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E-panels Project: Fostering citizens participation and volunteering in a wider Europe





The E-panels project is designed to address the issue of bridging the gap between citizens and the European Union in an innovative way. As we know the citizens panels; which are the groups of ordinary citizens who are not spontaneously involved in EU affairs, is a frequently used solution to cooperate with citizens and to share the ideas about the future of the European Union with its outcomes on the citizens. The new method proposed by this project is to create electronic panels (“E-panels”) to increase the number of citizens from different ages, nationalities and backgrounds who could finally find an opportunity to express themselves on matters related to EU policies that affect their daily life by these online panels. The aim is to test this new dimension of the citizens’ panels’ methodology to see if it is a relevant instrument to foster citizen participation.

 

Bringing the EU closer to the citizens is one of the biggest challenges the EU is facing today. The project paid attention to the need to promote and explain the “European project” to citizens, but also to involve them in its definition itself.


Objectives of the project

By the E-panels project we would like to develop a sense of European identity, based on common values, history and culture, to give to the citizens the opportunity to interact and participate in a broaden Europe through debates about how to improve citizens’ participation, with a focus on tools or processes such as ICT tools and the process of volunteering, to foster a sense of ownership of the European Union among its citizens, and to enhance tolerance and mutual understanding between European citizens, respect and promote cultural and linguistic diversity, while contributing to intercultural dialogue.
The E-panels project aims particularly at:

  • Consolidating the methodology of “citizens’ panels”, with a new dimension, i.e. the e-dimension, in line with the European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009
  • Widening the number of participants in panels involved through the use of ICT and online forum
  • Generating discussion on a specific theme, i.e. citizen participation in Europe and what role volunteering can play in this regard
  • Including candidates countries (and potential one) in this process, in order to foster citizen participation about EU issues in the wider Europe, developing thus an inclusive mechanism

The E-panels project will permit to:

  • Collect the opinion of citizens on some key European challenges for the future: During the implementation process, the project will collect opinions of citizens from 6 countries, 3 EU members states and 3 pre-accession countries, enabling thus to also gather the opinions from future EU citizens on key issues such as how to improve citizens participation, with a focus on ICT and volunteering;
  • Create mechanisms that allow European citizens to develop civic competences to formulate their views and opinions on the European integration process in the form of recommendations for policy makers at European level;
  • Encourage the dialogue between European citizens and the institutions of the EU: During the final conference, the formulated recommendations will be submitted to the EU officials and this will give the opportunity to the citizens to interact directly with them.

The present proposal is based on participatory methods (IT tools, citizen panels, providing information and opinion building) which aim at involving citizens in all the different steps of the project. The employed methodology will be characterized by an active interaction between all the actors involved (citizens, local authorities, EU institutions…), in order to encourage and support the active participation of citizens and to promote the dialogue between them and the EU institutions.


Activities of the project

In order to achieve these objectives, the project will be declined in 7 steps:
International launching conference, 3rd and 4th March 2010 in Skopje, Macedonia
The conference will introduce the topics that will be developed by the e-panels, and will widely promote the project – it will gather all the partners of the projects and the panels’ activators.
E-panels launching conference took place in Skopje on 3rd and 4th March 2010, gathering 100 participants on the both days (locals and internationals). The conference was very successful and resulted with a lot of ideas and different directions for the project.

Trainings of citizens’ panels activators/partners and preparation of a Kit for e-Panels, 27th to 29th April in Brussels
The aims of this activity are to gather citizens’ panels activators and partners from the different partners’ countries to create a transnational group and train them on the topics of active citizenship in EU context, volunteering and the use of ICT, to visit EU institutions and meet EU officials, to bridge the gap between EU citizens and institutions and to produce a “KIT” on how to set-up an “e-panel”.

 

Set-up of the online platform

A website will be dedicated to the project, with a main part in English, and a section in each partner’s language to host the debates of the panels.
Day of Europe: Information on and set-up of the e-Panels, one day in each partner country, possibly on 9th May
Promotion event, aiming at launching the process of setting-up the panels and inform the local community about the project and the citizens about EU activities and in particular the topics of citizens’ participation, ICT tools and volunteering.
Local online workshops during six months
Local online workshops will be organized on specific questions related to citizen participation, ICT and volunteering, to allow citizens to debate on the above mentioned topics, in a flexible manner and to draft recommendations to be exchanged during the final conference and submitted to EU institutions. During the 6 months period, each partner will organize at least 3 different online workshops. Partners together with citizens’ panels’ activators will be free to define their own questions and to moderate the workshops.
Final international conference and last steering committee, 2 days in Zagreb Croatia
The final conference will allow to gather the transnational team created at the beginning of the project to make it exchange on the topics debated by the panels, to inform other public about the results of the projects, to submit recommendations to EU officials and to evaluate the project and propose a follow-up.
Final publication “E-panels: fostering citizen participation in the wider Europe”
Under the supervision of ALDA, with the support of the partners, it will gather the results of the projects and more specifically the different recommendations of the panels. It will also contain a part on the methodology of e-panels that can be used as a basis for future activities.

