From 13 to 15 November 2021, six members of our team went to the European Participation Days organised by the city of Amiens and the association Décider Ensemble.
Valentin Chaput, co-founder of OSP, came to share our experience of the Conference for the Future of Europe, the largest consultation ever conducted in the context of complex policy-making at European level. Alongside Judith Ferrando, co-director at Missions publiques and Dominik Hierlemann from the Bertelsmann Foundation, Valentin was able to highlight the practical challenges of multilingual participation through digital means. If we were to retain three elements from the discussion, it would be that :
Building such an approach requires anticipation and significant resources, as the slightest change to the platform requires a translation and proofreading phase with professional interpreters;
There is no digital tool yet that allows simultaneous oral discussion between several languages, but videoconferencing services are making progress. In the meantime, the use of written texts with automatic translations is a good alternative, as shown by the system put in place on the Conference's Decidim platform;
Multilingual "mini-publics" and citizen panels are beginning to multiply, with adapted facilitation methods that allow for inclusion, exchange and decision-making on a new scale.
Open Source Politics accompanied the European Commission on the Conference on the Future of Europe.
We also had the opportunity to host the 8th edition of our user club, in person - at last! On the programme: a workshop to share experiences on the challenges of participation by and for our community and presentation of the new Decidim x OSP products!
Finally, our team was particularly active in the workshops on youth participation - the theme of this year's conference - which appears to be one of the major challenges for participation and, more broadly, the future of our democracies. Three main ideas emerged:
More representativeness: Renewing the political offer, making it more inspiring and representative of the different publics that make up youth in order to regain their trust.
More ad hoc participation on topics in line with their concerns, their demand for impact, their time and mobility constraints.
More decentralisation of decision-making at the territorial level: more consultation (co-construction) and less consultation.
Many examples of approaches were shared by actors in the sector, such as travelling consultations, idea collection sessions in high schools, parliamentary simulations, participatory budgets for young people, etc. We were particularly inspired by the initiative shared by Laurène Lolo, founder of the association Cité des chances, which considers debate as one of the first factors of politicisation, and which therefore organises workshop-debates with young people in the run-up to elections in order to collect their proposals for change and transmit them to the candidates.
If participation is on the rise, it is taking place more widely outside the traditional circuit in order to make up for the shortcomings of the right to participation, which remains fragile - as Chantal Jouannot, President of the National Commission for Public Debate, pointed out. These three days in Amiens have inspired us, enabled us to meet and reconnect face-to-face with the participation ecosystem - and what a joy! But they also reminded us that there is still a lot of fighting to be done to enable our democracies to renew themselves.
Officially launched on 9 May 2021, the Conference on the Future of Europe is an emblematic political exercise and an unprecedented step in the history of digital democracy.
This is the first time that such a participatory process has been organised on a European scale. Based on the open online participation of citizens in all their diversity, the work of randomly selected citizens' panels and deliberative plenaries, the year-long process is the most ambitious we have seen to date.
It is a great honour for the Open Source Politics team to have contributed for several months to the preparation and implementation of the participatory platform that is at the heart of the Conference on the Future of Europe.
As of 2019, the European institutions and Member State governments have expressed their desire to involve citizens in shaping the future of Europe. After a comparison of all existing platforms, the European Union chose Decidim. Renewing a long-standing commitment to open source software, this choice was natural as Decidim shares in its conception the democratic principles of the Conference: transparency, integrity and inclusion.
The participatory platform
Several companies in the European Decidim ecosystem have been working on the implementation of the participatory platform. Among them, Open Source Politics was called upon almost a year ago by the Commission services to help the institutions design the participatory modalities and prepare the development of new features. Launched on 19 April, the platform has already collected several thousand contributions. Written in any of the 24 official languages of the European Union, they are automatically translated to make discussion possible on a continental scale.
This platform is the central hub of the Conference. It is through this platform that ideas and events on the ten identified themes are shared and debated. In addition to these contribution spaces and decentralised events, the platform will be enriched in the future by the broadcasting of the Conference plenaries and the presentation of the citizen panels.
The Conference for the Future of Europe
At this time of unprecedented change, citizens expect more than ever a democratic, coherent and efficient Union, capable of actively addressing Europe's current crises and challenges.
In response to these challenges, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council are jointly launching the Conference on the Future of Europe to give citizens a decision-making role in European policy-making.
On 10 March 2021, a joint declaration between the European institutions was signed, setting out the contours of this project. The results of the conference are expected in spring 2022.
We need to make this debate as lively as possible. In these times of COVID, this means experimenting with digital platforms as much as possible. With this platform, we offer the tools to give everyone the opportunity to actively engage in this debate and we will ensure that these ideas feed into the analysis and conclusions of the Conference. It is their future, therefore it is their Conference.
MEP Guy Verhofstadt
Preparing the conference platform
Several OSP services are involved in the implementation of the Conference on the Future of Europe.
The Advisory Team
Our consulting team organised several design workshops in spring and summer 2020 to choose the Decidim functionalities that are placed at the heart of the platform. We have been coordinating the actors involved in the preparation of the platform for a year, which gives us the opportunity to collaborate with Swedish (Digidem Lab on workshops and trainings), Spanish (Codegram on early developments) and Romanian (Tremend on all technical issues) companies.
The Product Team
Our product team is involved in the specification of new developments and coordination with the Decidim community. User-created events with summary reports, multilingual management, customised graphic identity, home page carousel, new proposal evaluation systems... all these advances will benefit all Decidim administrators and users.
The Moderation and Translation team
We have set up a dedicated team of four people to provide real-time post-moderation of the platform and rely on language experts to ensure interaction with users in all languages. Our moderation team has also been responsible for integrating all the platform's content into the 24 languages.
It is particularly stimulating to exchange on a daily basis with partners from all Member States and from several institutions on the organisation of the future steps of the process and the preparation of analyses based on the artificial intelligence tools developed by the Commission's research centre.
The platform is just waiting for you. You can find all the events created and all the ideas already submitted, but also add your own and discuss them with citizens from all over Europe. Visit futureu.europa.eu!