On 27 November 2017 we organized the first workshop of the project Future of Government 2030+: A Citizen Centric Perspective on New Government Models in Brussels, with participants coming mostly from international Civil Society Organizations in Brussels.

The Future of Government 2030+  project is looking at the changing roles and forms of the government. By identifying requirements for future government, we can rethink the way they operate and explore how they might look like in the future.  The project is led by the EU Policy Lab of the Joint Research Centre in collaboration with DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CNECT). You can find more information about the project in the EU Policy Lab blog.

The goals of the workshop were to collect the needs of civil society organizations regarding the government today and outline future expectations, understand the relationships between citizens, CSOs and governments, as well as how these relationships might change and evolve in the future (e.g. relating to citizen participation, co-decision making, digital and open government), identify the drivers of change and explore ideas on how government could evolve in the future. Similar workshops, discussing the same issues with European citizens, will take place during the followings couple of months in six different European countries.

The participatory workshop combined generative design and foresight approaches in order to stimulate the debate among present stakeholders. We hosted 21 participants, working or interested in the field of government innovation, open government and participatory policy making, co-creation and co-decision making. Among them, 12 were from NGOs dealing with the empowerment of (digital) citizens and civil society in Europe, 1 from trade union, 4 from think tanks, 3 from academia and 1 from a company that develops open source software products.

Workshop outlook

The workshop started with a short introduction to the Future of Government 2030+ project, by the EU Policy Lab and DG CNECT. After the brief personal introduction of participants, as an icebreaker, participants were given a piece of paper and were asked to continue the sentence: “In 2030, the government will be…” that were then read out loud. The papers were later collected and will be used for analysis.

The first exercise was Stakeholder mapping. Participants were divided into four groups and each group was given a pre-printed A0 stakeholder map of the present, created in advance by the EU Policy Lab team together with DG CNECT. First, they needed to validate the map, define the relationships between different actors and identify positive and negative points in these relationships. In the end, all participants presented their maps in a plenary mode.

We then introduced the future-thinking part of the workshop by showing a short video collage that presented some visions of the future in general and the future of government, as a “food for thought”. We gave the participants active listening templates to fill out after watching the videos. Each person was given one of the following questions: What will be the role of the government in the future? Are the roles of citizens and civil society organizations changing? Will the societal benefit or public value increase in the future? How will government and citizens and civil society interact?  Everyone had time to explain his views. These questions triggered the discussion about the future and were a good introduction to the following session.

In the plenary, we showed some keywords or factors that have emerged from our exploration of the topic in the previous phase of the project. Those are issues that might play an important role in the relationship between different stakeholders and in particular in the relationship between citizens and governments in the future. There were 23 factors in total and the participants added three more. Some of the factors are: trust in government, accountability, fragmentation of society, political participation, co-production of public services, public funding, algorithms digitalization, open data, platform economy.

Participants then made groups of three and picked up three factors they wanted to work on further.

Next session started with Persona exercise: participants had to create a profile of a person living in 2030, based on one of the photographs we gave them and a template to fill in. We asked them to make a persona using information from real people with whom they work or interact, so that they are grounded in real life and not be completely fictional or stereotypical.

This exercise was connected to Storyboarding, where the same groups needed to create two alternative stories of their persona to communicate what kind of relationship that persona will have with the government, other organizations and citizens in 2030. The goal was to have the selected factors integrated in the story. Therefore we asked them the following questions:

  1. How are the three selected factors important for your organization in 2030?
  2. What is the influence that these factors will have on your relationship with citizens and governments in 2030?

For this exercise, we gave the participants an A1 white canvas, pens, markers, scissors, post its, and set of 50 pictures that was same for all groups. At the end of the exercise, groups presented their stories in pairs of two.

During the last exercise, Future mapping, participants went back to their initial groups and received again the pre-printed A0 stakeholder maps. They needed to reflect on how the relationships among different actors will look like in the future, based on the stories they created. They also had to come up with five priorities for the future of government, i.e. actions that need to start today in order to research the envisaged future. The results were briefly presented in the plenary.

With the consent of participants, the workshop was documented with written material, photographs, as well as audio and video recordings. The data will be analysed with qualitative methods and, together with results that will stem from workshops in Member States, they will contribute to the development of scenarios and stakeholder system maps in the next project phase.

Leave a comment