OK, this is me

Been wondering what to write here for a couple of days now. On the personal side, I’m not dissatisfied. I have a more than decent job (not the job of my dreams but hey, it pays the mortgage), I am in a very good marriage, we own our own house… yes, I am and will be working towards an even better job, but I can’t complain. So what do I want? I want to matter. I have been doing volunteer work back in Italy, both for people who needed it and for a political party I believe(d) in. Here, I am trying to lend a hand to whoever asks and, what is most important, to remain informed. I realised that to be able to do something, to matter, you need to know what is going on around you.

Here come the questions

Edgeryders appreciate the effort of sitting down and writing, and the rest comes afterwards… so you would like to help others.

My name is Noemi, I’m 24 and I am glad to meet you! What I do to either search for advice or help an Edgeryder (that’s rare but I try : )) is that I spend some time reading carefully stories, and get and idea of who are these people and why they decided to share their transition stories. From my experience interaction happens when people relate to one another on some level, but for that to happen we all need to know who we’re talking with.

In your case, I would be curious to find out: what your job is. How come you moved to Scotland?.. a dual Italian-Scotish identity - from birth or acquired? I don’t know anyone with that particular mix, but I do have close friends - half Romanian/ half Hungarian - who moved to Scotland in search of a life with more opportunities… but only because they have Hungarian citizenship as well, which appears to be more valuable if you want to work there. As a Romanian you have all sorts of restrictions and you end up doing menial jobs only, sometimes illegally. And I know that it’s much harder to find a well-paid or decent job if you’re an educated immigrant in Scotland, unless you know somebody who is Scottish and can help. do you agree… ? do you think this happens pretty much anywhere or is Scotland not so friendly at a first glance?

In Scotland?

Hi Noemi, thank you for your reply!

I acquired a specifically Scottish identity after I moved here, but for years I have felt drawn to the “three Celtic nations”, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

In Italy I trained as a teacher of English, but I couldn’t find a steady job in my area. To be clear - people who graduated with me are starting to get into fulltime employment as teachers only now. I had he alternative to move to the south of the country in the hope to get a teaching job there (apparently at the time there were less specialised teachers in the south than in the northeast) or to try my “fortune” abroad; a friend was quitting his job here in Scotland, and gave my CV to his boss with his recommendation… so here I am. I am now managing a Technical Support team.

I only know two Romanians here, one works as a cleaner (but, he says, that’s not much different from what he did in Romania) and one is a colleague of mine.

I have the impression that here, like in many other places, unless you are directly hired by a company for a specific role, you have better start from the bottom of the ladder (there are many, many call centres) and make your way up by being the best at what you do… seems to be working for me…

Sure the people have an amazing way to make you feel welcome.

“Be informed, to matter”

Marco, this is the takeaway point for me. I am curious: you say you want to matter, so this must mean you feel you don’t. Why is so? I am being a little provocative here, but hey - we do have politics, and the third sector. You yourself were involved in a party and in voluntary activities.

The reason why I ask is that this seems to be a theme. We sense a crisis of the structure of representative democracy as it emerged from World War II: democratic elections, national political parties, trade unions, business and trade fora etc. All of this is there and clearly very important - hey, it’s what Egyptians are litelrally dying for - but here in Europe many people feel like, despite all this, they can’t really make the difference.

You say you need to be informed to matter. Is this your personal way to matter, as you say? Can you explain me how this is going to work? What do you do to stay informed, and how is this going to help youto make an impact?

Good question

Ciao Alberto! Good points here, thank you for pushing me to a deeper analysis.

I know I matter in the lifes of the people around me, and I am sure I matter in the company I work for (as they keep paying me and asking me to do things). But I would like to help make an impact on society on the whole, as much as I can. That’s the reason why I joined Edgeryders: I think it is a group of people who can change things, all together.

I still strongly believe in politics and I think I might have found a specific party here in Scotland that shares most of my views. I have not joined it, but I am openly supporting them.

Trade unions, here in the UK, are pretty absent, and the right to strike is very limited and not accepted by a lot of people; I talked to the representatives of some unions, but I was not satisfied. To be clear (at least for the Italians here), I miss old-time CGIL.

I feel that I - we - need to drive some change. Not a sudden revolution but a gradual, constant change. I don’t agree with the idea that “politicians shouldn’t be in charge of politics”, as I’d rather have a professional doing such a delicate job. But I also think that politicians should (and some already do) listen. Many will of course listen to individuals who contact them, but the opinions and requests of a group will count more. This is what I am looking for - someone to join forces with. I am a team player. I play rugby, a sport in which individuals can’t do much without the support of the whole team. I play bass guitar, an instrument that finds its role pretty much only in a band context.

For what concerns information - again, there are several ways to keep informed. Newspapers are the obvious one, but what they write is often partial. Social networks are at the moment probably the best source of information available - opinions and reactions are unfiltered, and the true opinions of the individual politicians/leaders/whatever come through almost always without having been thoroughly checked by their assistants.

