November 2015: 21c returned to its eParticipation roots last week with the kick off of its latest project#ask at the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki, Greece.
21c partner, Susie Ruston McAleer, who conceptualised and wrote the #ask proposal in response to the Erasmus KA3 Strand 2 Youth call - using eParticipation as an instrument to foster young people’s empowerment and active participation in democratic life – wanted to create an approach that turned the traditional model of stand-alone eParticipation platforms on its head. Instead of expecting youth to search for and find pre-existing discussion platforms, #ask goes directly to the conversations that young people and politicians are already having – in isolation from each other – on the popular online social media network Twitter – which has been described as "the SMS of the Internet’’ and boasts more than 284 million users (source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter).
Whilst a growing number of politicians/policymakers use Twitter, they rarely intersect and engage with young people. Stuck in the traditional top-down communication mode, they tend to ‘push out’ views – often in large and difficult to digest formats. At the same time, whilst young people use Twitter, their discussions are often fleeting and unstructured, responding to issues as they arise rather than feeding into and informing policy discourse. #ask aims to overcome these obstacles by acting as a ‘broker’ between the formal content pushed out by politicians/policy makers and the more informal content spontaneously generated by European youth. It will do so by using 1) communication experts and youth organisations to reformulate structured policy documents and Tweets into more engaging formats 2) sentiment analytics and visualization tools to translateunstructured youth discussions into opinion ‘snapshots’ for politicians/policymakers 3) the promotion of #hashtags to stimulate exchanges between these two groups.
The delivery team of eParticipation and Comms experts from 21c, the University of Macedonia, the online European youth magazine – Café Babel, the European Youth Network for Creativity and Innovation – EYNCRIN, as well as tech firm and Twitter data specialists UXPassions have two and a half years in which to create and test the framework approach. For more information about the processes involved please don’t hesitate to contact us here.