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New ways that parliaments, governments, and civil society are increasing civic participation

Hey i Lets do th s!

A collection of case studies produced by the

ransparency and accountability. They are hallmark principles of any democratic system, and more often than not it is parliamentarians, as representatives of the people, who work to ensure governments act in line with these principles. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, since its inception in 1991, has made transparency a rallying cry. Weve formed committees and adopted declarations to make the Organization more open to the public, and weve taken steps to act in the same vein in our national parliaments. In more than 20 years of this work, the technological growth in just the past few - from the sky-rocketing rise of social networks to new web platforms - has made it easier than ever for governments and parliaments to interact more directly with citizens. Civil society has also played a critical role in bringing about greater transparency through new projects like some featured here. We hope these stories spark an idea you find worth trying at home, because the more we engage our citizens, the more transparently we work, the stronger our democracies will be. The communications team at the International Secretariat is ready to asist your participation in this important project in anyway they can.

hen we first launched sOcialSCapE, we knew we were doing something important giving emerging and established democracies alike a set of case studies that could inspire their own changes in how they increse participation in the political process. But we had no idea the popularity it would have online. The interactive map of case studies at oscepa.org and the digital version of our report online last fall became the most downloaded document on our site. As we continue to build on the first six months of this project, we hope youll share a story from your country. Reporting stories of civic engagement across such a diverse region as ours depends on feedback from all 57 OSCE countries. From an interactive public contracts database in Slovakia to face-to-face meetings between bloggers and political leaders in Cyprus, this latest version of our report features some excellent examples we hope will inspire ideas for you at home. Weve added some cases of emergency response, as in Turkey, where Twitter helped people find temporary housing in the wake of an earthquake, and weve included two new cases from microstates Andorra and San Marino. Enjoy and keep the feedback coming.

Spencer Oliver Secretary General February 2013

Neil Simon Director of Communications


Table of Contents
Crowdsourced Constitution The first Facebookbuilt national consitution p. 23 Building and Blogging The Swedish parliaments new web site built in full public view p. 29 Open Duma Explaining parliamentary actions online p. 32

Stopping ACTA Social media spurs actions to save Internet freedom p. 19

Point, click, vote. E-voting on the rise in Estonia p. 5

Opting In Communitybased decisions from ongoing community surveys. Survey says... p. 10

Politics and Personality Parliament: your friend on Facebook p. 22

Twitter to the Rescue Using microblogs in emergency response p. 45

Egypts Funnyman Stirring political change with satire. p. 36

Parliamentary Questions Kyrgyzstans Ask the Member web site fosters interaction p. 9

Country Index
Albania 50 Andorra 40 Armenia 35 Azerbaijan 26 Belgium 19 & 43 Bosnia & Herzegovina 47 Bulgaria 48 Canada 13 & 37 Cyprus 41 Denmark 30 Estonia 20 Finland 52 France 16 Georgia 31 Germany 39 Greece 33 Hungary 53 Iceland 23 Ireland 14 Italy 7 Kazakhstan 24 Kyrgyzstan 9 Latvia 5 Lithuania 51 Liechtenstein 25 Luxembourg 27 Montenegro Netherlands Norway Poland Portugal Russian Federation San Marino Serbia Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden 21 28 34 49 22 15 & 32 46 6&8 42 44 11 29 the fmr Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 4 Turkey 45 Ukraine 12 United Kingdom 17 United States 10 & 38 Partners for Co-operation Egypt 36 Tunisia 18


former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Making a Mark

Political parties/Civil Society: Fair elections

Ahead of the June 2011 parliamentary elections, all eyes were on Skopje to see how the young democracy of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia would progress 20 years after independence. With ethnic tensions in the past leading to violence during election campaigns and previous reports of electoral fraud, local organizations came together behind an effort to encourage voters and party activists to create a fair proces s. Using the slogan What Mark Will We Leave? Fair Elections 2011, organizers, including Citizens Association MOST, Metamorphosis Foundation, Macedonian Womens Lobby, and the Institute for Parliamentary Democracy, worked with international funders and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) on the 20-day campaign. They began with a widely covered news event featuring candidates from the leading political parties signing a code of conduct.
This had been done in past elections, but in 2011 the follow up was different. More than half of the countrys citizens are now online, so for the first time, the partners took their campaign there.

This is where a new generation is having their say. Getting them on board with this kind of engagement is critical to good governance, said Robert Scott Heaslet, program director for NDI in Skopje. Top election officials credited NDI with having the rare ability to gather all political party leaders at one table, unifying and magnifying the message in support of fair elections. In 20 days, more than 8,000 people visited the fair election campaign websites in Macedonian and Albanian languages: 3,200 people interacted with the sites by leaving their mark,and 1,700 people supported the facebook page (www.fb.me/ferizbori). The online organizing was further supported offline mainly through public events.

Between 12 May and 4 June, two Campaign Caravans, featuring the campaigns fingerprint logo, criss-crossed the country promoting fair elections through local events. In more than 40 events thousands of people placed their neon fingerprints on large maps pledging not to cheat in the upcoming election. The project created an atmosphere full of confidence in the election process, said Boris Kondarko, president of the State Election Commission. By participating in the program, he said, election officials sent a clear sign to the people that we advocate for democratic behavior and tolerance among the candidates.

Top: Voters make the mark at a mobile campaign map, pledging to be fair in the upcoming elections. Middle: A Skopje voter signs his name on the voters list before receiving a ballot on election day. Bottom: One of more than 4,900 people who signed the fair election pledge.

