543° dia

Segue texto do meu discurso na European Citizens’ Convention, em Genova, dias 3 e 4 de dezembro de 2005.

How to Radically Democratize the Constitution of a European Society

Giovani Spagnolo
ParTecs – Participatory Technologies

European Citizens’ Convention
Genoa, 3-4 December 2005.

The French and Dutch “No” to the Constitution opened the window for a deep reflection and for a public discussion about the way in which people want to live in Europe.

On the top of this issue we can draw one hypothetical situation where a good communication process can prove to be worth. This very interesting idea came from the Center of Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University, inside one article called “Putting all of Europe in one room” written by Prof. James Fishkin. It is based on the concept of Deliberative Polling® .

“A Deliberative Poll attempts to represent what the public would think if it really became engaged in the issues under good conditions, and in particular, if it really became more informed.” Fishkin’s idea was to select random and representative samples of citizens in all Member States, summing up a total sample about the size of the European Parliament. After the sample in each country was given a survey, they would be recruited to come for a weekend of deliberations in a single place; that could be the European Parliament in Brussels, for example. At this point, survey researchers would stay in touch with the initial sample, offer them financial incentives to participate, pay for their transportation, meals, and hotels. But once gathered at a single site, the sample would be distributed in small groups of 10-15 people. The groups would talk about the issues, initially on the basis of briefing documents, identifying key questions they wish to ask to experts in plenary sessions, during all weekend. At the end of the weekend the participants would take the same questionnaire they took on first contact. A separate random sample who did not deliberate would be asked the same questions in a conventional survey, enabling the possibility to demonstrate that the changes are due to the deliberative process and not just to the public debate.

With a web communication platform capable of responding to this experiment, ParTecs is a software company based in Rome, that has invested nearly five hundred thousand (500,000) euro in the past two years to establish an innovative open communication space to support the emergence of a European Democratic Society by the means of an ASP service via internet and partnerships with other public and private entities. The main goal of such spaces will be to achieve a wide consensus on detailed principles and values that would possibly become “morally” and “politically” binding to nations’ lead constituent processes.

Such spaces would consist of inter-media and inter-language synchronous and asynchronous areas for discussion, information and deliberation, enabling the management of hierarchical communities and enhancing communication patterns of bodies distributed across time and geography. Through intuitive usage and high configurability, the processes of organising and deliberation become easier and faster to do.

Current technologies such as blogs, mailing lists, chats and forums for long time have been enabling remote members to communicate and share information. However, they fail to envision and realize the promise of new telecommunication technologies: to facilitate the creation and expansion of effective and Democratic Communities across time, space, and language, via remote communications.

In our “All of Europe in one room” example, someone in Italy will rarely talk to someone in another country, let’s say France or Portugal, about any European issue in a serious way. Some privileged groups may have this discussion, but it will be very rare to see this happening at the root level.

The ASP service we propose, apart the decision-making and consensus-building facilities, easily integrates tools for content translation and organic social networking construction, enabling savings in travel time, travel and simultaneous translation costs by connecting more people remotely and making their live meetings more productive. It permits to multiple bodies of large organisations to remotely maintain continuous and intense access to deliberative organisational processes; thus ensuring decision-making that is better, more informed, and based on a larger consensus.

Each of its modules are being developed through the extension, customisation and integration of existing FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source Software) software applications. All software developed for the PARTECS platform will be distributed under a license that permanently guarantees all its users freedom for access, distribution, and modification of the original and any modified version, starting 12 months after their first use; and the ASP service shall be fully operative in the next 9 months.

In the meantime, we are looking for private, but specially for public organizations that can help us to evolve the participatory processes for their citizens online, bringing it as close as possible to an ideal reality. We are looking for public partners willing to construct a new Democratic European Society, by taking advantage of the new development of ICT’s and this new window of opportunity created by the EU Constitution rejection.

Giovani Spagnolo


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