Lead partner: Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
The world is changing due to the rise of technology, and so is our democracy. E-participation mechanisms (e.g. crowdsourcing legislation), and other innovative IT approaches (e.g. ‘social listening’) are increasingly being experimented, as they have the potential to reduce the gap between EU decision-makers and citizens and to contribute to Good Governance and Active Citizenship.
Although policy-makers and different actors are harnessing e-tools to foster democratic processes, it is still difficult to assess the success of these tools because a universally applicable methodology for assessment of e-participation experiences is currently lacking. Moreover, while digital democracy is increasingly experimented at local and national levels, there are still no effective mechanisms for engaging citizens and CSOs in the process of co-producing policy solutions for Europe.
Therefore, the Co-Deciding Europe project proposes to pilot the collaborative method of crowdsourcing legislation in five beneficiary countries on the subject of ‘air quality’ – a topic chosen because of its transnational nature and the problems associated with it (estimated 400.000 premature deaths in Europe each year). The consortium will develop a universally applicable methodology -the E-Participation Assessment Framework- to allow objective comparison of the results of e-participation projects across time and geographical space and use it for evaluating the crowdsourcing pilots. The consortium will also test a ‘social listening’ method through a Digital Dashboard to include citizens’ opinions on ‘air quality’ beyond the actively engaged citizens participating in the crowdsourcing pilot. The project will deliver guidelines for ethical ‘social listening’ to benefit from the availability of big data while
protecting individual privacy and safeguarding citizens against inappropriate access and use of data.
The project will be implemented following three main steps. First, it will begin with the work of academia and research institutes for the development of the methodologies, based on clearly defined criteria and indicators, to be tested in the action part of the project. Second, digital democracy experts will implement the crowdsourcing pilot and the ‘social listening’ method on the topic of ‘air quality’ in five countries. At this stage, citizens will be engaged on the important issue of ‘air quality’ and local authorities will be involved and acquire knowledge about innovative methods of co-deciding with citizens. Third, the success of the crowdsourcing pilot will be evaluated following the E-Participation Assessment Framework to give recommendations on how to improve digital democracy in Europe; citizens’ contributions on ‘air quality’ through the crowdsourcing and the ‘social listening’ will feed into and
impact EU policy-making.
The project outputs – crowdsourcing pilot, Digital Dashboard, E-Participation Assessment Framework – will provide an evidence-based argumentation of the need to mainstream methods of digital democracy in decision-making processes at all levels. Through its activities, the project will ensure systematic and impactful knowledge-sharing and exchange of good practices amongst the transnational community of policy makers, academics, businesses and NGOs.
The ultimate beneficiaries from the new practices will be citizens throughout Europe both in terms of active citizenship and improved environmental ecosystem. Decision-makers at local, national and EU level will benefit in terms of knowledge on innovative participatory democracy tools and from the universally applicable methodologies. The sustainability of the project will be ensured through the knowledge-sharing mechanism, including the development of an online course, to help interested stakeholders in all beneficiary countries and beyond to use the lessons learned on how ensure inclusive and collaborative decision-making process and to revive our democracy through digital tools.