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Inform-Consult-Empower: A Three-tiered Approach to eParticipation

Nikos Loutas from DERI, NUI Galway attended the Third international conference on eParticipation (ePart 2011) which was held from August 29th to September  1st in Delft, a picturesque Dutch city to present a position paper on the Puzzled by Policy approach.

The paper is entitled “Inform-Consult-Empower: A Three-tiered Approach to eParticipation” and is authored by Deirdre Lee and Nikos Loutas from DERI, NUI Galway Elena Sánchez-Nielsen from ULL, Esen Mogulkoc from Cyntelix and  Oli Lacigova from 21C.
While most existing eParticipation projects have embraced the need for citizen engagement to achieve effective democracy, as of yet only limited success has been achieved. This lack of success stems from many challenges and barriers: in some cases, it is a lack of interest in policy issues and low levels of trust in politicians; in others, it is a lack of vision or awareness about the benefits of citizens’ participation inside the policy-modelling process. The paper describes a three-tiered approach to eParticipation based the Inform-Consult-Empower model.  This approach focuses on the level of participation by the user: what are the goals of participation at each of these levels and how do each of these levels of participation relate to current policy-modelling practices. The Puzzled by Policy project adopts and implements the Inform-Consult-Empower approach, which shows how the social complexity barriers, political culture barriers, technological barriers and organizational structure barriers can be reduced in order to provide effective participation.
The paper was presented in front of a 25-people audience coming from different parts of the world and a lively discussion followed the presentation. The audience was enthusiastic with the Puzzled by Policy approach and all agreed on its great potential. However, concerns were also raised, focusing mostly on how to reach the hard-to-reach groups and how to deal with multilingualism issues that are of great importance.
The paper will soon be available online in the ePart 2011 proceedings published by Springer.
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