Throughout 2017 the EU Policy Lab provided support to the Directorate‑General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT) and Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW) in the analytical work that led to preparing a policy proposal on improving business relationships between online platforms (such as e-commerce or app stores, social media) and those who offer products and services through them (i.e. platforms’ business users). As the research and development work unfolded, the policymakers were offered custom made approaches to reflect on their findings and discuss in more open and collaborative ways. This work complemented numerous other analytical and consultation processes (studies, surveys, workshops, calls for contributions) the results of which can be found here and are summarised in the Impact Assessment document.
Understanding the project and EU Lab contribution
The EU Policy Lab’s involvement in a project typically starts with a scoping session that gathers all those involved. During this first meeting, the group builds a shared understanding of the issue at stake; the state of play, the stakeholders and the existing strands of work (consultations, studies, reports) are discussed through visualization. Gaps and opportunities are identified to allow the EU Policy Lab to position itself to provide added value.
Designing working sessions
The scoping session, enabled the production of a format for discussions between Commission experts. A methodology was imagined which could bring out the available knowledge around the already identified problems, while steering the discussion in new areas and allowing new connections to surface. The tool settled for was an adaptation of a schema used earlier in a sharing economy project.
Working sessions were organized around 6 sub issues with experts from the two most involved services of the Commission (DG CONNECT and DG GROW) aimed at mapping out the conversation of the group in four steps:
1) Framing/reframing the issue,
2) Identifying main actors and their assets,
3) Situating the issues on the map as an opportunity or a problem for the actors and finally
4) Situating potential solutions on the map.
The approach and results are described in the report. Together, EU Policy Lab facilitators and DG CONNECT & DG GROW participants, arrived at six maps, looking like the one below:
Later on, the EU Policy Lab team also facilitated a similar discussion with the Inter-Service Group involving many services of the Commission to validate the findings.
Results from the six mini scoping session maps were compiled into a table, imagined as a combinatorial tool. The table was used in a final workshop that helped to make sense and put together all the findings on potential policy issues, options, and implications.
Following on from the internal work, we helped organise two workshops with stakeholders in order to (i) check whether the issues discussed internally were the most relevant ones to those who were the most concerned, and (ii) get a first impression of how platforms and their business users view potential consequences of various possible policy instruments. The first workshop involved businesses present on online platforms. The workshop was conducted in an interactive format with three sessions focusing on the identification of problems, the identification of potential solutions and further exploration of processes and actors needed to reach such solutions. The results of that workshop informed the discussions with representatives of platforms in the second workshop. It focused on reviewing the problems from the perspective of platforms and identifying good practices in addressing them.
The Proposal for an EU Regulation on promoting fairness and transparency for business users of online intermediation services was adopted by the Commission on the 26th of April. Building on the standard analytical and consultation processes in the Commission, the EU policy Lab helped to enrich the understanding of the issues at stake and align it across interested Commission services to prepare a more comprehensive assessment of potential impacts of regulation in that area.