I think I - we - need to keep informed on what is going on around us because we want to change it. And you can’t really change what you don’t know. I think I need to be aware of what is going on, of who is involved in things, before I can even think of a plan of action to make it different. Before you decide what to cook for dinner, you need to know what is in the fridge. I won’t promise you sushi if all I have is sliced bologna.

A matter of attitude - and tools

For what it’s worth I agree. I even wrote a book in which I make the case for a new, more individual and direct form of activism:  Internet-enabled constructive collaboration between citizens and institutions, aka Wikicrazia. That’s what makes me feel that I matter, a little. Traditional participation? That does not work for me anymore.

In that context, I try to build a logical chain from information to change, through collaborative action. It is this link that drives the point home: with the right attitude and the right tools, you can make an impact. If a particular institution does not want to listen, that’s their loss: others will be more than happy to welcome your contribution.

Edgeryders is planning a full campaign on the 1001 ways in which young people are innovating participation. You might enjoy that! Already we have a mission by Pedro in Spain that you might enjoy. Why don’t you have a look at it and tell him if you think he is on the right track?  (be sure to read the comemnts too - they are much more interesting than the mission report itself)

Fully agreeing here

Yes, and I have recently ordered your book (haven’t received it yet though).

I do still believe in “traditional” participation, actually. More so here in the UK (or maybe it is specific to Scotland?), where MPs and MSPs are in constant, regular contact with the people holding regular surgeries. But one thing is a simple citizen - actually I’m not even a citizen here - and one is a group of people with a plan.

Also, a collaborative push towards change can change things much, much higher up… we’ll work and see.

And I’ll definitely be reading Pedro’s project!

how to make sense of traditional participation ?

I think it’s great that both you and Alberto still believe in making a difference, whether it’s through traditional channels or less traditional ones.

I come from a world where it is very difficult to explain people, young and not so young, that things can change and that not all politics is full of crap, and that there’s more than what surfaces from the media. But I have a hard time bringing arguments in favor of participation, be it any kind. I also know that party attachment and mobilization is decreasing dramatically in anglo-saxon countries when it comes to young people, but so is in Europe. why vote or why pay attention and take action that can lead to better policies…?

how would you frame a short answer for a disengaged person, say in their 20s? what traditional channels would you recommend that are faster in showing results?

do you think people in their 40s can still participate if they haven’t done so for a long time?


The thing to point out is that Alberto and I both come from Italy - and have left the country. My point of view is that in Italy, as far as I can see, most people - especially young - are deeply disillusioned with party politics, that in the last couple of decades has transformed into a long series of mudslinging actions occasionally interrupted by honest but feeble attempts to actually do something.

Usually I point out to the disillusioned that if they are disappointed the only thing they can do is to try to change things. Otherwise they are stuck with what they have grown to despise.

In Italy, some 17 years ago, there has been an attempt to change some things in politics from the bottom, starting from groups of citizens who would meet spontaneously, without any formal affiliation, and that would then chose their representatives in a pyramid structure that peaked after several steps in a representative of the people. This attempt had only a temporary success, suffocated by ferocious attacks from one side and individualisms on the other - but it worked for a while.

With the support of even more people, support that can exist thanks to the social networks and the 'net in general, such change can become permanent. We can truly achieve a Wikicratic situation. Not tomorrow, but in time.

Also, to answer to your second question… my parents had been into politics in their 20s and early 30s, then they had grown deeply disillusioned. When the movement I just mentioned, they both went back to active involvement. Both in their 50s, you’d see them handing leaflets and chairing citizen meetings.

So yes, if change initiates more and more people can and will get involved, whatever their age.

Thank you so much for taking the time to explain… it’s not every day that I meet someone who is willing to take  a healthy position in relation to politics: not too skeptic and not too optimistic so that belief in change becomes unrealistic. What’s that initiative or whose was it ? I’m curious and I’d like to look it up.

Thanks again,


Building politics from the basis

It was the structure that supported Romano Prodi in the 1996 Italian general elections.

As you probably know those elections were won by Prodi’s movement, but the necessity to form an alliance with other, less cooperative parties was that government’s undoing.

Scotland, eh?

So I’m originally from Hawick, and then in Livingston. Half-Indian, half-Scottish. It’s an interesting place to not be from, Scotland, because it’s got such an intense culture, but it’s also very open to outside influences because there’s so little there that nobody is threatened by foreignness, at least not in my experience.

It’s a sort of multiculturalism-by-default. It’s quite an interesting model, but it seems to work very differently in other areas of the world which don’t have much inherent diversity - perhaps there are other factors at work, like being an island nation…

Anyway, welcome to the show,


Scotland, aye

Hi Vinjay!

I live on the west coast and work in Glasgow. I am noticing in the people, young and old, a lot of awareness of their cultural roots but a big readiness to accept the influence of other cultures. Looks like (almost) everybody has been educated to be curious and open, to recognise that there is - there must be - some value in every culture, in every person.

Yes, I feel home here more than I do where I grew up…