On 6 March 2019 we organized the final event of Future of Government 2030+ at the European Parliament and the European Commission headquarters in Brussels. The aim of the event was to launch the Future of Government report https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/publication/eur-scientific-and-technical-research-reports/future-government-2030 and run a dialogue on the future of government, in order to raise awareness on the possible transformations of the role of policy makers and governments, as well as their shifting power relationships. The event was attended by high level EU, national and local policy makers, as well as other stakeholders, researchers, CSOs and students interested in the future of government and broader the future of democracy.
The morning part was hosted by three MEPs Brando Benifei, Ivan Jakovčić and Franc Bogovič and included the presentation of the main project results and two panel discussions. These sessions were web-streamed and the recording can be found here http://web-events.streamovations.be/index.php/event/stream/future-of-government-2030
The afternoon part of the event included several parallel activities: the exhibition of the project outcomes, scenarios, concepts and prototypes, a panel discussion, and two FuturGov game sessions.
The day started with the welcome session by the MEPs Jakovčić, Bogovič and Benifei, followed by the opening statements of Director General of the Directorate General Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission, Vladimir Šucha, and Deputy Director General Khalil Rouhana.
The three MEPs stressed the need for a creation of a more open society, open government and more participation of citizens. “Young people are active, but not necessarily in the electoral process. The connection is not obvious. We need to complete the participatory cycle.”, said MEP Brando Benifei. They also called for more transparency in policy making and said we need more honest policies.
DG JRC Vladimir Šucha stressed that we live in a post-trust society, characterised by huge challenges, such as low trust in institutions, and that “we need a constant continuous debate, design, redesign and innovation in governance”. He added that “foresight, design thinking and citizen engagement will be part of the future of government”.
DDG CNECT Khalil Rouhana added that “Digital transformation is one of the most disruptive factors in governance and is already affecting it – we can see 3 interlinked layers that are captured in this report. We need to show that technology advances translates in benefits for all of us”.
Presentation of the project and scenarios
After the introductory statements, Fabiana Scapolo, Deputy Head of Unit of the Foresight, Modelling, Behavioural Insights & Design for Policy/EU Policy Lab of the JRC, officially launched the Final report https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/publication/eur-scientific-and-technical-research-reports/future-government-2030. She repeated the main research question of the project: How will citizens, together with other actors, shape governments, policies and democracy in 2030 and beyond? and stressed that the project was done throughout the highly participatory process, with more than 150 citizens, together with CSO, think tank, business and public sector representatives, as well as 100 design students participated in the creation of future scenarios and concepts. Four scenarios of how the government might look like were then presented by Jennifer Rudkin and Lucia Vesnić-Alujević. We heard main ideas from DIY Democracy, Private Algocracy, Super Collaborative Government and Over-regulatocracy scenarios.
Future of Government: politics and power relations in 2030 and beyond
This panel was moderated by Andrea Servida, Head of Unit eGovernment and trust from the Directorate‑General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CNECT). The participants of the session were Gaetane Ricard-Nihoul – Deputy Secretary General for the Citizens Consultations on Europe, French Ministry of European and Foreign Affairs, Manuela Catrina – State Secretary, Ministry of Communication and Information Society, Romania, Giuseppe Porcaro – Head of Communications Bruegel and author of Disco Sour, Man Sze Li – Business angel and member of FuturGov advisory board, Kadi Kenk – Partner Relations Manager, Let’s Do It Foundation.
The panellists started reflecting on the scenarios of the future and discussing if their vision coincides and what the challenges and weak signals present today are. Some of the questions discussed were about the changing power relations in society, balances between representative and more direct ways of democracy, possibilities for policy making to become closer to citizens in the future. Geatane Ricard-Nihoul talked about participatory democracy and her experience with Grand Débat in France: “Democracy is about finding collective solutions based on conversations with people”. Manuela Catrina stressed the importance to think not only of efficiency, but also legitimacy, values and trust.
Giuseppe Porcaro added that the algorithm-based policy making brings big challenges and highlighted that “politics should be human and not belonging to machines”.
Regarding the technology impact on politics and society, Man Sze Li added that “technology is not just about empowering us and giving us more rights, it is also a way to ensure that we exercise our responsibility in a most appropriate manner and it applies to all of us”. At the end, Gaetane Ricard-Nihoul said that we need to “find ways to combine digital improvements to democracy and physical elements, to make people believe that they are human beings and make society together”. Andrea Servida concluded by saying that “technology is just a means and that governing is a challenge. However, we need to be positive, understand and be aware of all possible aspects and impacts of transforming technologies.”
The panel ended with Q&A form the audience.
Towards more inclusive government: opportunities and challenges of including citizens in policymaking
The second panel built on what was discussed in the first. It showed concrete and clear examples from what is happening in terms of innovation. The focus was on local level and how it can be translated to higher levels of governance, especially European. The participants of the panel were Dorthe Nielsen – Policy Director, Eurocities, Wietse Van Ransbeek – Founder, CitizenLab, Tarja Vuorinen – Development Manager, City of Turku, Arnau Monterde – Coordinator and leader of Decidim and director for democratic innovation at Barcelona City Council. The panel was moderated by Paul Hofheinz, President and Co-Founder, Lisbon Council.
