a platform where all participants can stay connected and share their ideas.

Feedback and
Impact Assessment

To measure the effectiveness of the Level Up Toolkit as a model for processes of participatory democracy, we assess its impact according to the following indicators:

    1. participation of diverse individuals, in particular from underprivileged communities
    2. perceptions of inclusion, togetherness, and connection with other communities
    3. perceptions of legitimacy and trust across social groups
    4. perceptions of amusement and celebration (fun)
    5. understanding of relevant democratic processes (civic awareness & empowerment)
    6. understanding and perceptions of relevant policies and policy actors
    7. production of clear and actionable policy recommendations
    8. follow-up with participants and policy implementation
We also recommend disseminating the results of the preferendum to a wider audience on an online platform (Level Up website) and send it to relevant institutions and actors that could put the proposals into action.

The overview of our impact assessment can be found by clicking the button below:

Community Member

Community members should be part of a local community affected by the issue – this group should represent the diversity of the local community targeted.

A list of factors to take into account to ensure diversity 
To ensure maximum diversity, it’s essential to invite a broad range of individuals who bring different perspectives and experiences to the table. Here are some criteria and groups to consider when extending invitations:

  • Demographic Diversity:
    • Age: Invite individuals from various age groups.
    • Gender: Include both men and women.
    • Ethnicity and Race: Ensure representation from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
    • Sexual Orientation: Include LGBTQ+ individuals.
    • Disabilities: Consider individuals with disabilities and provide necessary accommodations.
  • Professional Diversity:
    • Industry: Invite people from different sectors such as business, healthcare, education, and government.
    • Job Roles: Include a variety of roles, from frontline workers to executives.
    • Experience Levels: Have both experienced professionals and newcomers.
    • Small and Large Organizations: Invite representatives from both small and large companies or organizations.
  • Geographical Diversity:
    • Invite individuals from various regions or countries.
    • Invite individuals who do not necessarily hold the official citizen status of the region.
    • Include both urban and rural perspectives.
  • Socioeconomic Diversity:
    • Include individuals from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
    • Consider inviting representatives from underserved or marginalized communities.
  • Cultural and Religious Diversity:
    • Include individuals from different cultural and religious backgrounds.
    • Respect cultural practices and religious observances.
  • Youth and Elderly Representation:
    • Include young people and senior citizens to capture intergenerational perspectives.
  • Gender and Racial Equity:
    • Prioritize representation for historically underrepresented groups in your specific context.


Remember that the specific criteria for diversity may vary depending on the purpose and context of your event or group. It’s crucial to approach diversity and inclusion with sensitivity and respect for the unique perspectives and needs of all participants.


Experts, in the context of the topic under discussion (e.g., climate scientists, energy experts, etc.), are individuals who possess specialized knowledge, skills, and experience in a particular field or subject matter.


  • Researchers, Academics, Scientists
  • Journalists, Analysts
  • Strategists, Consultants, Lawyers
  • Engineers, Architects

Institutional Representatives

Institutional representatives are individuals who represent organized bodies, such as government officials at local, national, or EU levels, as needed for a particular topic or context.


  • Local Government: Mayor, City Council Members, County Commissioners.
  • National Government: Senators, Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers.
  • European Union (EU): Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), European Commissioners.

Relevant Stakeholders

Stakeholders are individuals, groups, or entities that have an interest or concern in a particular project, issue, or organization. They can significantly impact or be impacted by the outcomes of the project or decisions made.


  • Relevant businesses and corporations
  • Non-Governmental Organizations (environmental groups; human rights organizations; charities and advocacy groups)
  • Community and Local Groups (neighborhood associations; civic organizations)

Silo 1: (Re)Connection

Two Truths and a Lie: Participants take turns sharing three statements about themselves— two true and one false. The other members of the group try to guess which statement is the lie. This game promotes openness and helps people get to know each other on a more personal level.


The Marshmallow Challenge: In this team-building activity, participants are given spaghetti sticks, tape, string, and a marshmallow. They have to work together to build the tallest freestanding structure using these materials. It encourages teamwork and innovation.


Circle of Influence: Participants form a circle and take turns sharing their thoughts or ideas on a particular topic without any interruptions or judgment from others. This game fosters active listening and respect for everyone’s input.


Peer Teaching Sessions: Instead of a traditional lecture-style learning session, participants take turns teaching a concept or skill to the group. This approach encourages knowledge sharing and acknowledges that everyone has something valuable to contribute.


Tower Building Challenge: Provide teams with various materials (e.g., newspapers, tape, straws) and ask them to build the tallest, sturdiest tower within a given time frame.

