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Europaeum Scholarship: Docotoral Researcher Keith Prushankin

We congratulate SCRIPTS Doctoral Researcher Keith Prushankin, who is part of the 2022/23 programme of Europaeum Scholars, for publishing their report on improving digital public consultations in the European Union. 

News from Sep 10, 2023

The Europaeum is a network of 19 of European leading universities connecting students across disciplines, cultures and countries. For the past three decades the Europaeum has specialised in bringing students from the member universities together in multidisciplinary groups to discuss European issues and to problem-solve in the interests of Europe. Working with its members and with external bodies ranging from the European Parliament to multiple NGOs, Europaeum’s events take place across Europe. 

Our team members embarked together on the 3rd cohort of the Europaeum Scholars Programme in March 2022. This Programme, is designed for promising doctoral candidates and helps to equip them with the competences to be future leaders of Europe. The Scholars are split into sub-groups and tasked with producing a policy proposal. This proposal will be presented to a panel of experts at an international conference. 

We decided on this topic after the second module in May 2022. During this module in Brussels, we visited different EU institutions. It was here where we inquired about the Conference on the Future of Europe, which sparked our interest in public consultation processes. Upon deeper investigation, we wrote a report outlining possible shortcomings and suggesting improvements for the 'Have Your Say!' platform. Our goal is to streamline the consultation process, and make it more accessible to EU citizens.
Digital participation tools have emerged as valuable instruments in promoting democratic engagement, empowering citizens to actively contribute to the decision-making processes in the EU. Digital participation tools serve as a conduit for fostering civic education, enabling their users to stay informed about complex policy issues and legislative developments, thereby nurturing a better informed and engaged civil society. By democratising access to information and decision-making, these tools fortify the foundation of a vibrant democracy. This especially refers to the European Union, which has been said to suffer from a “democratic deficit.” 

The significance of digital participation tools in enhancing citizen engagement to the democratic process cannot be overstated. These tools overcome geographical boundaries and time constraints, allowing individuals to engage in civic discourse and policy deliberations at their convenience. The digital landscape's interactive nature encourages dynamic interactions between citizens and policymakers, fostering a continuous feedback loop that informs policy formulation and implementation. By lowering the barriers to entry, digital participation tools enable a more diverse range of voices to be heard in public discourse. Additionally, these platforms empower citizens to collaborate, organise, and mobilise around shared concerns, leading to the emergence of bottom-up initiatives that can exert substantial influence. 

In the era where public trust in institutions cannot be taken for granted, digital participation tools may provide the means to rebuild that trust by creating an environment of transparency, inclusivity, and shared ownership. This, however, will only succeed if such tools are carefully designed. Otherwise, they may even contribute to the deterioration of the very values that they aim to protect. In the Portal2EU project, we focus on evaluating the EU’s digital public consultation tool -– the Have Your Say! Platform -– and we propose improvements to its design.

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