Stewardship and policy - #LOTE4 post-reflection

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#1

I have returned to my normal life after a few intense days at the unMonastery in Matera. #LOTE4 brought, as LOTE does, together a large range of people and individuals who are improving things in their communities and the many challenges that face them. There is really a broad variety of different technical and engineering ideas that can help solve many pressing needs for communities!

Still, whether one thinks about it or wants it, one is always affected by the politics of a given situation. There is, of course, internal politics in the project, but also local, regional, national, European or even global politics, which is largely in the hands of other actors and often seems to be very far away. I tried to make my experiences of the European Parliament useful for other visitors at #LOTE4 by encouraging more interaction with political institutions. Especially in a community which so often restricts its interaction with policy to interaction with governments and civil servants, my hope is that some people now feel more encouraged to speak with directly elected individuals.

Members of Parliament, both at the local and the higher levels of parliaments. Contacting members of parliament can be frustrating. You have no guarantee that they will reply or care. They may not be able to give you active support and bring their own ideas, and it can feel as if you have to pull them rather than engage in a cooperative task. Unfortunately, they are often very busy being asked to steward, advance or support a multiplicity of different initiatives and they end up not having the time to engage closely with all of them. Some actors are also better equipped or resourced to pull the elected officials in a particular direction, and this creates a challenge.

Still, it is my belief that a reasonable, constructive cause for the embetterment of our communities will merit the attention of publicly elected officials and the very least one can do is give a few different elected members of parliament the opportunity to know that they may be rejecting something good.

That said, I wanted to raise a few non-parliament related topics that some of the participants at #LOTE4 reasonably take an interest in: A Munich court recently made a referral to the ECJ about the feasibility of open, free public wifi. An analysis of the referral by the Max Planck Institute’s Martin Husovec is found here: http://www.husovec.eu/2014/10/munich-court-asks-cjeu-about.html

It seems like it might have a big impact on community networks. Intermediary liability rules in the member states are severe in various degrees, and makes life uncertain for those who engage in getting more of their fellow citizens talking with each other. The most heart-breaking story I’ve came across were a group of young, Portuguese students who were trying to improve the lives of people in Lisbon by providing them internet resources in a cheap, voluntary and participatory way. They got stuck on not understanding how or if they would be liable for something and what that liability would entail. They were only planning to provide equipment and technical assistance, but ended up not helping fellow citizens out of fear for the uncertain situation. The result is that fewer Portuguese individuals have access to affordable internet connections.

At #LOTE4, we had representatives of projects who are trying to build community networks in Greece, and invest in community networks in libraries in the UK. All of these actors can be negatively impacted when they are trying to help citizens in otherwise disempowered areas or social groups, if the European Court of Justice is not able to take fundamental issues of citizen participation and human rights into account.

Here, participants can interact with their local authorities and ask them to submit opinions to the European Court of Justice. At the very least, mobilisation of local authorities can help push a national government to make a constructive submissal. Everyone is better off if citizens can participate in building their own, useful infrastructures at the local level, but the political sympathy is likely to be largest at the local level.


I have this idea that it isn’t and shouldn’t be so difficult to interact with politics. It’s not something to avoid, but something to confront and with which to engage. The hard work is finding out how to act in ones own interest, but I hope that if there is anything my experience can provide, it’s the ability to help people figure that out :slight_smile:


Deliverables: Narrative Reports (Interim and Final)
The Stewardship: what have we learned about engaging the networks?
What we have learned about building resilience of community powered projects and the people who drive them?
#2

Great contibution! Now prototype it?

I very much enjoyed your contributions at LOTE4, Amelia – you speak with clarity and competence, and did exactly what we hoped the curators did: bring news from a different space, in your case that of elected representatives, attempting to broaden our world and even providing a small crack through which those of us interested in exploring that space can get an initial glimpse. For this, I would like to thank you – personally for sure, and hopefully I am speaking for many edgeryders out there.

As you may know, the city of Matera has recently been crowned European Capital of Culture 2019, with an ambitious project based on access to knowledge and culture called Open Future (Bid Book in English). The vision put together by the workgroup (with a huge contribution from the citizens of Basilicata – I am sure of this, because I was there) includes open archives of digital cultural data, productions bearing open licenses, and, yes, open wi-fi and experiments with libraries. I propose we attempt a first baby step into the world of “involve your representative pre-emptively to make sure your project is not taken down”: would you authorise me to propose your name as an advisor to the Matera 2019 project? I am a member of the workgroup and, while I can’t make that decision myself, I think you would be perfect for the role, and I think the city absolutely needs that role to be covered. I would be honoured to vouch for you.

