Archive for November, 2008

New Research Funding on “e-Participation 2.0″ now available

30. November 2008 – 12:45 by Francesco Molinari

On 17th November the European Commission published the new Work Programme for the ICT theme of the FP7 Specific Programme ‘Cooperation’, defining the priorities for calls for proposals closing in 2009 and 2010 and the criteria that will be used for evaluating the proposals responding to these calls.

A specific objective is entitled “ICT for Governance and Policy Modelling”, aiming to develop governance models, process flows, and analytical tools related to a proper understanding, interpretation, visualisation and harnessing of what we can name “e-Participation 2.0″: the potential of on-line collaborations to trigger and shape significant changes in the functioning of future societies.

Three main outcomes are targeted by this objective:

a) “Governance and Participation Toolbox” (instrument: STREP - Specific Targeted Research Projects)

Advanced tools embodying structural, organisational and new governance models to empower and engage all types of societal groups and communities, enable them to utilise mass cooperation platforms and allow governments to incorporate their input while safeguarding against misuse. These tools will enable the creation, learning, sharing and tracking of group knowledge that cuts across language and cultural interpretation. They should also facilitate transparency and tracking of inputs to the policy making process. The toolbox must include security, identity and access controls to ensure privacy and, where appropriate, the delineation of constituency domains according to the specific needs of government applications.

b) “Policy Modelling, Simulation and Visualisation” (instrument: ditto)

Real-time opinion visualisation and simulation solutions based on modelling, simulation, visualisation and mixed reality technologies, data and opinion mining, filtering and aggregation. This will encompass novel instruments which allow consideration of options based on the simulated behaviour and wishes of individuals, groups or communities (at local, regional and national levels) to understand the possible outcomes of government proposals, decisions and legislation. Tools and techniques will also help to understand, model, simulate and validate the next generation of public services as complex service systems in the environment of social networking and collaborative society, including the needs of the younger generation.

The focus is on advanced tools and technologies to perform societal simulations integrating all possible variables, parameters, interferences, scenarios necessary to forecast potential outcomes and impacts of proposed policy measures. The tools should exploit the vast reserves of Europe’s public sector collective data and knowledge resources which are also developing dynamically. Underlying functions to be integrated include translation, process modelling, data mining, pattern recognition and visualisation as well as other gaming-based simulation, forecasting and back-casting as well as goal-based optimisation techniques. The solutions will also take into account, but not be limited to, state of the art techniques on dynamics
methodology to analyse and model complex systems, cooperative vs. competitive systems, and “cloud” computing applications resources for large scale data analysis.

c) “Roadmapping and Networking for ‘participation, governance and policy modelling’ (instrument: CSA - Coordination or Support Actions)

(i) RTD roadmap to identify emerging technologies and potential applications. It will also consider emerging research directions and will include insight into research activities undertaken in non-EU countries. (SA)
(ii) A dynamic ‘Network’ to encourage networking of relevant stakeholders and teams working in these areas and to encourage multidisciplinary constituency building. (CA)

Indicative funding amounts to EUR 14 million for (a+b) and 1 million for (c). Deadline for proposals submission is 1st April 2009.

Expected impact includes:

- Improved empowerment and engagement of individuals, groups and communities in policy making processes.

- Increased trust of the citizens through transparency and feedback of their contributions.

- More efficient collection of feedback to continuously improve governance.

- Improved prediction of impacts of policy measures, with increased contribution and involvement of individuals and communities, and based on intelligent and optimised use of vast public sector knowledge resources.

- Strengthened competitive position of European industry in the fields of cooperation platforms, optimisation, simulation and visualisation tools.

