I have just spent a couple of days in London for the launch of our new EU funded project: Europetition which has been designed to do two things:
- To build up clusers of local petitioning organisations – usually Local Authorities – in our 5 pilot regions so that they can share best practice, protocol and also co-market petitions
- To join up these petitions with the aim of producing cross border petitions which can then be presented the the European pilot
Unlike CitizenScape this is a very simple concept in eParticipation but it brings in many similar elements (which is possibly not a surpise). My interest in petitions is, like my interest in webcasting and PB, around the idea of establishing reasonable and practical points of entry to the democratic process. I’ll make a note to describe in more detail my grouping of these tools.
Petitions sit on the boundary between formal and informal activity. The action of creating a petition and promoting is an act of engagement with the formal established decision making process but the signing of a petition really represents the ‘smallest’ action that can be considered to be part of the democratic process. This is additional true of online petitions which systematically gather information about the signatory as well as, where possible, capturing an email address. It is this email address – an implicit invitation to talk more – that makes these online petitions such a strong entry point for democratic engagement. In talking to clients and project partners about this I have been trying to emphasise the importance of leveraging this opportunity and providing a pathway of more substantive engagement. In the same way as amazon is always suggesting your next purchase a democratic organisastion should be laying out the next possible democratic act.
The other thing which interests me about the Europetitions project is the way that the act of petitioning sits at this gateway between the informal and formal participation and is a potential conduit between them. This is how is fits with the work we are doing on Citizenscape and how I see it as relating to my main research focus.
And a final though – it was obvious from the meeting this week that we have a very strong team for this project which will make a hige difference – ask me in June if this first impression is correct!!
PS Talking to the EuroPetition team has really refined my thinking on the pilot questionnaire – will update this tomorrow.