Current version of the proposal (May 2013)


We are proposing an event in the Autumn of 2013 that bring together civic innovators, coders and others to support a good democratic debate in the run up to the 2014 European Parliament elections. The event would aim to:

  • Build tools supporting participation in democratic debate, delivered primary online but of use to every citizen whether online or offline
  • Create a European network of citizens, committed to building democratic governance at the European level

It would associate the Parliament with the growing civic activist movement, would demonstrate the commitment of the Parliament to European democracy, and show the ways in which representative and participative democracy are complementary rather than competing.


The 2014 European Parliament elections will be significant for several reasons. They will be the first where the Europarties present candidates for Commission President, giving each campaign a clear leader. They will be the first since the full impact of the eurozone crisis, and pan-European issues around austerity, growth, and jobs will be to the forefront.

However, the European political space is immature and debate still mostly happens at national level. Building a European political space, and by extension a European demos is essential if the institutions of the Euro currency and the Union are to be truly democratic and accountable.

The programme

The event would be a hackday (with some satellite events before and after) to create tools for building that European political space online.

We would gather up to 150 hackers and civic activists, with a wide range of member states represented, for two days of intensive creation, based around a set of challenges. The event would take place over a weekend from Saturday morning until Sunday evening. There is potential for a formal welcome or public discussion session on the Friday night.

Participants would work in self-organised teams to create a set of tools to support the European political space, and the best tool would win a small prize. The most important element, though, is creating a continuing network between the participants as the seed for a broader European community of civic and technology activists.

The main event

Our ambition is to host the event in the Parliament building, as the symbolic centre of the most democratic European institution. If this is not possible, or not possible for the entire event, it could also be hosted in another suitable venue in Brussels.

As with other hackdays, the participants would be provided with high-speed internet connection, through their own devices, and access to existing open data provided by the institutions through the data portal. In addition, we would give them access to any other EP or EU data that could be made available. The participants would work to create tools to meet a broadly-expressed challenge around creating a European political space.


Participants would not need to pay for attendance, and we would as far as possible attempt to cover travel expenses, particularly for those who are travelling from farther afield.

We would seed the initial invitation lists carefully to ensure that the participation was balanced between member states, and that we had a good range of skills in the group. Registration would be opened more widely later in the process.

Due to the impossibility of managing multi-lingual translation in a hackday environment, participants would need to have English at a working level, as this will be the medium of the event.

Satellite events

There is already agreement in principle from the European Commission office in the UK to hold a Challenge Day (or “Fix it” day) in London in September, where participants would discuss and agree both the principal challenge for the day, and the data that they would need to try to answer those challenges.

We have also had some initial conversations about a “mod[ification] day” where the tools created during the main event are revised at extended at a follow-up day. This could be held somewhere other than the London-Brussels-Paris triangle, perhaps in an A8 country to ensure that there is some geographical balance to the roster of events.

Proposed dates and venue

The main event would be held in November in Brussels, with the challenge-setting day in London in September and any mod day in either December or January.

Technical requirements

The most important requirement is fast wifi. Traditionally, hack weekends run through the night so there would be some benefit to having access available to the building through that period, though this is not essential.

The organisers

The Democratic Society. We are a reform and civic activism organization undertaking work with UK national and local government on democratic reform and openness. We have organised similar events in our home city of Brighton, and at national level through the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives. of CityCamp. Our director, Anthony Zacharzewski, has a background as a senior national and local government official.

Five by five. Five by Five is a Paris-based startup that designs and co-pilots open data initiatives. Its co-founders, Kat Borlongan and Chloé Bonnet, are social innovation enthusiasts that have worked with SNCF Open Data, Apps for Europe, Startup Weekend and Belgium’s Summer of Code.

The national partners

We would identify national lead partners in as many member states as possible, who would connect us into local networks of coders and democracy activists. We have already identified and contacted partners for the UK, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Austria, Spain and Slovakia.

The cost

We would anticipate the costs of the event being met through a combination of support from the European Institutions (in cash and kind), and external sponsorship from corporations or others.

The UK Office of the European Commission has already agreed to fund the costs of the challenge day, which we anticipate being €10,000 with no travel costs covered for participants.

Drawing on the experience of the EU Hackathons organised by N-Squared Consulting we anticipate the total budget of the event at a maximum of €90,000, of which €50,000 would be allocated to travel and accommodation for the 150 participants. The remainder would be promotion, catering, recruitment and organisational costs.

We would hope that the European Parliament would be prepared to provide venue and internet access as a contribution in kind, and also some direct financial support for the organisation and catering costs of the event.

We will look to national partners and sponsors to provide the travel and accommodation costs for participants on a “sponsor a hacker” basis. We think that it is important to support travelling participants as far as possible, to ensure that it feels like a truly pan-European event and the full range of member states is represented.

Next steps

We are already making preliminary arrangements for the Challenge Day. Once the principle of holding the event is agreed, we can begin to plan for dates and timelines, and begin conversations with our potential sponsors.

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From CitizenHack to Democracy Camp?

Anthony and others, this sounds like a great project to me, and this proposal is quite an advancement from the original idea in that it’s becoming very concrete.  It seems that you ended up with a different name, sounds more conciliatory than the former which might have scared off some sponsors? ;)

I very much like the approach of making a case for representative + participatory democracy and the formula you chose fits quite nicely and can appeal to both pro-European through large, concerted actions and hacking mentality through focus on quick fixes… Add to this the open data enthusiasts and you’ve got yourselves quite a large pool for participants. I think this is a big advantage.

