Digital Agenda for Europe
A Europe 2020 Initiative

Digital grassroots engagement in Europe?


Digital grassroots engagement in Europe - do you think that's still a myth? Do you think there are successful examples of digital campaigns or other initiatives enabling this process of participation? An interesting list of the latest R&D projects for platforms for collective awareness and action is available here: However, the big question here is what would be the success prerequisite in the integration of those tools and platforms in the puzzle-alike map of digital Europe? Is it enough to have such platforms to use them? How do we reach stakeholders which are not digitally savvy and plugged 24/7?

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Vessela Karloukovska's picture

Hi Lucy,

Thank you for your post! We're diverging from the main topic of this platform here. Nevertheless, your question raises important issues and pops up even tougher questions, albeit in a different field. It's important to define engagement. But it's even more important to understand whom you mean when you write "grassroots". The issue of the digital divide you mention has become more complex I think because different groups connect within different online technologies. So before picking the tools, understanding grassroots' expectations is essential. There has been a lot of buzz about the use of online tools and their potential to extend active engagement beyond the traditional boundaries of comments on draft legislation, consultations, working groups, etc., valid as those continue to be. The other much acclaimed aspects of digital engagement is its ability to reach a much larger and diverse mass of people + its immediacy. That is undoubtedly so. Still, remaining on the level of tools, even the most sophisticated ones and no matter how expertly used, cannot replace the careful building of long-term engagement strategies. Engagement needs to be purposeful and within its context with a wider goal of making a difference to a policy initiative, a project, relationaships with stakeholders etc..

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Lucy Setian's picture

Hi Vessela,
hopefully we aren't diverging too much.

Engagement has normally 3 phases: first is awareness - level of learning/knowing and understanding about an issue; second is reacting - usually connected with a call to action or "What can I do" practically phase; and the final third phase - Impact and feedback loop, that's the phase in which we see that our efforts to change something could be measured with active reaction from decision-makers and further practical implementations.

As you noted, the problem of immediacy is still a big one. Because many of those issues have a complexity level (despite of desired possible high-impact in the end of the day) that undoubtedly requires putting in place a lot of processes - both on decision-making and implementation phase. Probably the second one is less discussed from for example EU citizens - it's hard to think of many examples when EU citizens managed to influence key for them EU issues and got feedback after 3-4-5 years to see how far and how successful the practical implementation of the initial actions was. On what I personally disagree however is that we have to look at the wider goal. I think the human nature always strives to see the practical changes in the the day-to-day life and be able to say, "yes this worked and my life is better because...". Hence, I see engagement as very down-to-earth, issue-tailored and issue-specific.

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Group managers
Cristina MARTINEZ GONZALEZ European Commission DG CONNECT/02 Head of Sector 'Integration of Regulation, Policy and Research"
Vessela KARLOUKOVSKA European Commission, DG CONNECT Stakeholders Unit Policy officer
Prabhat AGARWAL European Commission DG CONNECT Policy Officer
Group Participants