Social democratic political parties in Europe are increasingly challenged in their role as actors and engines of economic and societal change. Globalisation, the rise of populism and nationalism, the increasing influence of multinationals and financial markets on the decision-making process and political fragmentation have all contributed to an image of mainstream political parties as rigid, old and unable to effectively relate to or represent the voices and interests of citizens. Moreover, the question has been put forward if politics in general still has control over increasingly intertwined global economic processes. Social movements – often with a core of disillusioned young people – have been addressing these questions in many countries.
The goal of this manual, published by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies and the Foundation Max van der Stoel, is to offer social democratic parties and party members tools to discuss different challenges within their parties and to (re)connect with social movements. The overall objective is to bridge the gap between citizens and political parties, so that social democratic parties can work with citizens to improve the world we live in.
We used the examples and input that was given by more than 300 participants from 14 countries in the series of seminars and trainings carried out in 2016-2017. The manual can be used by trainers, by boards or personnel of political parties or by individual politicians looking for methods and exercises to learn more about social movements in their region or country.