Download the final publication here


Methodology of the project

Participatory approach : citizens at the centre of the process
The present proposal is based on participatory methods which aim at involving citizens in all the different steps of the project. The employed methodology will be characterized by an active interaction between all the actors involved (citizens, local authorities, EU Institutions…), in order to encourage and support the active participation of citizens and to promote the dialogue between them and the Institutions of the EU.

IT tools

IT methods and tools will thus be extensively used to encourage and facilitate interaction and participation. The aim is to test this new dimension of the citizens’ panels’ methodology to see if it is a relevant instrument to foster citizen participation.
Citizens’ panels
Citizens’ panels are groups of ordinary citizen who are not spontaneously involved in EU affairs. In order to create these flexible (since online) citizens’ panels, the partners will proceed as follow:
-     they will select 3 citizens’ panels activators, i.e. already active citizens (involved in the local life, in NGOs, LAs, as volunteers). Among these 3 citizens’ panels activators, one will be selected for its ICT knowledge and skills to facilitate the creation and management of the online panel (it can be one staff member of the partner organisaiton).
-     these citizens’ panels activators will then have to find around 10 participants each for the panel
-     finally, an open call will be launched in the media by the partner to find additional citizens for the panel.
All the interested people will have the opportunity to get information about E-Panels, the project and the EU during the Info-Day to be organised locally on the 9th May.
Citizens’ panels should involve about 40-50 people. But as a flexible tool, in particular when done though online workshops, the number of people can fluctuate from one workshop to another. The people may also change. However, the creation of a core team of about 15 -20 people, involved during the whole implementation, is expected in order to ensure continuity.


Providing information and opinion building

A training session and study trip will be organised in Brussels specifically to train citizens’ panels activitors to play a role of information provider and to acquire the necessary skills to support the process of opinion building during the online workshops. Information will aslo be provided during the International launching conference, with the intervention of key speakers on the selected topics.
The website will play a key role in providing information to participants. It will contain all the information related to the project but also relevant resources on the topics to be dealt during the debates.
At the local level, the Information Day on the 9th May will be dedicated to provide information to citizens on EU, the projects and topics to be dealt during the online debates.
During the online debates, citizens’ panels activators, with partners’ support, will moderate the discussion and provide necessary information. They will help building citizens’ opinions and drafting recommendations.


Visibility of the project

To ensure the visibility of the project’s activities to the European citizens, an important role for the promotion of project's activities and results will be played by the media, which are involved in all the phases of the project, both at the local and at the international level. All the partners will contribute to the promotion of the action involving their press offices.
The web-site is also considered a really important mean to promote both project's activities and the final results. It will be implemented in progress and will be the key "tool" both for external and internal communication and interaction.
A logo specific to the project will be designed at the beginning in order to ensure an easy but high visibility of the project.
A leaflet of the project will be produced in 5 languages and will be printed in 5000 copies.
A particular attention will be paid to make EU support visible during events and in all the material diffused. Citizens’ panels’ activators, as well as the participants involved in the panels, will play a relevant role at the local level to involve “ordinary” citizens in the different activities
 

Role of partners

During the project, all the partners will actively participate in the planning, implementation and follow-up of the project.
In general terms, each partner will play a relevant role:
-- actively participating in the coordination meetings
-- actively promoting and attending the international events
-- keeping the relations with the local, regional and national media
-- establishing and strengthening the relationships with relevant institutions at the local, regional and national level in their countries
-- actively participating in the drafting of the final publication
-- supporting the web-site management
--disseminating the final results of the project, especially in their countries and through their networks;
-- actively participating in the final evaluation and follow-up


Expected results of the project

-  Through this project at least 20 persons of 6 different countries will be trained, acquiring new information, knowledge and skills in the field of active citizenship and contributing, thanks to their "new" role, to develop citizens' panels at the local level: they will grant thus a high contribution to the implementation of local policies in the field of citizens’ participation supporting both local authorities and civil society groups involved in the specific field. The project will also directly reach 630 people through the various activities (local and international).
 

For more information, please contact:
Meike Westerhaus, ALDA Project Manager Active Citizenship

(meike.westerhaus@aldaintranet.org; +33 (0)3 90 21 45 93).

Barbara Elia, ALDA Financial Officer

Biljana Zasova, ALDA Senjor implementation Coordinator


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