Curious though how this is seen by the Commission, namely the UK office people who already agreed to finance this? What do they hope to get out of this, other than of course great promotion through wide participation? are they onto specific types of prototypes that can then be implemented or do they want to support people start up independent innovative projects?

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Thanks, Noemi.

Yes the name change is definitely so we don’t frighten the horses!

The Commission in the UK want two things, I think. First, the public relations benefit, but also a sense that - to use Alberto’s words - “if you don’t like it, you should fix it, not walk away,” which is an important message to feed into the UK debate at the moment.


Got it in one :slight_smile:

Noemi, well spotted :slight_smile:

I changed the name of the project to reflect the new, ahem, branding choices :smiley:

Have you considered having “satellite events”?

Very good initiative. :slight_smile: As everything Anthony puts his hands on.

Let’s talk about it soon, Anthony.

To be honest, the sentence “[the event] would demonstrate the commitment of the Parliament to European democracy” catched my attention. I am not sure it can be taken for granted. A more accurate description of reality would probably need to add a ‘rethorical’ before commitment. But for sure, this would make the proposal less attractive. Let’s not frighten the horses… and let’s not annoy them.

Ups! I almost forgot: have you considered having ‘national’ satellite events, linked with the main Brussels camp? This could reinforce the trans-European character of the innitaitive, and differentiate it from the usual “Brussels” event.

Satellite is hard, but…

Pedro, I think satellite events are hard to start “from the center”. Plus, from an Italian perspective, my goal is to get people to interact on a more international scene – we tend to be quite provincial, and Euro events are a good medicine for this. That said – though of course I cannot speak for Anthony – if somebody wants to do a national event linked to the main one I would certainly encourage him or her to do so. That does raise the design issue of how you make that link, but maybe the issue can be addressed successfully. Is that what you would like to do?

Just asking…

Hi Alberto, I agree with your observations.

I see the value of putting people together and making them interact at a pan-european level. I understand that this is precisely one of the aims of the initiative. But in the last time I saw/heard of (didn’t participate) some events, for example with a Latin-America orientation, that were quite distributed. The general aim was shared and somehow coordinated by a wiki… but people were meeting and working in different locations in different countries.

So… in short: I was not proposing to do it, just proposing to think about the possibility of doing it. :slight_smile:

I do not know if there is demand of it and, as you say, it is difficult to start this things “from the center”. But maybe we could just encourage it by opening a space/page where this events -if there is any- could get registered. And then see what happens. Maybe there are groups/communities that are just waiting for an excuse to meet and hack for a while.

This is the kind of “distributed” events…

…I was referring to. Well, I guess this is indeed the biggest ever happening:

National Day of Civic Hacking (NDoCH), with more than 95 events through the US.


Great project…and so necessary in countless ways.

My question concerns the tools the project aims to create

  • Build tools supporting participation in democratic debate, delivered primary online but of use to every citizen whether online or offline

Do we already know what kind of tools supporting participation we aim for? Are we talking apps/ websites/ data visualizations/ platforms for MEP/ citizen exchange?



Share Ideas

Dear Friends,

For over a year I’ve been developing some ideas in this domain (though in a different direction). And I’ve just recently discovered EdgeRyders so …

The ideas have not yet matured for me to put in coherent writing (I have done some writing but not mature enough to share). I’d be very happy to speak (via Skype) to you as a group or to one of you as a representative to share and connect.

All Things Good


Sure, let’s talk!

Hey Ronen, welcome :slight_smile:

This sounds like a job for [Noemi Salantiu]. You are also welcome to our weekly community call: every Friday, 11.00 a.m. CET, on Google Hangout (not Skype, and you’ll need a browser plugin):

If you decide to participate in the community call, here is a quick recap of what we have been saying, so you can participate on an equal footing with everyone else.


Hello Alberto,

I hope to meet Noemi in the next 2 or 3 weeks and I do intend to share my thoughts with her.

EdgeRyders is pushing me to open a Google account. I have held out for a very long time (I really don’t want one) … but pressure is building :slight_smile:

I am available on Skype (same username that I’ve registered with here) if you want to talk.

All Things Good


you’re not the only one!

not sure what your motives are, but definitely a considerable number of Edgeryders are very much against google or any form of proprietary software.  The only reason we chose google hangouts is because it came in handy (it accomodates up to 10 people with webcams on at the same time, unlike skype’s free version last time i checked); in the meantime we are waiting and/or are very open to the idea of using other software, preferably a self-hosted one… I know google is excluding many in the community here… anyways i do hope to meet you soon, in Cluj!!

nice being NOT the only one

my motives are too off-topic to mention here.

anyways … I tried signing up … and am having trouble because I am on ubuntu … so they want me to Install Chrome too … and I can’t do it (maybe more motivation down the line will change my mind?). I feel them pushing into my life … invasive and disgusting experience. Now I have to go and delete my cookies … just in case they’ve left anything behind.

I prefer the limited Skype voice-only option (for group calls) then being exposed to Google.

sorry :frowning:

No worries, we understand :slight_smile:

… and we will end up moving to some free-and-open tool anyway, as soon as [Matthias] finds a suitable one and gives the word.

This need not stop our collaboration: most of the work is done in writing on this platform. If you want to talk, try pinging [Noemi].

Also very glad to talk

Hello! Sounds like a good time for a general chat on where we can go with this project. Back fully online when kids go back to school next week - but can do earlier if needed.

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Next week’s fine

It will be good to catch up, [anthonyzach]! Lots of stuff happening at this end.