Interview with Jordi Graells: “The Administration must approach young people humbly, without a position of superiority”

Jordi Graells i Costa
Jordi Graells i Costa, 2014. Photo by: Saül Gordillo, CC 4.0

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

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’ 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, the citizens’ health data  cooperative 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.

Free MOOC: Youth and online political participation: motivations, spaces, practices and inhibitors

The Barcelona team of the H2020 project Reinventing Democracy in Europe: Youth Doing Politics in Times of Increasing Inequalities is imparting a free online course on Youth and online political participation: motivations, spaces, practices and inhibitors.

The course will run during 4 weeks, from 18 June 2018 to 16 July 2018 and has the following goals:

  • Define the profile of the millennial generation, especially its main inclusion / social exclusion vectors, and tell the differences and similarities with other former generations.
  • Identify the main socialization and political participation practices of the millennial generation, especially political participation and online activism and its inhibitors.
  • Make public policy proposals related to the political participation of millennials.

To achieve these goals, the course will have a weekly structure, covering the following topics:

  • WEEK 1: Youth in Europe. Characterising the Millennials.
  • WEEK 2: New online political participation spaces and practices.
  • WEEK 3: Main barriers and inequalities of online political participation.
  • WEEK 4: Public policy proposals on youth and online political participation.

The general dynamic of every week will be as follows:

  • Watch an introductory video.
  • Read the suggested readings.
  • Do a self-assessment quizz.
  • Do an assignment, usually writing some minor essay, share it publicly and comment it (assignments will not be corrected or marked)

The evolution of the course can be followed on Twitter at #EURYKAmooc.

The course provides no accreditation or certification.

Seminar on “Social Movement Organizations in the Internet Age”, presented by Dr. Jennifer Earl

The seminar is organized by EURYKA and UOC and will take place on the 15th of December 2017 – 10am-12pm – Josep Laporte room, Tibi1, Av. Tibidabo, 39-43, Barcelona

Research on digital protest has shown that some uses of digital technologies can dramatically lower organizing and participation costs. As a result, social movement protests and campaigns have been able to held with little to no involvement from traditional social movement organizations (SMO). This talk assess the developing debate around SMO involvement in several ways. First, the talk assesses the extent to which SMO-centric understandings of social movement influence depend on a specific model of power and the talk suggests that new models of power may have been opened up using digital technologies. Second, the talk assesses the literature on SMO involvement in the organization of protest, which includes assessing the day-to-day contributions of SMOs (including in terms of youth engagement and movement inclusivity) as well as the ecological impact of SMOs on movements. Third, the talk assesses evidence on shifts in the so-called “demand side” of protest, represented by preferences of potential and actual protest participants for SMO-organization. Finally, the talk identifies important horizons for future research on this topic.

Keywords: Digital Protest, Cyberpolitics, Social Movements, Youth Studies

Jennifer Earl (@ProfEarl) is a Professor of Sociology and Government and Public Policy at the University of Arizona. She is Director Emerita of the Center for Information Technology and Society and Director Emerita of the Technology and Society PhD Emphasis, both at University of California, Santa Barbara.
Her research focuses on social movements and the sociology of law, with research emphases on the Internet and social movements, social movement repression, and legal change. She is the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award for research from 2006-2011 on Web activism. She is also a member of the MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics. She has published widely, including an MIT Press book entitled Digitally Enabled Social Change, which examines how the use of Internet affordances are reshaping the basic dynamics of protest online and was awarded an Honorable Mention for the Communication and Information Technologies Section of the American Sociological Association’s Book Award in 2013. She was inducted in 2016 to the Sociological Research Association, an honorary association for sociological researchers.

Dr. Earl’s presentation will be followed by a debate with participants.
Click here to register.

Summer School on Youth Political Participation in Times of Inequalities

EURYKA and UOC invite applications for the upcoming Summer School on “Youth Political Participation in Times of Inequalities” which will be held in Florence (Italy) in July 2018, from Monday 17th to Saturday 22nd.