I have to warn you: working in an Italian context can be daunting, especially for someone accustomed to Nordic ways of doing things – just ask Nadia. For one, decision making and institution building downstream of the victory (less than two weeks old as I write) could be quite slow. But the city intends to push the edge on open culture in the next five years: @piersoft, @IdaLeone, @NicoBis, @Ilaria, I and many others more or less involved in this adventure will need help, lots of it – and if we crack some part of this problem, then our hack is available for everyone to use. Interested?


#3

Contacting Greek Politos

Hi, was following up on your advice and did a search for Politicians in Greece, but can’t determine which ones to contact, any suggestions?

BTW @Alberto: we have a timely commons based project coming up in a few days in Athens which I (and @mariabyck) will surely participate in. Too bad @Ben won’t be here for that.


#4

Tools. Tweet your MEP

Dont know if we have this for the the national parliaments but it would be great. It could also use updating as they havent done so since the elections http://apps.spaghettiopendata.org/tweetyourmep


#5

additionals

@Alberto Sure, that would be cool! I believe local politicians in particular have a huge vested interest in being more active with respect to European policy. Of course, it's challenging because in the European context there are many local constituencies - my experience was though that they mostly manifested themselves in our discussions as conservative entities that were afraid of the European Commission doing something bad or hasty. There is a much larger space for municipalities to actually start thinking about what they could /need/ from Europe, or what their citizens could need :-)

@Bezdomny There is a list of Greek MEPs here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/search.html?country=GR I don’t know any of them, but Mr Zagorakis is young and is also in the Consumer Rights committee: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/125067/THEODOROS_ZAGORAKIS_home.html That is the committee which will deal with for instance intermediary liability for wireless networks and hotspots, which is creating so much uncertainty for individuals who try to help their communities to get connected and talking.


#6

Great!

Thanks, @teirdes. I will make the proposal at the earliest occasion and keep you in the loop.


#7

Tried this, works!

A friend of mine runs a European platform for food production and exchange for small-scale farmers (Epeliahere on Edgeryders). He did run into multiple EU-wide policy issues that make access to the European Single Market hard for these farmers, ranging from lack of e-commerce infrastructure to highly bureaucratic coffee and spirits tax collection in some member states. This is what I had in mind when asking for your hints on bringing issues to the attention of “the EU”.

Told him your recommendations, he then selected a MEP working in a relevant field and mailed him our “field stories”. We got an immediate, substantial reply, which is very encouraging compared to earlier attempts.

Obviously it’s a first step, but it feels miraculous :slight_smile: Thanks a ton, Amelia, for sharing your expertise and encouragement. If only I had some more time, I’d now ask to interview you for a citizen’s how-to book to be called … mmh, dunno … something like “How To Be The European Sovereign”. A book with all the instructions and “hacks” for a constructive collaboration between citizens and policy makers.


#8

Hmm come to think of it, we are a registered lobby

I had forgotten we did this but in case it is useful to anyone Edgeryders is a registered EU lobby in the EU transparency register http://ec.europa.eu/transparencyregister/public/consultation/displaylobbyist.do?id=543512812405-34&isListLobbyistView=true

If anyone needs us to be in any event at the EU parliament or EC I am currently based in Brussels and could just take a walk over for any meetings etc.


#9

Much of the problem is that we don’t know what we want. IMO, in order to engage seriously with politicians, we’d need to have a clear idea of:

  • What changes we'd like to see, that politicians could plausibly make. [i.e. on the level of 'we want this law changed', as opposed to some massive political upheaval]
  • What is happening in the parliament, that could have an impact on us.

In the world of technology policy, there has been some very effective intervention by loose networks. If we wanted to engage better, we would do well to learn from them. Amelia and Asta are obvious pathways for transferring those skills. I also have history/contacts here, though mostly on a national level.

I suspect that, once we found a good target, we’d be very good at taking advantage of our network to achieve changes. We have the weapon, we just don’t know where to point it;)