An online information and discussion hub was designed to help the European Parliament raise awareness on the topic of climate change and energy among the EU citizens, especially the new generations, and to propose the most appropriate policy responses at all institutional levels.
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Problems and Purpose
The IDEAL-EU Social Networking Platform was designed to connect citizens in three regions of Europe (Catalonia, Poitou-Charentes and Tuscany), in the context of an EU-funded Preparatory Action on eParticipation dealing with the issue of climate change and energy policy making at the level of the European Parliament . The project was aimed at supporting the efforts of the European Parliament to raise awareness on the topic of climate change and energy among the EU citizens, especially the new generations, and to propose the most appropriate policy responses at all institutional levels (including the European Commission, member states and regions) .
Background History and Context
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Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
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Participant Recruitment and Selection
By mid 2008, all the needed information was uploaded and made publicly available on the platform. The four in-person debates were freely open (to registered users), but moderated by experienced facilitators. Registered users could actively take part in the online debates, by suggesting new topics, taking part in the discussions, and giving their opinion on other users’ comments by clicking on a “ ” or “-” button. Anonymous users could only read the posts and intervene on the ranking of subjects using a polling mechanism.
Methods and Tools Used
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Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction
The platform was officially launched on 25th June 2008 . The national versions of the Social Networking Platform intended to support the distribution of thematic information on the issues of climate change and energy and the realisation of deliberative discussions among citizens and stakeholders on the upcoming EU policy agenda. The idea was to boost citizens’ interest and build up their awareness before engaging them in face-to-face discussion. The three national versions were all accessible from the main home page. Internet users could switch from one language to another and monitor the different versions, which included totally different contents due to the national priorities identified by the three Regions and to the spontaneous evolution of the respective online debates. Overall coherence was maintained, however, until the end of the year 2008 by the three participant Regions.
Following the platform's launch, three totally independent debates on climate change and energy took place on the SNP during the second half of that year (in Catalan, French, and Italian), while the English version was mostly used to disseminate the project results to a wider international audience.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
This evidence testifies the important role played by the political commitment as “prime motor” of the setting up and implementation of a Social Networking Platform as a support to policy making. But the most unexpected, and somehow surprising, results come from the the IDEAL-EU platform's continued use (past 2009) independently of any further initiative of its original “owners”. Indeed, during 2009, new users continued to register and many more unique visitors have populated the content areas of the platform than during the period when it was actively “pushed” by the supporting public authorities via a number of initiatives to raise awareness and elicit attendance.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Thanks to the provision of advance information to discussants, the judgements expressed during the debates looked more reliable, perhaps even authoritative as a source. A “word-of-mouth” effect continued to spread over time, and the favourable impact of the platform start-up and trial phase (the one directly governed by the Social Networking Platform's owners) got reinforced by subsequent one-time contacts and repeated anonymous visits.
 Chrysos, C. (n.d.) "IDEAL-EU: Integrating the Drivers of e-Participation at Regional Level in Europe." eParticipation. Retrieved from http://globalforum.items-int.com/gf/gf-content/uploads/2014/04/Christos_...
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The original version of this case study first appeared on Vitalizing Democracy in 2010 and was a contestant for the 2011 Reinhard Mohn Prize. It was originally submitted by Francesco Molinari .
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