Context and objectives
Democracy in the 21st century is increasingly under pressure and the evolution of society is undermining the pillars of contemporary European democracies. There are five main trends today, which reflect dissatisfaction with the current regime: inclusion is increasingly coming back to the forefront; polarisation is increasing, with increasingly extreme positions; the notion of identity is more than ever discussed and sometimes abused; citizens now have the means to think critically, but this leads them to question other actors; politicians have less and less power and their impact is less in the face of supranational technocratic bodies. In the face of these doubts, more participatory and deliberative democracy has been presented as a solution, as evidenced by the many experiences and citizens’ initiatives launched throughout Europe over more than 10 years.
Nevertheless, this new form of democracy has not yet proved its worth, let alone convinced everyone. The EuComMeet project wishes to carry out in-depth research to understand whether and how deliberation can have an impact on decision making and in particular on the positions of individual citizens. Conducted over more than 4 years, on different scales, on different subjects but always in the light of the 5 trends mentioned above, the initiative will provide a better understanding of how deliberative democracy can be even more effective and how to implement it in the most appropriate way. Ultimately, the EuComMeet project wishes to present a “toolkit” in the form of a platform (Participatory space) that would be a reference for carrying out deliberative projects in Europe.
Terms of the mission
The first step (‘Lessons Learned’) of the mission consists of a referencing and analysis of the different deliberative processes that have already taken place, which will allow an understanding of the good practices and pitfalls already known. The aim will be to review the current state of participatory democracy in Europe, in particular with regard to the 5 criteria of analysis: inclusion, polarisation, identity, reflection and political impact.
The second step (‘Fill the gap’) is the creation and development of a citizen workshop protocol based on the lessons learned in the first step. This protocol will then be tested in schools and universities in the selected countries: Germany, France, Ireland, Italy and Poland.
In the third stage (‘Make it happen’), the test will be repeated in real life with 144 citizens, spread over 2 cities in each partner country. The role of Public Missions will be to ensure and coordinate the moderation of the workshops and the follow-up of the protocols established in the previous phases.
The EuComMeet project will be an opportunity for the world of deliberation to settle down, look back, and then know where we are going. In a fast moving world of participation, it is possible that we are missing the point and that we are going in the wrong direction or in the wrong way. In-depth, long-term research and – more importantly – a large-scale test will provide information for everyone: citizens, politicians and participation professionals.
The project has been set up so that no step, no opportunity to test approaches is missed. Thus, the research will analyse the attitudes and positions of a wide variety of citizens: young people, disconnected people, people with extreme opinions, people with disabilities, people on social networks, etc. The project will also analyse the attitudes and positions of the various stakeholders in the community. In the same way, in the method, the project wants to be innovative: citizens will be mixed with citizens from other cities and other countries, consultations will be done according to an evolutionary logic (from local to European and vice versa), will also use bots for moderation and translation. Citizens will be put in different conditions: sometimes moderate, sometimes not moderate, sometimes synchronous, sometimes asynchronous, sometimes with foreigners, sometimes with nationals. The research is therefore multiple and reflexive, with a step-by-step approach that will make it possible to test different scenarios and draw many conclusions.