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The Europe roundup: EU funding: inclusion is disruption

BY Antonella Napolitano | Thursday, June 23 2011

  • EU | EU funding: inclusion is disruption
    Public policies work through people, so why aren’t they more inclusive?
    It’s the question asked by economist (and citizen!) Alberto Cottica, after the Digital Agenda Assembly held last week in Brussels.
    Cottica, who spoke about this topic at PdF Europe 2010, thinks that the European Funding may be better used:

    The European Commission manages a lot of money. Just regional development projects are allocated a little less than 350 billion euro over the 2007-2013 period research is allocated another 50 billion, and on it goes. Many critics complain that these resources end up funding mainly “the usual suspects”: universities, large corporations, public authorities, trade unions. These players can deal with the bureaucratic complexities of mounting a European project (for example, build a consortium with at least X partners in Y countries, one of which should be a new member State to increase chances of being funded); but they are not necessarily the most effective at using the money to everyone’s advantage. On the contrary, large organizations tend to have large overheads, a lot of middle management as opposed to line-of-fire staff, low propensity to risk.

    Small enterprises and young entrepreneurs are left behind by this process and usually they are the most innovative and interesting players.
    The solution? Peer-to-peer, argues Cottica:

    With this problem in mind, the Department of Regional Affairs at the Prime Minister’s Office is building a project called Opera, a tool to build European project in a peer-to-peer modality (an open community will launch in September). One of its most fascinating features is the possibility to search for possible partners, and to comment and rate their performance. The community spots reliable, fast, collaborative partners and makes it easier to find them — and this will help the emergence of better partnerships and better projects, increasing the efficiency of that funding.

    The initiative is inspired by Kublai, an Italian community developed by the Italian Ministry of Economic Development and led by Cottica himself (full disclosure: I was Kublai’s community manager for the first year of the project), that helped creating more inclusive policies. A successful case in a national context, like Kublai, poses a challenge for the Opera project. Will the the European Union be able to manage it successfully despite the system?

    It is not so surprising, because public policies work through people, and changing the players is a great way to change the game. It remains to be seen whether policy innovators will manage to protect initiatives like Opera from the inevitable backlash of incumbents, that have so far gotten very comnfortable deal under the present system. For all the talk of Creative Destruction, not everybody likes creative destruction.

  • EU | Ask your president (of the European Council)

    “I am ready to answer your questions. Please put yours by video (and that's what I would prefer) or by text. I invite you to vote on the questions asked by giving a "thumbs up" or a "thumbs down" and thus help me see which matters are of most interest to you. I will concentrate on those matters in my answers”.

    Surprisingly enough, the invitation doesn’t come from a candidate trying to show that he cares about the opinion of potential voters, but from Herman Van Rompuy, the sitting president of the European Council.
    Van Rompuy wants to hear questions from European citizens and promises to publish his video-replies on his Facebook page.
    Euroblogger Kosmopolit is curious to see how the basic tool will work and has some communication advice for Van Rompuy on languages and voting:

    - [...] what about languages? The website is currently only in English, probably a sign that it is an experiment (but don’t tell it to the French!). But more seriously, it is the EU and languages are important. I understand that it is a lot of work to provide translations but if you launch a page such as askthepresident.eu make sure that people can at least submit questions in all EU languages.
    Voting without a google account. I understand it is easier to use google or facebook plugins to achieve a meaningful social media integration but at the same time these tools exclude many European citizens. Not everyone has a google account and I certainly would not like to open a google account just to be able to play around with voting on a EU website. Moreover, I don’t want to be forced to use a certain company to get in touch with politicians. I am also suspicious about revealing my political interests to any company...

    The experience might be more helpful for the president than for the citizens, argues Kosmopolit. We’ll wait and see the outcome.

  • UK | Help launching FixMyTransport
    mySociety.org is launching another project aimed at helping improve the everyday life of the average citizen: FixMyTransport. The new initiative will deal with public transport problems: delayed trains, vandalised stations, overcrowded buses, and so on.
    But they need your help as a beta tester:

    we especially need the email addresses for operators’ customer services departments. Finding these may be as simple as visiting the operators’ websites, or it may require a bit of sleuth-work on your part.  If advanced Googling gets you nowhere, we’ve found that simply phoning head office can get results.
    Incidentally, the main operators are near the top of the sheet – those are the ones that will benefit the most users, although obviously the nearer completion we get, the better.

    FixMyTransport will be starting a closed beta (in mid July), rapidly followed by a full open public beta launch (end of July). A few minutes of your time may be extremely helpful!