European Citizens’ Consultation

16. December 2008 – 13:51 by Involve

Are online forums dominated by techies and geeks and, if so, does this deter wider citizen participation?

The European Citizens’ Consultation 2009 (ECC09) might provide an interesting case study. ECC09 is an ambitious project which is seeking the views of the citizens of Europe on the economic and social future of the EU. The overarching aim is to involve citizens of EU member states in discussion on its economic and social future, bringing citizens closer to Europes institutions and creating the space for citizen voices in the European policy making process. Involve are not-for-profit participation specialists and are the UK National Partner for the ECC09 project.

The project has three main stages

(1) the online stage

(2) the National Consultation

(3) the European Citizens’ Summit.

Stages (2) and (3) are both offline featuring face-to-face deliberation between randomly selected citizens. The online stage (1) on the other hand is open to all citizens, MEPs, pressure groups and NGOs and requires participants to be self-selecting.

At Involve, we are interested to see who will take part in the online discussion and at what stage in the project they do so. While in-depth knowledge of European issues is not a prerequisite for joining the discussion, the citizens posting in the first instance have tended to polarise debate, limiting discussion to single issues with strongly pro-Europe or Eurosceptics slant. Will this stimulate wider discussion in the long term or will the dominance of geeks create a barrier to “lay” citizens to joining the debate? A number of MEPs have contributed their visions for the economic and social future of Europe which are easily accessible for people not schooled in the mechanics of the EU and it will be interesting to see whether the Party political dimension of MEP contributions will stimulate citizens, who are otherwise not motivated by techie talk, to contribute their own ideas about the future of Europe. The online debate runs throughout the duration of the project. You can view and join the debate at

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  1. 3 Responses to “European Citizens’ Consultation”

  2. By Zebralog on Dec 16, 2008

    Dear Laurie, thank you for sharing! Here at Zebralog we are very interested in the project, because we implement a similar process on the national level (see ).

    However our approach is a randomly selected panel, which gives us the chance to have participants beyond the “geekes”. And we are lucky to get a very committed users, which are eager to dig very deep into the topic. Last years experience ( showed that it was actually possible to fulfil some strong criteria of “deliberation” (in terms of Ann Macintosh :-) and this year we try even further.

    My questions about the ECC 2009:

    - Have you considered an online stage, where the different nationalities actually come together? I do know how difficult this is, but I wonder how we can come nearer to this goal!

    - How close is the interaction between the online-participants and the presence-meetings? Is it possible to transfer information from the net to the meeting without actually transferring people?

    Best wishes!

  3. By Laurie on Jan 5, 2009

    Hi Hans

    Thanks for your comment. Your work sounds very interesting and I agree that a selected panel would probably provide a more productive level of deliberation than self-selected participants. As our face-to-face consultations involve randomly selected citizens, the idea of the online phase is to open the project up to a wider audience who will be self-selecting.

    For the purposes of ECC09 all of the online stuff is local to each member state. I think bringing so many different nationalities together on one site would be very difficult technically - but also I think the largest problem would be getting citizens to participate. It seems to me that citizens are likely to have a much stronger attachment to their own member state (certainly in the UK!) than to the institutions of Europe so local websites are probably more effective. I imagine if we were to do something like this it would be most effective to synthesize/share information across local sites rather than in one central site.

    In answer to your second question, unfortunately we can’t transfer the online participants directly to the face-face stage of the consultation but we do feed their ideas in. On the site - - participants can make specific policy proposals. The proposals receiving the most votes from the online stage will be fed into the initial stage of the face-to-face consultation for discussion.

    Hope that’s useful.

    Best wishes

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