Mathew Lowry

Via @Niemanlab, a fascinating article on the “Citizens Agenda”, a collaboration between The Guardian and NYU’s Studio 20 program:

” an experimental space dedicated to determining how to get people’s voices heard in campaigns that, though they purport to be concerned with the people’s interests, all too often ignore them.”

Civic journalism 2.0: The Guardian and NYU launch a “citizens agenda” for 2012

2012 being, of course, campaign year in the US – the project brings together Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) and the Guardian’s US editor, Amanda Michel. But you could have read the article to discover that. Rather than summarise it, I’d prefer to let it speak for itself. So go read it. And then read Rosen’s blog post which started it all, where he set out ten steps to improve media coverage of election campaigns.

Feeling lazy? Here’s a flavour:

  • Step 1, 4-6 months before the vote, start asking the electorate a simple question: what do you want the candidates to be discussing as they compete for votes in this year’s election?
  • Steps 2-5: develop, publish, refine, crowdsource… until, one month to go, you have “a list of [6-10] action items and declared priorities” as expressed by citizens;
  • Steps 6-10: use it to define the master narrative, map what candidates say against it, and stop the default ‘horse-race narrative’ from taking over;

But honestly, you really should go read the above articles. And as you do so, ask yourself:

  • Would something like this, around the EU Parliament elections, be useful for EU democracy?
  • How much chance is there of that being done properly?

Please answer in the comments. And if your answers were “YES!” and “Damn All!”, then you get a Bonus Question:

  • Why is that? Why not in Europe?

My answer – predictably – is that such an initiative could not credibly be carried out by the EU Institutions, and would require resources that will not be forthcoming from professional media because they cannot see the demand for it from their audiences.

But I can’t think of a better way of making them interested…

So how could such an idea be bootstrapped?


Author :


  1. Yep, they’re part of the solution – never pretended they were the entire solution. The EU online public space is an ecosystem, not a single project, manifesto, website or EU programme. You’ll find other parts of the solution elsewhere in this blog, and beyond.

    Anyway, thanks for pushing your manifesto in my face. It leaves me perplexed for two reasons.

    To begin with, you claim it values “Individuals and their discussions … democracy and citizenship … Collaboration with the citizens” and so on more than anything else. But was it actually created through a democratic, collaborative process with citizens, or just dreamt up by you in your bedroom?

    Secondly, I use Agile development at work to build opensource websites, and I don’t really see the link between it and your Manifesto. You use some agile language when you talk about optimising for democracy (“policies with high added value for democracy … Agile political processes harness change for the citizen’s advantage … Define evolution of a real democracy with a frequency of several weeks”).

    However, you don’t propose any indicators, nor measurement methods, nor arbitrators. Who is the client? Who is the project manager?

    Your manifesto’d be hijacked by undemocratic interests in months, if not weeks.

Comments are closed.