Mystery Box Challenge: Present teams with a box of random items and challenge them to come up with innovative and practical uses for each item.

Silo 2: Communication

  • Speed Dating for Ideas: Participants pair up, and each person has a set time (e.g., 2 minutes) to share an idea or opinion on a topic. After the time is up, they switch partners and share their ideas again. This activity promotes concise and focused speaking.
  • Collective Storytelling: In this game, participants collectively create a story, with each person contributing a sentence or paragraph. The process encourages collaboration, imagination, and inclusion of everyone’s ideas.
  • Blindfolded Obstacle Course: Participants pair up, with one person blindfolded and the other guiding them through an obstacle course using only verbal instructions. This activity fosters trust and effective communication.
  • TED Talk Analysis: Watch short TED Talks as a group and discuss the speaker’s presentation style, content, and effectiveness. This activity encourages critical listening and observation.

Silo 3: Diversity & Inclusion

  • I Am… But I’m Not: This activity allows individuals to share something about themselves while also confronting and dispelling common stereotypes they face. Each person in a group of about 6 can distinguish 2 columns on a piece of paper. On the left, “I am,” on the right, “…But I’m Not.” On the left, add something you identify with, and on the right, acknowledge common stereotypes or insults that come with great impact. Ask participants to share their answers and discuss the common stereotypes with others.
  • Heard, Seen, Respected (HSR): Invite participants to think of a time when they did not feel heard, seen or respected. Then pair everyone up and take turns sharing these stories with one person listening intently without interruption, then switch. Next they share their feelings about listening to their partner’s story, and how it felt telling their own. Combine each pair with another group to create teams of 4 to identify patterns of not being HSR.
  • Picture Equality: Participants are given a drawing task where they illustrate what equality means to them, then they can share their image with the group with an explanation. The aim is to promote thoughtful conversation about equality and respect.
  • Identity Circles: In this activity, participants create identity circles by writing down aspects of their identities that feel comfortable sharing/discussing on separate sheets of paper. They then form small groups and share their circles, discussing their experiences related to each identity.
  • Cultural Show and Tell: Participants bring a unique item or story that represents their culture or personal background and share it with the group, promoting understanding and appreciation of different cultures. It’s not just about learning facts but understanding the experiences and stories that shape us.
  • Barriers and Bridges: Participants work in pairs or small groups to identify barriers to inclusion and diversity in a given context and brainstorm solutions or “bridges” to overcome these barriers.
  • Diversity Bingo: Create bingo cards with various characteristics or experiences related to diversity. Participants interact with others to find people who identify with the criteria and learn more about their backgrounds.
  • Story Circles: Participants gather in a circle and take turns sharing personal stories related to diversity and inclusion, allowing for deeper connections and understanding.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle of Humanity: Each participant is given a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. They have to find the other participants who have pieces that fit with theirs. They then need to share about each other’s background until they find a commonality between them. This activity symbolizes the interconnectedness of humanity and our compacity to find common ground.
  • Inclusion Olympics: Organize a series of team challenges that require diverse skills and perspectives to complete successfully, emphasizing the strength of diversity in problem-solving.

Silo 4: Knowledge-Sharing

  • Traditional Slide Presentation: Using slides (e.g., PowerPoint, Google Slides) to visually support your speech. This is a common approach for business meetings, educational lectures, and conferences.
  • Stations: The station format is an engaging presentation approach where participants move between designated stations, each focusing on a distinct topic or activity. At each station, attendees interact with experts, engage in hands-on tasks, participate in discussions, and explore specific aspects of the subject matter. This format fosters active learning, encourages diverse interactions, and provides a dynamic way to cover multiple content areas within a single presentation event.
  • Workshops and Interactive Sessions: Organise hands-on workshops where participants can actively learn and practice skills. Breakout groups, brainstorming sessions, and group activities encourage collaboration and engagement.
  • Storytelling Presentation: Structuring your presentation as a narrative, using anecdotes and personal stories to convey your message. This approach helps create emotional connections and makes the content memorable.
  • Group or Panel Presentation: Multiple presenters sharing different perspectives on a topic. This can add depth and diversity to the content and provide a well-rounded view.
  • TED Talk Style: Delivering a short, impactful talk that focuses on a single idea or message. This style encourages concise and engaging storytelling.
  • Pecha Kucha or Ignite Presentation: A specific format where presenters show 20 slides, each for 20 seconds. This enforces concise and well-timed delivery.
  • Virtual or Webinar Presentation: Delivering presentations online using platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or webinar software. This format may require more audience engagement strategies to combat distractions.
  • Hands-On Workshop: Providing participants with practical exercises or activities to apply what they’re learning. This works well for teaching skills or facilitating group learning.
  • Debate Presentation: Engaging in a structured debate with opposing viewpoints presented by different speakers. This can provide a dynamic way to explore complex topics.
  • Question and Answer (Q&A) Session: Focusing on answering audience questions rather than delivering a pre-prepared presentation. This can be spontaneous and interactive.