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We are pleased to announce that the call for applications is now open for the Summer School on Youth Political Participation in Times of Inequalities, sponsored by the Reinventing Democracy in Europe: Youth Doing Politics in Times of Increasing Inequalities project (EURYKA). The Summer School will take place in Florence, Italy, from the 17th to the 22th of July 2018 and will open to 20 graduate students as well as early career researchers throughout Europe and beyond with a specialized interest in youth participation and democracy, in different fields of study and methodological traditions, including political science, political sociology, political communication, political anthropology and sociology. It will address fundamental issues such as:

  • How do young people form their opinions and take actions to bring about social and political change?
  • What strategies do young people develop to cope with growing inequalities, collectively and individually?
  • How do these strategies relate to issues of democracy, power, politics, policy-making, social and political participation (online and offline) and the organization of economic, social and private life?
  • How can participation of young citizens be encouraged and increased through their interest in involvement and how democratic models could be reshaped in order to make room for young people’s interests and aspirations?
  • Which are the prospects and potentials for youth agency and political engagement online and offline in Europe? What do technological developments mean for young people’s ways of doing politics?

The Summer School will bring together young scholars and more established academics interested in these issues through an intensive curriculum of lectures with established scholars and workshops with young activists. From the 19th to the 22nd of July 2018, in parallel to the Summer School, European Alternatives will hold a Democracy Campus for activists. The campus will promote the emergence of transnational political and cultural forms of activism through workshops, masterclasses, seminars and performances. It will deal with issues ranging from precarity, to municipalism, to new media and artistic strategies, and will address questions of how activism can influence institutions and build democracy across borders. All the Democracy Campus events will be open to Summer School participants and there will be co-organized events.


The Summer School will include four keynote speeches. Confirmed keynote speakers are:

  • Gema M. Garcia Albacete,Department of Social Sciences, Universidad Carlos III, Madrid.
  • Donatella Della Porta, Political and Social Sciences Department, European University Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, Florence.
  • Jennifer Earl,School of Sociology, University of Arizona, Tucson.
  • Marco Giugni, Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Geneva.


The Summer School will take place in Florence and will last 6 teaching days, from the 17th to the 22th of July 2018.


Applicants should email a cover letter (i.e. two pages) in which they explain how their research is in line with the topic covered by the Summer School, a 500-­‐word abstract of a proposed academic paper, and a curriculum vitae to The deadline for applications is the 18th of December 2017.

Applicants will be informed of the outcome by email no later than 30th of January 2018. Those offered places must confirm their participation within 10 days, after which places may be offered to applicants on the reserve list.


Participants to the Summer School will be required to write and submit a 7000-8000 word paper before the 1st of June 2018. The paper will be presented during the Summer School, providing a unique experience for discussion and feedback from established academics and young activists. English will be the working language and therefore students are expected to have a good command of written and spoken English.

Participants will be also required to complete the mandatory readings for morning lectures and to actively participate in discussion during morning and afternoon sessions.


There are no participation fees in the Summer School. Lunches, welcome drinks, a farewell dinner, academic materials, computing and internet facilities will be available for free for selected participants. Travel and accommodation costs are not included, however the EURYKA project can offer 2 travel and accommodation grants (€500 each) to selected participants. Please indicate in your submissions whether you would like to apply for these grants.


Scientific Committee: Lorenzo Bosi, Marco Giugni and Stefania Voli


Email contact for application, questions and clarifications about the Summer School:


The Summer School is kindly supported by:

  • Reinventing Democracy in Europe: Youth Doing Politics in Times of Increasing Inequalities project (EURYKA). The EURYKA project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 727025.
  • Centre on Social Movement Studies (COSMOS) at the Scuola Normale Superiore.

The UOC is taking part in a project to analyse how inequalities affect young people’s approach to politics

On 7 and 8 February, Scuola Normale Superiore de Florència (Italy) was the venue for the initial meeting for the three-year research project Reinventing Democracy in Europe: Youth Doing Politics in Times of Increasing Inequalities (EURYKA), which will be researching young people’s participation in politics and how inequalities affect their approach to it. One of the expectations of this project, funded by the European framework programme Horizon 2020, is to design future political models and systems that are more inclusive towards young people.

The Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) will be coordinating the seventh work package in this project, which will research how politics occur online among young people and the impact that inequalities have when using social networks. There is currently a team of three researchers working at the UOC, Anna Clua – UOC coordinator – and Núria Ferran, professors from the Faculty of Information and Communication Sciences; and Ismael Peña-López, from the Faculty of Law and Political Science.

The project is led by the University of Geneva with nine participating institutions: the University of Sheffield (UK), the Scuola Normale Superiore (Italy), Uppsala University (Sweden), the University of Siegen (Germany), the Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques (France), the University of Crete (Greece), the University of Warsaw (Poland) and, as already mentioned, the UOC.