Interview with Jordi Graells, General Director of Citizen Attention, Presidency Department, Government of Catalonia (Generalitat de Catalunya), member of the Open Knowledge Foundation and impeller of the Xarxa d’Innovació Pública (Public Innovator Network) about Public policy proposals on youth and online political participation.
How can institutions better “listen” and better “speak” to youth, especially online?
Intelligently using digitals tools, mainly. Intelligent use of technology can help decisively overcome certain problems and situations whose solution has always required the investment of large amounts of resources. Digital goods and services break down the limitations of the analogue world, because in the digital environment data and algorithms can be endlessly replicated.
The new paradigm of the sharing economy tears up the business rules of the physical world because it facilitates exchange without intermediaries, with high levels of efficiency that differ from previous market logics: renting a room, exchange of knowledge and skills, narrating and providing opinions, sharing and use instead of private property, etc.
The environment where these products and services are offered consists of platforms and networks of interconnected young people , who foster collaborative practices and behaviours. Many such users with a culture of coproduction/co-creation of products and services are to be found among civil servants.
What can the governmental institutions bring into political participation that no other organization (nonprofits, self-organized networks, etc.) can produce?
The experience in certain public policies of public services. Mastery of technology and methodologies to develop collective knowledge. Ability to manage the government/administration – public relationship from a perspective that attempts to maximise the user/citizen experience.
How much of an enabler or an inhibitor is social media both for institutions and youth? In an information rich environment, how can institutions and citizens/youth be sure that the transmedia message they are getting is correct? How to assess reputation? How to assess representativeness?
The Catalan Government is working on gencatGRAM, a database which will become one of the most disruptive services in the public sphere. GencatGRAM will give rise to many products and services (webs, widgets, directories and more) to gradually improve/transform public service channels.
The first product to be developed is a website to track the Catalan Government’s social media activity http://activitat.serveisdigitals.gencat.cat.
It shows the life cycle of these digital channels:
a) It is the public who should monitor the activity (impact) of the profiles created.
b) Thanks to such public control, content and editing can improve.
c) We close down profiles and accounts that don’t work.
In institution-youth collaboration, what comes first (chicken or egg): the Administration approaching citizens (and how) or youth approaching the Administration?
Obiously, the Administration approaching citizens comes first.
The Administration must approach young people humbly, without a position of superiority. The role must be like a node of the network, in equal conditions; we need to overcome the idea of the Administration as a higher body.
Are there any new e-intermediaries between institutions and youth? Who are they? Where do they “gather”?
In addition to the organizations that may partially represent young people, we must start talking about new forms of digital representation. The technology will create gadgets and bots that will play as our representatives. They will present us all the initiatives in which we can intervene that have happened
throughout the day. And they will participate on them in our name.
At what level, or in what kind of spaces do you think the Administration and youth can meet? How would these spaces be enabled?
Obiously, these changes will move towards new forms of democratic participation with syllogisms composed of data and algorithms, which will be activated by bots and other biological and transhuman creatures.
But, at the present moment, we must also start progressively, based on more classic forms of participation and that have been successful.
What do you think that organizations and governments could/should do to adapt to the changing dynamics of political participation and the increasingly ubiquitous ICTs? Democratic skills?
One example linked to citizens’ participation in creating public knowledge is the website ‘We The People’ https://petitions.whitehouse.gov. On 22 September 2011, US President, Barack Obama said that when he considered running for office, he made a commitment to make government more open and accountable to the public. To do this, the We The People app was created, to give Americans a direct line to the White House. Initiatives have been driven with it, for instance, those against the SOPA and PIPA anti-piracy laws.
Another example more closely related to empowering the public is Salus.coop, the citizens’ health data cooperative https://www.saluscoop.org. This last example shows how citizens will organize ourselves to decide as free citizens how we collaborate with our biometric, and other health information, to improve knowledge and the health system, for example. And surely all this transformative energy of public and private services will emerge more easily from the younger age groups of society.