More info:


UK: Winners of the Building Democracy Innovation Fund announced

27. November 2008 – 12:17 by Rolf Luehrs

Nine projects working to engage people in local and national decision-making have won funding from the government’s Building Democracy Innovation Fund, five of which are eParticipation projects:

  • An online question time linking the public with local and central government.
    (Run by Thumbsize Ltd.)
  • UK Feedback: An online forum for feedback about public services
  • LocalEyes – The ‘Voice’: A web-based consultation tool to enable defined groups to have their say in decision making.
    (Run by The Shire Initiative.)
  • All Hansard on To add the pre-2001 Hansard data to, and build exploratory tools.
    (Run by MySociety.)
  • Empowering the blind citizen: Providing training and tools to enable blind and partially sighted people to participate in e-democracy.
    (Run by Community Interest Company.)

Find the complete list of the winning projects at

The eParticipatory museum

27. November 2008 – 11:47 by Bengt Feil

Electronic participation is often associated solely with political participation. But eParticipation tools are also used by companies like for example Starbucks. But Museums do not come to mind first when thinking about innovative ways to include the “users” into decision making processes. This first impression however is wrong. Many museums do try to use electronic tools to get their visitors more involved into exhibitions, events, etc. One example for a museum stepping into the world of eParticipation is the Helmsmuseum in Hamburg:

In January and February of 2008 this museum of local history in Hamburg utilized the DEMOS eParticipation approach to involve the local citizens and the museums visitors to plan a new exhibition on the local history of southern Hamburg. This experiment was aimed at involving the main target group for the exhibition in the actual planning to both make the exhibition more attractive visitors and to make use of the special knowledge of the participants. The museum was one of the first to take this innovative road in organizing its activities.

The participation platform (which can be viewed here) was set up and supported by TuTech Innovation. The moderation and community building work on the site was done by the museums staff after being training and instructed by TuTech. The topic chosen for the participatory action and the target group (local citizens of one borough of Hamburg) was relatively limited but still 72 people were actively involved in the discussion and posted 312 contributions. A total of 1.300 unique visitors where tracked on the site producing 19.000 page views. Taking into account the size of the project and the questions at hand these number are very respectable. The qualitative results where of course of much higher importance:

  • The participation efforts helped the planers to select topics which may have been ignored and it integrates the individual knowledge and experience of the participants into the process. One example is that photo material and certain items which are owned by the participants and relative to the exhibition where indentified by the efforts.
  • Besides strengthening the local position of the museum the activity also helped to raise the regional and national profile of the museum which used such innovative tools.
  • After the initial effort the museum decided to keep the online platform running to continue the fruitful dialog with its visitors and active community members which they do to this day.

This example shows that eParticipation is a universal tool which is not restricted to political participation. Other entities like museums can also make use of the innovative approaches and tools available in this field. It also shows that even small scale efforts with a limited target group can be addressed if the method chosen is appropriate to the situation.

A great resource to learn more about innovative activities of museums and how to adapt them is the Museum2.0 blog by Nina Simon.

Community Empowerment Evidence

26. November 2008 – 16:03 by Fraser Henderson - ICELE

The Local Governance Research Unit at De Montfort University together with the Centre for Citizenship and Democracy (University of Southampton) are in the process of undertaking a systematic review of the international evidence based around “community empowerment”.

This comprehensive piece of work, Commissioned by the DCLG, already has some early findings.  Based on the popular U.K. definition for empowerment as an “increasing feeling of being able to influence decisions”, an abstract of the interim report relating to eParticipation is given below:-

  • The links between eParticipation and community empowerment are surprisingly weak
  • eParticipation is most successful in relation to the empowerment of individual participants
  • eParticipation is notably less effective in empowering the wider community
  • In order for eParticipation mechanisms to have any empowerment impact, the mechanism needs to be concerned with a highly salient issue
  • Official sponsorship of eParticipation does not appear to play an important role in affecting empowerment outcomes

While many of the points are not news for experienced practitioners, the aforementioned process of mapping and defining empowerment success in the report is both competent and intriguing.  I find the last point particularly troublesome and duly welcome thoughts on this from others in the PEP-NET community.

Second Life or No Life?

