At ECI Day this week, the European Commission announced the launch of a new online platform to support organisers of European Citizens' Initiatives. The platform has the ambitious goal of getting more ECIs across the one million signatures finish line, by offering professional and specific advice to ECI organisers.
The European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) has taken on the development of the platform and materials, and Democracy International will be assisting with tailored campaigning and fundraising advice. We spoke to Elisa Lironi, Digital Democracy Manager at ECAS, on the features of the new platform and the launch.
The European Commission has announced that it is launching a new platform to offer assistance to organisers of ECIs, and ECAS is helping to build it. Could you explain what this platform will be exactly?
We are working on an online collaborative platform called the European Citizens’ Initiative Forum which will be launched this month, April 2018, by the European Commission. The development and implementation of this platform has been supported by a consortium of three different players, the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS), the European Service Network and CARSA.
The aim of the online collaborative platform is to support potential organisers of a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), but also to raise awareness for the ECI - to let European citizens know that a transnational tool for citizens to put something on the EU agenda exists.
The platform consists of different parts. There is a static part with guidance materials: webinars, news and blog posts regarding the ECI. We hope that citizens who were not yet aware of this tool will go to this website and learn more about the ECI instrument in general and how it works. Secondly, there is a more dynamic part to the website in which citizens can discuss EU policies, the ECI as a tool and even specific ideas for proposals of European Citizens’ Initiatives. Through the platform, citizens will also be able to connect to users in order to get feedback on their proposals and to exchange ideas on certain topics. Finally, they will be able to seek tailor-made advice on legal, campaigning and fundraising issues related to the ECI from experts.
ECAS already has a long history in helping ECI organisers. How will this platform be an improvement from what was there before?
Yes, ECAS was already running an ECI Support Centre, together with Democracy International and the IRI institute. What we have been doing there, already since the ECI was first launched, is to give informal advice to ECI organisers on legal, campaigning and fundraising aspects.
What is great about this new initiative by the Commission is that what we have been doing informally will now be done more formally through this online collaborative platform. We will basically continue our work in a more official capacity. We will continue to give tailored advice to potential ECI organisers and try to help them not just to get their ECI registered, but also during the process, with campaigning advice and fundraising advice in order for them to successfully reach one million signatures.
In a year from now, when this platform will have been up and running, what would ECAS hope to see for the platform?
First of all, we hope that this platform will be sustainable because this is just a pilot project by the Commission. But of course, we hope that the platform will prove to be a good support to potential ECI organisers and help them to take the initiative of running an ECI. We hope that this will be more than a pilot project and that the platform will remain throughout the years and will grow and improve step-by-step. This was really a from-scratch project. We are only just at the beginning. We really hope to see that this platform is sustainable and that people will continue to use the ECI as a tool, where the platform can help them in doing so.
The European Citizens’ Initiative Forum will be launched later this month.