January 11, 2018
Guest post by Zachary Ellis, intern at Biderbost, Boscan & Rochin (BB&R)
Over the past couple of weeks of 2017, an innovative phenomenon has been taking place in local Salamancan schools. The European project eParticipation is making its presence known within classrooms, and it is positively affecting youth all across Salamanca, London, and Palermo. The eParticiaption project is a movement funded by the EU that seeks to “identify the essential characteristics that electronic platforms must have in order to civically empower new generations of Europeans”. In this sense, participants in this project are using technology that appeals most towards today’s youth such as ePlatforms in order to increase their overall civic education, increase their participation in local politics and communities, and become more active members of society in general. In Salamanca, local consulting firm BB&R has taken the initiative to bring this project to the local youth. A few weeks ago at the school of San Estanislao de Kostka, BB&R’s Projects Coordinator Alonso Escamilla presented a leading ePlatform to a classroom of 4th graders. The platform that was tested is known as DemocracyOS. DemocracyOS (developed by Deomocracia en Red) is a platform that allows users to create their “own democracy” on the internet. The platform seeks to be the “Magna Carta” for the web, in the sense that it allows anybody to propose their own public debates about any topic, and then invites other users share their opinions towards that subject matter without corporate or government influence, giving users complete “web freedom” in order to instill better arguments. In this specific case at San Estanislao, the students used the platform in order to propose ideas on how to tack youth unemployment. After a series of brilliant ideas, the students were then able to debate each suggestion and choose which one they collectively thought was best. After the debate, the students were then able to evaluate the platform itself, and came to a very positive conclusion. Collectively, they stated that “it’s very important to know that electronic platforms are really useful and attractive for young people at the secondary level”.
The city of Salamanca, and BB&R are truly paving the way for the introduction of the eParticipation project in Europe. Not only are they attempting to target the youth directly in local schools, but they along with HRYO (Italy) and Momentum World (United Kingdom) are also implementing the project Italy and United Kingdom. Co-founder of BB&R, Pablo Biderbost, says that the project aims to “identify the essential characteristics that electronic platforms must have in order to empower the new generations of Europeans civically and make them active citizens in democratic life”. The yearlong project follows a three phase plan. Phase one focuses on the exchanging of good practices amongst the entities in order to come amongst a common ground on what makes each platform successful. The second phase will consist of each entity working directly with the young people of their host nation in order to gain opinions on ePlatforms and what makes them successful vs. what can be improved about them. Finally, the third phase consists of the evaluation of the information gained in the previous two phases, and creating a manual on what platforms and methods work best towards civically empowering youth.
With the creation of this manual, along with the efforts of BB&R, HRYO, and Momentum World, it is hoped that European youth, political bodies, youth associations, and social enterprises become more aware of the existence of ePlatforms. If eParticipation can be utilized effectively, further generations of youth will be empowered civically, and we can move towards a more inclusive and democratic Europe.Guest contributor