One little comment on EU funding and #CAPSSI

[One year ago, Tim Bonnemann wrote a post at Intellitics’ blog about a new EU funded e-Democracy project: D-CENT.
This is the post:

http://www.intellitics.com/blog/2014/01/17/d-cent-new-european-citizen-engagement-platform-under-development/

Some days ago Dr. John May commented it and included a reference to my paper “The e-(R)evolution will not be funded”, which was published at the European Journal of ePractice. I commented too, providing some extra information on the paper, on D-CENT project and, more in general, on EU funded research.
Since I consider the subject quite relevant, I’m posting my comment here too]

Thanks John and Tim for the references.
Actually, the best place to get the paper on EU’s e-Participation is this:

https://www.academia.edu/1487923/Book_Chapter_A_critical_analysis_of_EU-funded_eParticipation

…as this version includes some paragraphs that were deemed too “critical” for the journal. 🙂

Coming to D-CENT: they are trying hard, and for example some of the trials/pilots they aim to do in Spain (with Guanyem Barcelona, Podemos) are connected with very interesting bottom-up initiatives which are really challenging and changing “Politics” in Spain.
But Tim skepticism was right: the project aimed to solve too many problems at once and, not surprisingly, they are not succeeding at doing it.
For sure: a lot of improvisation is clearly happening, as for example both Guanyem Barcelona and Podemos, that I mentioned before, did not even exist when the project was approved.
So far, there is not such a thing as the D-CENT Platform. Pilots at each country do different things with different tools, and probably the platform will never come into being as something “consistent”; if at all, the whole thing could be presented as a “Frankenstein platform”, but just to justify the funds and pretend the original plan was achieved.

D-CENT-lifecycle-500

EU’s CAPS calls (hashtag #CAPSSI) are an attempt to move EU funding in this area into the right direction. This must be acknowledged. These calls are the most hacker-friendly FP7/H2020 calls ever seen in Brussels. But so far… they are having little success. Other CAP’s projects, like CATALYST or CHEST (the ones I know best), are also delivering rather modest value so far.

In Brussels everybody knows this way of funding innovation is not really working.
But the problem is felt as systemic, as too complex and wicked, and out of the hands of any single actor to fix it. Thus… everybody just keeps doing. Pretending not to see the elephant in the living room.

Have a look at the video of the last CAPSSI-InfoDay, specially at the beginning of the event where CAPSSI call is explained, and at the event’s closure by Mario Campolargo, Director of the European Commission’s DG Connect (7:05:00 in the video).

CAPSSI Info Day - Mario Campolargo

The last part of his speech requests participants to be different, unconventional, and to bring out change along different EU research programs. His last words are something like: “Be different. Bring different solutions to our societies, that need to be different than in the past if they want to survive”.

The EU is somehow challenging project proposers to change what they do, how they do it and even who they are… but EU is itself not changing its way of doing, or the main characteristics of their funding calls: huge money, big multi-country consortia, paying for nice proposals but not for results or real impact, long multi-year projects, incredible bureaucracy and red tape, focus on big actors, poor impact evaluation, no follow up on closed projects, etc.

There is not a single “real innovation” in the funding mechanisms, or the incentives these provide, that stands extraordinarily out. Even its good intention, of using the CHEST project to reach out to smaller and more diverse innovators… has been jeopardized by poor execution and the bureaucratic burden imposed on the project participants.

It is thus not surprising that EU’s success continues to be so limited! As suggested in my paper, this is what normally happens when you “scratch where it doesn’t itch”, as the EU frequently does. As Einstein once said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

I first launched a conversation about the paper at PEP-Net’s blog more than three years ago. In different occasions during the last years several EU officers responsible for, or at least involved in, these areas have received my paper. But so far… I never obtained a real response from them. I’m not even sure if it was ever read. I even visited their headquarters and complained about what and how they were doing… but to no avail.

[youtube width=”318″ height=”238″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YLehwn9Gro[/youtube]

It would seem EU officers were not aware that Mario’s words apply to them too: that even the EU needs to change, to do things differently, if it wants to survive.

 

PS: By the way, CitySENS was presented at the last CAPS-InfoDay too. You can see our three minutes presentation at the official InfoDay video (5:20:20) or directly here:

 


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