25. November 2008 – 12:31 by Alice Chicken - 21c

The main online story in the UK this week has come from an unlikely quarter. You might think it would be about Labour’s revival in the polls or the ongoing financial meltdown. Perhaps US President-elect Obama’s continued online engagement via email and YouTube. Maybe even the closing down of one of the biggest email spam outfits in the world. But no, the main story has been a British couple’s divorce over Second Life.

Amy Taylor and David Pollard met in Second Life in 2003 and married both online and in real life in 2005. However, the marriage has since fallen apart after Amy caught David’s character with a call girl and then having an affair with another character in the game. The story has caught the British press’ imagination and had led to some rather unkind stories about the pair (they’re both obese and computer game addicted, making them an easy target).

However, these events do lead us to a more serious question – where does the online world end and real life begin?

The couple in question met via Second Life and got to know each other through their characters in the game. By all accounts, much of the ‘quality time’ they spent together was done in Second Life. So is it reasonable to assume that an affair in Second Life is every bit as real as one in the off-line world?

Second Life, like many other online games, has a thriving economy attached, both within the game and in the real world. Players can both earn and lose money through their online actions.

Even Public Administrations are getting in on the act, with Manchester Council and the British Council setting up areas to encourage the gaming community to get involved in politics and democracy.

But has it all gone too far? Are the British tabloids right to poke fun at two people who seem to spend their lives in online worlds rather than the real world? Should we be worried about obsessive gamers losing money in cyberspace at a time when most people are saving pennies in the face of very real financial crises? And should Public Administrations be spending time and resources reaching out to online gamers – a population who are likely to be internet-savvy and literate and therefore not exactly hard to reach – when they could be reaching out to the genuinely socially excluded?

In short, is the obsession with having a ‘Second Life’ getting in the way of having a real life and should we care?

The pitfalls of Web2.0 for government Officials

25. November 2008 – 11:14 by Bengt Feil

As politically interested citizens and active members of the online community I assume we all would like to see our politicians to use as many of the great online communication tools as possible. There is no doubt that Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc. can be great to reach out to certain sets of constituencies and potential voters, collect donations or to raise transparency of government and party work. The Obama Presidential Campaign and the work done with right now further support this assessment. But the Web2.0 has its pitfalls; especially for those holding a government office.

Politicians, as government officials, have to closely follow the legal and organisational rules governing the position they hold. This means that not every tool they choose to communicate with citizens may fit the purpose of their office or even be completely legal. An example for this would be the plan of Barrack Obama to keep posting his weekly radio address to the nation to and to embed that video on the or other government website. This idea and the first try of it were warmly welcomed by the internet community and I fully agree to that excitement. But there are several problems which have to be taken into account:

Read the rest of this entry »

The Regional Parliament of Veneto in the field of e-Participation.

24. November 2008 – 12:06 by Regional Parliament of Veneto

The Regional Parliament of Veneto is grateful to Mr. Lührs and Mr. Feil and to all the founders and associated members of the network for having this opportunity to participate to a modern network which principal purpose consists in helping growing up in the field of e-Participation.

The E-Democracy Office has the purpose to develop projects which aim at helping citizens to get in contact with the regional public administration as well as with its structure, its processes, its members but above all with the channels the citizen can exploit in order to participate to the public life of the Region, but also to that which finds expression in towns.

Living in the Age of techno-communication, our mission (as well as the ones of the network members) is to use the “virtual media”, that is the channels which help us and young users to be frequently connected, in order to develop a net to help participation of people. Therefore, our Portal “Terzo Veneto” ( integrates participation processes by using on-line consultations as a flanking instrument to be employed near the traditional contact methods and tools for coordinating institutional activities.

The platform now provides users with a range of on-line services in order to manage, organise and launch initiatives aimed at promoting participation, as well as coordinating and co-operating in the assessment and organisation of initiatives for citizens and animating the local political and social debate. Traditional Internet tools, such as e-mail, mailing list, newsletter, newsgroups, fora, etc. are used to provide communication and information.

