The Europe Challenge Back

The Europe Challenge

The Europe Challenge addresses some of Europe’s pressing challenges in a networked way, by working with libraries and their communities across Europe.

“The library is among the most critical forms of social infrastructure that we have”- from Erik Klinenberg’s ‘Palaces for the People’

Local questions are often shared questions in a European context. With the Europe Challenge, we support the prototyping of solutions to some of the most pressing challenges we face across Europe. We believe citizens must be part of the solutions and that libraries can offer them the space to work together on identifying challenges and solutions.

The Europe Challenge connects local communities and knowledge, offers a European experience and imagines a better Europe.

  • public libraries bring well-being to our societies and neighbourhoods; they are safe spaces where people with all kinds of backgrounds can have access to curated knowledge, experience and participation;
  • the Europe Challenge is engaging a growing network of public libraries across Europe; both ‘lighthouses’ and small; avant-garde and more traditional, capital-based as well as rural. Participating libraries receive a grant for working with communities and come together to share practices and approaches to be safe spaces for community engagement
  • the network involves citizens and communities with great ideas in shaping solutions for our future;
  • after incubation work of the communities in and with the libraries, exemplary prototypes that can be replicated in other European contexts are nominated and selected for The Europe Challenge Award. The award is presented during a European celebratory moment and includes a money prize.

In February 2021, together with Amsterdam Public Libraries (OBA), and in collaboration with Public Libraries 2030 and Democratic Society, we kicked off the development of the Europe Challenge 2021: How do different communities around Europe contribute to the building of public spaces and engage in democratic conversations.

The Europe Challenge engages and enables libraries and their communities to redesign the current and future meaning of public space, together with diverse communities from across Europe. The participating libraries are The Amsterdam Public Libraries OBA (NL), DOKK1 Aarhus Public Library (DK), Central and Regional Library Berlin (DE), De Krook Ghent (B), Kranj City Library (SLO) Tordi Rubio i Balaguer Library (Sant Boi, ES) and Valmiera Public Library (LV).

"Clubs, libraries and youth centres are vital to our lives as we move out of lockdown– too often we see them as ornamental extras rather than as the essential building blocks of an engaged society. - Kenan Malik, The Guardian.

We kicked off the Europe Challenge 2021 in 9 May 2021, Europe Day and are continuously developing and prototyping together with our partners on future models of the Europe Challenge

From September 2021, the participating public libraries and their communities are designing and implementing a Europe-wide programme of activities that engage citizens in shaping and imagining a European public space, working on concrete challenges that are relevant for their local context. They are working on issues such as active citizenship, access to knowledge & digital transition, Public Health & technology, inclusion & equal rights, environmental sustainability of urban areas, women & technology, and democratization of our public space.

Want to know more about the work of the communities and their libraries? Check out this platform where we share progress, stories, events and tools: The Europe Challenge

Future & partnerships

Based on our experience with the core group of seven libraries and relying on the expertise & network of our facilitating partners DemSoc and PL2030 in co-designing, testing and implementing the first Europe Challenge prototype in 2021-2022, we are looking into developing a compact model that is easily replicable and scalable, allowing us to broaden our scope and outreach for the 2022-2023 edition and beyond. We invite you to be part of this journey with us.
Want to know more or support this initiative? We hope to welcome many new partners in the coming years. If you are interested in joining us on this journey, please contact one of ECF colleagues:

Olga Alexeeva (Project Manager) at

Nicola Mullenger (Project Manager) at
Vivian Paulissen (Head of Programmes):