Noemi: Hey Nadia, could you tell our readers how did you end up working on Edgeryders?
Well, I had been involved in trying out different attempts at bridging the gap between policy-makers, civil servants and people who are affected by their decisions, for example by setting up Future Building for Wikicrats (a workshop at hacker unconference in which I got European Commission officials to participate). It all started at a conference where I witnessed a pretty lame attempt by a lobbyist that will remain unnamed to pitch a shady project (at best) to a public institution. I thought it strange that a person was unchallenged by the people in the room except for myself, and started to ask questions I used to be in the advertising business and got fed up, quitting my job without giving much thought to what I would do next – all I knew was that it really wasn’t for me, all this work and energy and cognitive power going into maintaining the illusion of the “new”. It was an environment in which you as a young person could get space quite quickly and so it made sense to give it a try for a while, but in the end I grew bored of the whole thing and wanted to be working on real challenges- addressing complex wicked problems. Plus, there was an ethical dilemma; it’s hard to be honest with clients when the livelihood of your colleagues depends on your not alienating them. And it’s increasingly important to my sense of integrity to be able to work against the developments that harm my, 0ur, future. Kind of like not voting against your best interests in an election. I was doing freelance User Experience Design when the opportunity to work with the Council of Europe popped up- and saw all of my current interests, skills and networks converge into doing something I really believe in.
N: What is it that you like best in your work?
I think it’s having my belief that there is a community out there waiting to happen, that involving citizens in policy deliberation does work and interacting with all of these inspiring people from all over the world who have real solutions to big issues. Also it’s forcing me to re-assess long held beliefs and preconceived ideas, which is healthy.
N: What is your favourite transition story posted so far on Edgeryders platform?
Oh no I knew you’d ask this! mmm this one that just came in really resonates with me; I remember just kind of surfing through school and my University education feeling like the whole exercise was pointless…there was little discussion about the aim or point of most of it. And that’s just the one that’s top of my mind because I just read it a few minutes ago.
N: Finally, can you tell us how do you see this project unfolding? what merits for the participants?
I think in Edgeryders we are experimenting with a new way in which institutions can learn from and in collaboration with citizens. Collaboration is hard, even amongst people who work and move in the same contexts, have shared languages etc. We’re doing this online with individuals from over 47 different countries and very different walks of life. Above and beyond the actual policy recommendations that will be presented to European policy-makers as results of the wisdom and experience coming out of the community, I think that if the project is successful, everyone who has participated will come away with a bigger network of people they can continue to collaborate with or turn to for help with their own future trajectories. I’ve been invited to do a presentation about How Governments Learn on January 25 in London. It’s a good opportunity to learn more about the project itself and meetup with some Edgeryders. Do join us if you’re around I think it will be fun and a good opportunity to learn new things and meet new people- the more diverse the range of participants the better the discussion.
Presentation Title: How Do Governments Learn to Do New Things?
When: Wednesday January 25, 2012 1:30pm - 2:15pm
Where: Salon Bourdieu (S2) LWF Festival Area, National Hall Gallery, Olympia
To register please email me: nadia.el-imam [at] coe.int
Here’s the link to the session: http://lwf12.sched.org/speaker/nadia_elimam