As E-Democracy Office, e-Participation is one of the fields in which activities are directed on one side to help the development of a modern and efficient administration and on the other side to support a more populated participation of people to the decisions of the institutions, but also to study new typologies of communication system.

In the recent past we have developed a lot of projects which aim at these missions.

First of all CORO - On-line Consultations: its mission consists in “giving voice” to the various stakeholders of the Regional Parliament, aiming at creating a “virtual management” phase for the various consultations concerning regional bill projects. “Coro” wants to build a virtual environment intending to help the citizen and the several agencies to interact with the Regional Parliament, in a constructive way, in order to define laws and administrative actions while evaluating the overall reactions of the whole citizenship with the help offered by this instrument.

Then CIVIL LIFE for schools (recently exposed in Exposcuola 2008 in Padua) is setting up a project where specific communication tools have been designed with suitable language and contents: this area includes a dedicated forum, a video space, targeted surveys and direct links to the websites of regional high schools. This represents a first attempt to approach young people through a dedicated space enabling direct interaction with the Regional parliament by presenting its main activities.

The VIDEOGAME ELECTION PLAY: it is an innovative game that enables both young and old users to make their direct and personal acquaintance with the places and circumstances in which decisions are taken in the context of democratic life, by virtually experimenting social and political accountability and representation. Taking role play as a model, the website provides an opportunity to face all the real challenges met by electoral candidates: preparing a political agenda, choosing running mates, using the media, public confrontation, snares and tricks by political rivals.

The TERZO VENETO YOUTUBE CHANNEL has been activated, for YouTube is the most famous space of communication and video-sharing. So we decided to create a specific channel  dedicated only to the E-Democracy activity of the Regional Parliament. The new channel makes audio-visual material of the regional Parliament available to Internet users, with the precise intent to reach the citizens in a more direct way for a democratic way of sharing that will be more active and  effective at the same time.

At the end we must not forget to talk about the CITIZEN’S DICTIONARY, a glossary of the less common terms which can be found in the Regional Parliament’s web pages. The dictionary facilitates the understanding of the different on-line services, enabling users to browse the web site even if they are not familiar with the administrative procedures or with the language of bureaucracy.

So, if we want to create an European space of strong communication and relationships with the citizens and also among the public institutions, in order to involve all the subjects who recognize in the creation of “wide bridges of communication and participation” their mission, we think it represents the proper way to act.

We hope that our collaboration with the network will be long-lasting.

The great firewalls of non-European eDemocracy

21. November 2008 – 12:46 by Fraser Henderson - ICELE

Before Barack Obama can enter the White House he must surrender his beloved BlackBerry, a device pinned to his person throughout the presidential campaign.

Under the Presidential Records Act all his personal correspondence becomes part of the official record after he is sworn-in, making any emails open to public review. Since this makes it impossible to communicate freely by electronic means, Barack is unlikely to be America’s first emailing president. Sadly this is not news; eight years ago President Bush retired the email address “” for the same reason.

But what is worse, a President who is restricted by his position or a nation of people restricted by their heads of state?

Well, you can now experience the web from the perspective of a Chinese citizen thanks to a FireFox add-in which spoofs your IP address as if it was inside China. China Channel provides an intriguing insight into the world of suppressed on-line dialogue (please let me know if the PEP-NET blog is getting blocked!).

Thankfully every cloud has a silver lining .  The former Chief Election Commissioner of India has launched a new website aimed at providing information about candidates standing for the assembly and parliamentary election. A mash-up of the UK’s “Votewise” and “Theyworkforyou“,  EmpoweringIndia includes an analysis of election results, details about candidates, and disclosures on election expenditure.

A huge success for the first pan-European town meeting on climate change

17. November 2008 – 19:28 by Francesco Molinari

On 15th November 2008, the first pan-European town meeting on climate change took place simultaneously in the three venues of Florence (Italy), Cornellà de Llobregat (Barcelona, Spain) and Poitiers (France), in the context of the IDEAL-EU project, one of the ongoing Preparatory Actions on eParticipation funded by the European Commission.

