Participation requires space
as is very well highlighted in this 2010 video from the AER Youth Regional Network. And by space it’s not just physical space that is meant, such as meeting rooms, but also space in the institutions, in the decision making process. This is valid for young people but also for society at large: how do we make space for citizens participation? If citizens are to adhere to and engage in actions, they need to be involved in more than just validating decisions. AER has long been advocating for the creation of regional youth councils. Its report on youth participation lists a series of recommendations in the field. The joint Committee 2 and Committtee 3 plenary meeting in march 2015 focused on participatory approaches for better policy making. The events highlighted good practices from Nordjylland (DK), Donegal (IE), Värmland (SE), Norrbotten (SE): involvement of regional stakeholders in the development of a region’s strategy, creation of a senior citizens’ council, quotas for women in political parties, political participation of youth, inclusion of minorities…
Space is information
In order to engage, citizens need to have access to the information. However the quantity of daily information flux is such that it is crucial to ease access. Where is the information distributed? What are the communication tools used? are these adapted to different audiences? Is the information easy to use? Is it presented with a user’s perspective? How does it relate to citizens? What kind of information is distributed? A project like Perspective Daily typically addresses the lack of exposure of positive news. The AER seminar on “Communication & Action in times of crisis” in Timis on 12 April will look at how to engage citizens in tackling tough policy choices.
Communication is a two-way street
Too often communication is confused with “providing input”. But one of the most important aspects of communication is listening. How do you listen to citizens? Do they feel they are been taken seriously? What are the best processes to avoid citizens participation follows the Pareto principle and is no longer representative? In Canada MASS developped deliberative tools such as civic loteries and reference pannels to engage citizens and innovate democratic processes. With its overarching 2016 theme “revitalizing democracy”, AER is organising a series of activities to ensure interregional cooperation provides regions and citizens with real added value. In this context, the Bureau meeting in June will discuss how technology is disrupting/ innovating democracy.