We heard about Eurocities’ projects and experiences from different cities they looked at in terms of citizen engagement. Oslo was mentioned as a good example. Its local authorities worked with young children to identify policy challenges and opportunities and a sense of influencing city polities through issues like security on their way to school. What is important is not only to conduct such citizen engagement exercises but, as Dorthe Nielsen stressed, “to show how citizens contributed to a change”.
While platforms are becoming more and more used for innovating and engaging, Wietse Van Ransbeek stated that besides digital skills, it is important to know how to use technology for deliberative processes. Experience sharing between cities is very important. With the crisis of representative democracy and the importance to understand context and threats, Arnau Monterde highlighted that the right to participate should become a basic right guaranteed to all citizens.
This was followed by several key questions from the audience. Paul Hofheinz concluded the panel by stating that there are three IFs we need to think of: “If we want citizens to participate have to demonstrate that it matters (not a pro form exercise); if we want to keep their trust, we need to show the results and that it has an impact on policy; if we want to be effective, we have to find a way to embed it in policymaking – fundamental part in the way we think of democracy and managing our community.”
The morning session ended with the conclusions from DDG JRC Maive Rute, who summarized the main point of the morning discussion, stressing how important it is not to take our liberal democracies for granted, but try to protect them and defend our European values. In order to do that, the project and especially four scenarios of possible futures, help us think and steer towards desirable futures.
FuturGov exhibition at Berlaymont
The exhibition was opened by Xavier Troussard, Acting Director of ‘Competences’ and Head of Unit for Foresight, Behavioural Insights & Design for Policy/EU Policy Lab of the JRC. More than 100 students participated in this part of the FuturGov project under the supervision of their teachers. We received over 40 concepts from which the most interesting and thought-provoking ones were chosen to be presented. The prototypes are used to trigger a dialogue on the future of government to rethink the how to prepare for the future, which roles citizens might play, who might have the power and which different roles government might have.
The exhibition showed the scenarios and corresponding students’ concepts.
Nine students from six Design schools who worked with the FuturGov team of the EU Policy Lab had a possibility to pitch their concepts. While one of selected participants from Elisava school of design Barcelona was not able to come, we heard:
William Doherty, from Malmo University, presenting the concept Art+Democracy https://blogs.ec.europa.eu/eupolicylab/futurgov-design-concept-art-democracy/
Agnieszka Bartosz, from the Schoool of Form, presenting the concept Garbage privacy https://blogs.ec.europa.eu/eupolicylab/futurgov-design-concept-garbage-privacy/
Akanksha Gupta, from Politecnico di Milano, presenting the concept Consumption show https://blogs.ec.europa.eu/eupolicylab/futurgov-design-concept-the-consumption-show/
Jessica Venø, from University of Arts London, presenting the concept Citizens as policy influencers https://blogs.ec.europa.eu/eupolicylab/futurgov-design-concept-citizen-as-policy-influencer/
Michele Cipollone, from University of Arts London, presenting the concept Immersive Serious Gamification https://blogs.ec.europa.eu/eupolicylab/futurgov-design-concept-immersive-serious-gamification/
Gianvito Fanelli, from Politecnico di Milano, presenting the concept Mavercik https://blogs.ec.europa.eu/eupolicylab/futurgov-design-concept-the-maverick-programme/
Ellen Wolf, from Lucerne School of Art and Design, presenting the concept Tailored Taxes https://blogs.ec.europa.eu/eupolicylab/futurgov-design-concept-tailored-taxes/
Erika Cortese, from Politecnico di Milano, presenting the concept Mayor Bot https://blogs.ec.europa.eu/eupolicylab/futurgov-design-concept-mayor-bot/
Innovating in government through interdisciplinary approaches
After the opening, there were two possibilities. Some of the participants attended the panel talk on innovations in government, while others had a possibility to play FuturGov game. The panel was moderated by Lucy Kimbell from UAL, with the participation of Cornelia Daheim – Future Impacts, Christophe Gouache – Strategic Design Scenarios and Benjamin Loyaute – artist. The panel explored what design and foresight/scenarios approaches bring to exploring futures in the present. It The panellists were given an opportunity to share their perspectives and work, with the aim to open up discussion about the differences between the approaches, what results from using these approaches and what is required for them to succeed.
The game was developed through a design-led process that included aspects of foresight by a multidisciplinary FuturGov project team, consisting of a futurist, a political scientist and a designer, and in close collaboration with another design scholar, Lucy Kimbell and a futurist Aaron Rosa. The specific objectives of the game are the explore the future of government, through triggering imagination and creativity; share findings if the FuturGov research project in a new way and open up conversations through engaging with larger audiences. It can be used as a powerful tool for citizen and stakeholder engagement, as well as a learning tool for students.
The FuturGov game has gone through a six month testing phase involving various players: JRC and Commission colleagues, European project researchers, networks of futurists, students from renowned schools of design, public administration and political science. More than 15 sessions took place gathering over 100 participants, in five different countries: Germany, France, Croatia, Italy and Belgium.
The event ended with conclusions from Andrea Servida, HoU at DG CNECT and Xavier Troussard, HoU and Acting Director at the JRC.
The FuturGov event is just a start, follow us on the blog to learn about future developments from the project and the game, but also activities where we can meet and discuss again.
UPDATE! First opportunity to meet: FuturGov exhibition from 29 March until 12 May, at Atelier Bouwmeester, Ravenstein Gallery (10 rue Ravenstein, Bruxelles). Join us for the opening on 29 March at 17h!