Scenario: Materials Needed

  • Projector
  • Screen
  • Computer
  • Flipchart/whiteboard for comments
  • Parking Spot poster (useful moderation technique)
  • Markers
  • Handouts for the What/So What/What Now (?)
  • Large room for everyone to comfortably fit in. Seats in circle/semi circle
  • Coffee break for after the presentation

Who prepares the Scenario?

  • EITHER one of the organising team members takes over this task, does the research and makes the presentation. In this situation, the scenario presenter holds a significant amount of power: their intervention will guide the deliberation. That is why it is crucial that the scenario relies on accurate, neutral, and fact-checked information and that the person presenting it should remain neutral. It would be ideal, if the final presentation was reviewed by a member from the relevant institution. This is a viable option particularly when relevant institutions are involved in organising this event (e.g. public consultations, co-decision making, Citizens’ Panels).
    • 4h for preparing the presentation and 4h for prepping
    • Templates could be provided with PowerPoints with sections for generally necessary details
  • OR someone from the relevant institution (a participant) is asked to prepare this presentation for everyone else. If the template exists, this might not be too much of an imposition, but if that person is not known to the organiser a risk of presentation not being great is considerable. Additionally, there could be a need for compensation to be provided for this additional work load.

Open Circle Harvest: Additional Tips

This option (open circle) can be anticipated and made shorter by carefully analysing the pre-event survey and anticipating areas of interest that will emerge and thus accordingly inviting and ensuring participation of institutional representatives and other experts/stakeholders who will join those emerging groups.

Alternatively, the present participants (not from communities) are nudged during this phase to join particular groups, to ensure at least nominal mixed group composition.

Open Circle Harvest: Logistics

This option requires a moderator. Either a hired moderator familiar with OST, or an organising team member who is willing to get familiar with OST and implement it (1-2 days of familiarising and preparation or cca. 1500-2000 EUR for facilitator’s costs)

  • A few hours for setting up the room.
  • A large board is required for collection of ideas, with preset agenda structure on it. This could also be set up in Miro or shared document and projected, although it probably works better if it is created physically in the room.
  • Depending on the size of the group this can take between 30 and 60 minutes
  • Materials needed 
    • Large wall to set up the agenda or for grouping the proposals
    • A set of A4 (coloured) papers for writing down proposals
    • A bunch of pens, markers
    • Cellotape
    • Pre-set stations for group work
      • 1 flipchart for each of them (or a flipchart for working and an additional A0/1/2 poster for final presentations)
        • Flipchart should have the basic structure for each level already prepared
      • Markers
      • Level Cards
      • Some seats prepared
    • Coffee and refreshments provided at the side

How do the Stations Work?

Groups do not have to follow the same progression through all stations (although they do have to make an appearance at all of them at some point)

What happens at a station, an example: once the team has a good idea for their proposal, they can move to the Budget station. There they will present their idea to the facilitator who will ask them targeted questions around budget issues (e.g. what means need to be engaged to implement your project? Is it within your government’s, city’s (etc.) means? How can you make it cheaper (if needed)? etc.)

The facilitator at each station needs to approve their Levelling Up before they can move on to the next station.

To start off with, there should be one group per station. However, if a certain group continues discussing the elements linked to a certain station for longer and other group is already finished at their original station, the second group can join the first at the same station and the facilitator will prioritise the newcomers with their advice (additional psychological competitiveness ensues)

Who can be a facilitator for the stations? Ideally, the facilitator would be an expert in the area of their station (e.g. a diversity and equity NGO representative for the social justice station). However, this will demand additional guests to be invited and who will not directly participate in the debate. An event’s facilitator can fulfil this role as they are here to guide the team’s through their project by asking relevant questions.

Logistics for Deliberation

Depending on how many levels are included, but probably at least 2h for the deliberation, plus 5-10 min/group for presentations (30-45 min), plus conference/fair style option for milling around and discussing different proposals (30 min + coffee/refreshments), plus voting and results (Slido, 15 min) = 3.5-4h

Materials needed 

  • Flipchart base working stations (described above) 1 per group – for Level 1 and 2
  • Working stations set up around expert topics (budget, environment, social at the minimum, possibly more) – for each: a table, a bunch of markers/pens, pre-structured flip chart paper, a facilitator (either a team member or hired help- need at least 5 person team to run such an event)
  • Stamps or something for levelling up
  • Digital or physical scoreboard

Logistics for the Preferendum

This can be done on paper: each proposal is given a number or letter and the participants rank them on paper. One of the facilitators then enters in a pre-prepared calculation sheet that will work out the results.

