Three steps to engage Europeans with the EU

OK, but How?

My first post criticised this — and thousands of reports like it — for making grand, simplistic recommendations of What should be done, yet ducking the question of How.

First, develop an online Community of Practice

This must exist first, and it’s a no-brainer: even if the policy participation process (below) failed, a successful online community of practice would be hugely beneficial for everyone involved in developing Europe’s regions — i.e., the sort of people who attend the EWRC year in, year out.

40% of the attendees would likely or certainly get involved in such a Community, and another 50% might, for predictable reasons.

Step 1: hold local participation workshops

Local organisations launch the process, with local campaigns promoting local participation workshops.

Treaty-based credibility

How do I know my contribution will be seriously considered, and not binned by some bored bureaucrat who can’t be bothered reading it?

Local conversations on improving EU policies

“bringing Europe to the regions to listen”

The CoR is a participative body with a Treaty Obligation to “bring Europe to the Regions, and the Regions to Europe” to improve EU policies impacting Europe’s regions and cities, so this process is them doing their job. That gives this participation process far more credibility than most, which are generally run by communications teams with no influence over policy.

Rewards for participation

What do I get out of attending?

Two slides from October
  • local visibility (above left): authors of good ideas, submitted online beforehand, are given the mike at the workshop to explore them with other locals and the Brussels Bubble representative(s)
  • EU visibility & policy traction (above right): the authors of the best ideas (“Delegates”) are first networked together online (“bringing regions together to exchange ideas” — see Step 2, below) and then flown to Brussels to bring their ideas to the Brussels Bubble at the next EWRC conference (“bringing the regions to Europe” — Step 3).

Step 2. Bring new blood for the online community

But if the local workshops are held in May, and the Delegates come to the EWRC in October, what happens in between?

“bringing regions together to exchange ideas”

This gives an interesting job to the Online Community Managers:

  • networking Delegates together to identify common interests and complementary ideas
  • guiding them through the complex world of EC policies and programmes
  • introducing them to Brussels Bubble Denizens online
  • helping them prepare their contribution to the EWRC, stakeholder workshops and any other relevant events

Step 3. Bring new blood to Brussels

By the time the Delegates arrive in Brussels, therefore, they are members of the online community and have their ‘event programme’ planned.

“bringing the regions to Europe”

And they report back using their Newcomers’ Eyes:

Lessons learnt from the 2016 & 2017 EWRC blogging competition

New stories about the EU from ‘people like us’

While the goal is to improve EU policy through public participation, I started this post with a quote from Brand’s report for a reason: apart from making “citizens feel that they are the protagonists of policymaking and not just the passive recipients”, this process opens the Brussels Bubble to new audiences through the Delegates’ stories about their EU experience.

their story is far more compelling than anything anyone inside the Brussels Bubble could tell

What did the regions think?

Launching such a project without enthusiastic regions would be pointless, so I asked the workshop participants whether they would get involved, and what centralised support from the EU Institutions they would most like to receive:

A solid third of the workshop participants were Likely or Certain to get involved in a pilot project to test the process, with another third Possible. Most wanted promotional support and/or training in return.

Lip Service?

I originally suggested the workshop to ascertain the interest of the regions, as I assumed that the other side of the project — the Brussels Bubble — sincerely wishes to engage with those from outside it. Brand’s report, after all, is hardly the first to call for greater citizen participation in EU decision-making.

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