Unpuzzling Policies

  • “Puzzled by Policy?” (PbP) is a 3-year e-democracy pilot action project launched Sep-2010, funded by the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme. PbP has taken up the challenge to reconnect a disillusioned society to policy making by informing, consulting and empowering citizens at both national and European level, focusing on migration policies at four pilot sites: Athens, Turin, the Canary Islands, and Hungary. PbP builds on preexisting web technologies. Its web portal involves (1) Policy Profiler, a quiz positioning users between liberal and conservative attitudes to immigration, and among stances of stakeholder organizations. (2) U-debate, a structured forum lets users consult topics in their own language. Policy Profiler also runs as a (3) widget, a vehicle for viral marketing on social networking sites. Dissemination events, migration news and forum posts are also wall-posted. Pilot leads generate regular feedback to and from decision makers on the accumulated opinions. U-debate seems less popular than the quiz. While some cannot properly contribute to the debate tree, less structure makes summarizing the opinions for feedback more difficult. Citizens, NGOs and decision-makers all wait for others to attend before engaging the platform. A large immigrant population (as in Spain) can help attract a critical mass, but then a custom moderation regime is needed. Different topics of interests across countries also fragment the forum – automatic translation is little to pool users. Citizens increasingly depend on Facebook and waver at using different arenas, while portal operators need to keep adapting if they want to inter-operate. Differences in top-down and bottom-up approaches to policy making could possibly benefit from dedicated frameworks in U-debate.
    PbP may reach its target number of users, but can it accomplish a sustainable solution from a set budget, in three years of a fast changing economic, social, political and technological environment?