Caroline Neligan, Director of Partnerships and Development, GSI and TSG
By Caroline Caroline Neligan, Director of Partnerships and Development, GSI and TSG
Meeting to discuss the European Civil Society House Project, European Parliament , 2 June 2010
This is a progress report on plans for a ‘European Civil Society House’ in Brussels. The idea is to bridge the gap between EU institutions and citizens. It compares itself to the similar idea of a Foundation House led by the EFC. Inclusivity is a priority in an effort to avoid the sense of Brussels ‘insiders’.
Online resources are planned but there is also a focus on bricks and mortar; a venue for CSOs to meet, work and get information when in Brussels.
While a different focus, this meeting chimed with an interesting conversation I had earlier in the day about the concept of ‘online’ and ‘offline’ networking and capacity building and the role of technology. Is it a case of bottom up vs top down? That is, will the way that citizens engage with social media drive decision makers to interact with them differently, or do we need to put structures in place that bring these two worlds together? With this question in mind, can the European Civil Society House, both in a building and through the virtual resources it provides, help either directly or through CSOs, to connect the European Union to its 500 million citizens?
I will reserve judgement on this for the time being but it seems to me that there is clearly a debate brewing here that if we don’t proactively seek to connect the ‘digital natives’ with the ‘digital migrants’ (dinosaurs?!) then the gulf between the decision-makers and those in the communities on whose behalf they take these decisions will surely only deepen and widen?
I see a very direct connection to the work that Techsoup Global and GuideStar International are doing with respect to illuminating the work of CSOs and providing them with the technology resources they need to achieve their missions. There is also a huge amount already going on that can support this kind of activity in Europe – the work of telecentres and public libraries, national umbrella networks and ‘contact’ points just being a couple of these. All these groups have been actively involved in Foundation Week and I hope that connections will continue to be made and built upon.