Some 470 youngsters from the three European Regions of Tuscany, Catalonia and Poitou Charentes, engaged for a full day in three sessions of debate, each ended by a voting session, touching upon several key topics of potential interest to the Special Committee appointed by the European Parliament in order to update the EU policy agenda on climate change. In the next few days, the town meeting results will be handed out to the Committee Chairman, MEP Guido Sacconi, who also introduced the Florence discussion.

For those who don’t know about it, a town meeting is a tool of deliberative democracy practised in the US region of New England since colonial times, when an entire community was invited by local government officials to gather in a public place and formulate suggestions or provide feedback on policy actions. In its modern version - the electronic town meeting - the debate is guided and managed thanks to the decisive support of ICTs. These allow a rapid storage, transmission and sharing of discussion results across several assemblies, even remotely located, as well as the expression of individual participants’ opinions through a specially devised polling system.

It should be stressed that the aim of the town meeting is not to seek an agreement at all costs, but to elicit different views and interpretations, allowing a comparison among a richer and broader range of opinions. This is why the debates are not moderated, but only facilitated, by domain experts, having the only task of ensuring that sufficient information is provided to participants before the discussion and deliberation takes place.

In the IDEAL-EU project case, the key questions answered by the three regional communities - mostly composed by students aged 14-19 -  simultaneously in their respective languages, have been the following:

- How can Europe reduce its use of fossil fuels?

- Why renewable energies are currently not widespread?

- What measures would be effective in reducing CO2 emissions?

- How can we reduce the consumption of energy?

- What could we change of our daily habits?

- What’s wrong with the current model of socio-economic development?

The most relevant, interesting and effective proposals emerged from this brainstorming phase were also submitted to an electronic vote, simultaneously in the three venues, so as to consolidate the results and make them as informative as possible for the public decision makers. For instance, 63% of the Catalan, 59% of the French and 50% of the Italians expressed themselves against nuclear power plants.

Two experimental “virtual tables”, formed by 3 to 4 e-users located all over Europe, also joined the debate and the polling sessions.

In the final part of the day, three topics of regional relevance were independently examined, namely:

- how to make wind power plant installations compatible with landscape integrity in the Tuscany Region;

- what is the best way to convert waste into resources in the Catalonia Region;

- under which conditions can we improve the use of public transport for personal mobility in the Region of Poitou-Charentes.

The whole event was broadcasted live by the web streaming service of the Tuscany Region.

Following are a few pictures by Michele D’Ottavio (

My e-Democracy ‘08

15. November 2008 – 20:37 by Rolf Luehrs

Although a bit late, I would like to share some of my impressions from Dan Jellinek’s (headstar) e-Democracy conference which took place in London Tuesday this week.

First of all: I enjoyed the conference very much! The RIBA was a real nice venue and lots of interesting plenary sessions and workshops have been presented.

The conference started with two keynotes by Helen Boaden, Director of News, BBC, and Tom Steinberg, founder of MySociety.

Helen talked about what social media means for journalism. She especially highlighted three aspects: the increasing speed of the news beat caused by eyewitnesses equipped with communication technologies (“accidential journalism”), citizen newsgathering and the interaction with those formally known as readers or listeners, some of whom have now become active participants.

Both, increased speed and increased interactivity have to be perceived as major challenges by the BBC which has not given up the ambition to deliver high quality journalistic content. However, the attitude is still positive: “It’s no surprise (…) that the BBC has gone from passively accepting user-generated content to positively soliciting it. It’s not just a “nice to have” - it can really enrich our journalism and provide our audiences with a wider diversity of voices than we could otherwise deliver.”

For those who want to learn more about the BBC’s social media approach, I recommend to read the full keynote speech which Helen published at her blog.

While Helen delivered at the same time an example on the perfect usage of PowerPoint, Tom just showed one website to support his talk – a very funny one, though. Read the rest of this entry »