The preferendum can also be done online on Slido which calculates the results directly. The participants are given a QR code to access the link and then rank the proposals on the voting page.

We recommend disseminating the proposals to a wider audience, e.g. on the Level Up website and invite a wider audience to vote on the proposals.

Why Arts-Based Initiative (ABI)

If art is framed as a social system (Luhmann, 1984), it can then be understood in terms of what it produces under optimal conditions: it shows us possible alternatives to the ways we look at the world we live in on social, economic and political levels. Beyond identifying the problems of the world we live in, contemporary artists are making proposals for possible alternative realities. Contemporary artists respond to the world they (we) live in with many facing the challenges of war and living as migrants or asylum seekers; others are under the oppression of authoritarian rule. Many artists pose explorative queries to societal issues by engaging with movements for peace; employing provocations and questions as tropes in their work; offering different possibilities and perceptions, thus reframing historical narratives. What unites current contemporary art methodologies is a true commitment to bring people together in co-creation, active participation, or simply by inciting further reflections and responses.

A major problem with current practices of democratic participation is that many of us are not informed on the decision-making processes that compose the very spaces in which we live.

In other words, a vast number of people are not communicating and truly participating in the processes that determine our/their daily lives.

Inspired by current contemporary art methodologies, we propose to use creativity and arts to create spaces of encounter that under optimal conditions will allow different actors to participate in the public sphere in equal and dialogic ways. Bringing together the apparently distant fields of democracy, culture, and creativity, these co-created spaces of encounter will favour the integration of neurodiverse perspectives while facilitating a collective reflection and the generation of new knowledge around the topics tackled using varied languages and discourses.

Instructions & Creative Activities


  • Use Creativity and Arts to transcend boundaries and link different groups.
  • Empower participants to reflect on the process individually and collectively.
  • Visualise and materialise the democratic concepts learned and shared during the experience.
  • Disseminate and connect the final proposals to become integrated as part of the living archive on the level up website.

Creative activities:

We recommend that in designing the creation of activities, as and starting point, all participants answer a question addressing the following:

  • How would you summarise and share your experience of democracy learned at this event?
  • What did we learn? / What did we do today?


Answers can be given verbally or non-verbally. Activities in the creative level can be oriented towards creating lineage of understanding based on words. In that case we indicate some possibilities such as:

Recording testimonies of participants to produce a video documenting the impact of Level Up. Subjects can present concrete questions or let the participants express themselves freely. We recommend to set limitations such as time per person/video.

Generate a word wall the group chooses words they identify with. They can be words that describe their proposals or their ideas about democracy/participation. They should seek words that convey their impressions before and after the implementation of our Toolkit. They may be words about the future of democracy in their communities or misgivings about the opportunities they have as a group or as individuals to participate in democratic life.

Composing a song: If instruments are available in the room, compositions with harmony can be made. If there is not access to instruments, then the use of body percussion or unison singing is recommended. The style chosen by the group should not be imposed but chosen by the participants and guided by the artists.

On the other hand, we can establish a series of activities focused on the use of artistic techniques that do not involve words but experiment with the visual arts or theatre.

Visual/Artistic installations: Around the selected topics the participants can create objects/designs with the idea that they will be integrated into a museum of democracy. The mission of these objects is two fold: expressing what the group has learned (collective reflection) and the transmission of knowledge to their community (local, national and international) once integrated in our living archive.

Performative action: Through the materials of their environments and based on the games played in the previous levels, we can obtain props to create a performative scene. It can have individual actors or be a collective expression. It can have a script/plot or be scenes with a single leitmotiv.

Sound collection: Using mobile devices or recorders, participants are encouraged to generate a sound cloud or a sound atmosphere to represent the session that has just taken place.

Logistics for Creation

We recommend having at least: 

  • A room with enough space to facilitate movement.
  • A quiet place where participants can work without being interrupted
  • Recorder/mobile phones
  • Music equipment
  • Video/ mobile phones


To best facilitate creation, we suggest providing the following materials:

  • Poster board, post-its and office supplies
  • coloured pencils, markers etc.
  • Instruments
  • Small percussion
  • Lined paper
  • Various objects to include in the performative activities