How should eParticipation work in the future, and what can be learned from the past?
Serge Novaretti from the European Commission (DG CNECT) was reflecting on the future of eParticipation at EurActiv on 18 September 2013 as part of the #ePart4eu meeting, where decision makers, project workers and researchers discussed eParticipation on the European level. According to Novaretti, sustainability is relevant when running those projecst. At this point, the EC is also interested in successful cases that can be used for public adminstration, and the re-usage of existing platforms as well as novel methodological approaches.
Next steps and challenges
Another focus was on eParticipation of young people, with the project OurSpace presented and Greame Robertson talking about the re-development of the European Youth Portal. At the moment there is work on a volunteering platform where young people can find working opportunities in other countries with the Erasmus Plus Programme. Phase 3 of the portal is dedicated to engaging the online engagement of young people, e.g. by increasing young user-generated content, where the aim is to development a coaching system to mobilise more people accross Europe.
Some challenges in the re-development are expected, e.g. regarding different languages and visibility of results – beyond the usual suspects, i.e. young people that are already actively involved in EU politics anyways. So reaching a critical mass and managing those languages seem to be still critical – even more on an national or international project level than the local one. As, according to a participant, Euro 30,000 for an eParticipation project is peanuts, the sustainability question also ties in with the question of how to spend that money in a relevant way on the long-term view.
As the target group migrant youth showed, despite the usual difficulties to engage young people in participation, social media plays a critical role in mobilisation and inclusion, in particular in the national context. The threshold for participation can thus lower for certain target groups.
But what is needed to make young people heard? How not to get stuck in a just “nice conversation” without any outcome?
Connect different discourses
It seems that a better connection between the tools being developed and the political agenda could help at the EU level. In terms of project impact and reaching citizens, NGOs are still underrepresented in EC projects. Their role as a link between stakeholders and civil society should be more recognised, and more outreach.
Institutional processes on the EC level are still very unsexy, though. However, in reality, political activism integrating new media has been initiated by young people showing interest in political matters. According to Guiseppe Porcaro (European Youth Forum), some young people are superengaged, but mostly have been anti-systemic movements. We are not talking about jst a few movements, but a rise of a whole new range of an anti-political movements that became political parties themselves (e.g. Italy and the 5 star movement). At the national and European level, we need to make a reflection on political leadership and the system of political parties themselves.
When new eParticipation projects are made, very often we used the same analysis along an electoral discourse (with no clear benefits). However, we need to connect different discourses; For instance, we should make popular discourse more comprehendable, e.g. by hightlighting the differences between different young parties. In this context, Youngvoters.eu (in 23 languages) is a tool with the principal goal of the platform to get more people to vote on the basis of an informed choice.
A good blogpost on sustainability of eParticipation projecst can be found here.