4 www.oscepa.org


Liepins Letters

Parliament: E-newsletters connect with constituents

The constituents of Latvian parliamentarian Valdis Liepins need not go far to find their representative in the national legislature. After all, Liepins represents Riga, the capital city. But with people increasingly busy and government bureaucracy often difficult to navigate, Liepins has created an electronic newsletter to give his readers a taste of what life is like in parliament and provide more transparency to legislative debates. After being elected in 2011, Liepins launched the e-newsletter with about 240 subscribers, mostly supporters and other constituents interested in his updates from the Saiema. A lot of people have little, if any, idea of what an MP does, Liepins said. So, I wish to let them know how at least one MP spends his time in parliamentary work and that, if one takes ones responsibilities seriously, its a tough job. The newsletter is about two pages. Liepins writes policy updates, discusses the national budget, details the status of debates on a citizenship law, and explains his involvement in foreign affairs. In one issue, he shares his views regarding elections he observed in Armenia as part of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly. Unafraid of showing his personality in the newsletters, Liepins allows constituents to get to know him as more than just a lawmaker. Im excited about the Armenian nature... I suggest you enjoy it, he wrote in one issue. In another e-letter he posted a summarized government budget, increasing government accessibility and transparency. He doesnt aggressively promote the weekly bulletin, but each issue is posted to his web site, and plenty of people have found it including a radio station in Australia. The Perth radio station uses the newsletter as an information source for its weekly Latvian language broadcast. In six months about 100 new subscribers have been added. The newsletter is also being used as an example of good parliamentary practice in a university course. Liepins efforts to make the parliament more accessible have also paid off with constituents. I get quite a lot of positive comments when I meet people on my mailing list, Liepins said. 5 www.oscepa.org
Valdis Liepins (top) is one of the only members of the Latvian Parliament (Saeima) who distributes a newsletter via e-mail. The chamber of the unicameral parliament (middle). Liepins at work with colleagues (bottom).



Local government: Engaging citizens through Twitter

In April and May 2012, amid Serbias first local, parliamentary and presidential election campaigns where the leading candidates favored European integration, the City of Belgrade launched its own campaign to engage citizens about the future of Serbias European integration. For 20 days, the Belgrade Agency for European Integration and Cooperation with Civil Society led thousands of people in a discussion @MyEurope (@Moja Evropa in Serbian) on Twitter to promote European values and inform citizens of Belgrade about the European integration process. Citizens perceived integration as a technical thing happening far off, said Danko Runic, the citys director of European integration. They should be part of it. The agency was among the first in Serbia to use Twitter, but only had around 500 followers. To reach more citizens, they partnered with Nebojsa Radovic, a social media expert with nearly 8,000 Twitter followers, and earned national media coverage through a news conference launching the campaign. We wanted this to be a lively discussion, but two ways, said Runic. He said they chose Twitter for the campaign because a lot of Serbian opinion makers use it. We wanted to engage all these people in the much needed debate about the EU integration process. More than 3,000 tweets joined the MyEurope conversation. The city also partnered with the Belgrade Open School, a civil society organization active in the field of education and EU related issues, which supplied two people to moderate the tweets (no cursing or hate speech allowed). The Open School came up with the idea to take the tweets and showcase them on an electronic display at Republic Square, a popular spot in Belgrades city center. As people would wait to meet up a friend, theyd send a tweet or read one. For example, one day the moderator asked, What should education look like in Europe? Where childrens books do not stand on the highest shelves, one user replied. The online campaign to discuss Serbias European future was literally happening in the public square. 6 www.oscepa.org

Belgrade director of Europeant integration Danko Runic (left) launches the @ MyEurope Twitter campaign at a news conference with Vladimir Pavlovic, coordinator of the Centre for European Integration at Belgrade Open School.

Gordana Comic has more than 4,400 followers on Twitter @gordanacom and another 4,500 friends on facebook. An avid tweeter, Comic has been known to post more than 10 times a day, sharing a mix of news articles, political opinions and everyday observations.


Casinis Tweet

Parliament: Communicating via Twitter images

In social media if there are no pictures, it didnt happen. Pictures make events real and credible, and - as in this case from Rome - they bring people to places they otherwise could not be. The occasion was a highly anticipated meeting on 15 March 2012 between Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and leaders of the parties backing his government (Partito Democratico, Popolo della Libert, and Unione di Centro). Pier Ferdinando Casini, leader of the Union of the Centre party, posted a picture of the participants on Twitter with the comment were all here! no defection! Given the same meeting had been scheduled and then postponed amid political misunderstandings a few days before, Casinis tweet implied this time we made it. Considering the publics high expectation for a breakthrough agreement, particularly regarding loosening labour regulations and enacting judicial and television reforms, Italian media focused intense coverage on the summit. But only Casinis photo from his iPad showed the meeting actually taking place. As the first to tweet such a picture from a high-level political meeting in Rome, Casini caused quite a stir among Italians online and later the wider Italian public after major media coverage of the tweet. He provided transparency to an otherwise confidential meeting and showed Italian politicians could address voters and citizens in new ways. Thanks to his tweet, Casini crossed the 50,000-follower threshold and by May more than 57,000 followed him on Twitter. I became a twitter fanatic, Casini told reporters. I wanted to take a picture of [Angelino] Alfano and [Pierluigi] Bersani, but then Monti accepted the idea so we had the picture taken all together. It intended to show that a playful break is also needed at some point, but at the same time it was a way to communicate via images that the majority has not disappeared. Casinis action had an immediate impact. A few days later when leaders of Italys main labor union, CGIL, and the employers federation met, the union tweeted a photo showing the sides negotiating labour market reforms. Casini had blazed a new trail in Italian political communications, embracing the immediacy of social media, like Twitter, that has made photo sharing instantaneous and brought transparency to all levels of government.
Guglielmo Picchi has more than 13,000 followers on Twitter. He tweets more than 10 times per day, often commenting on his partys activities and proposing new ideas for action, especially in Tuscany and Florence. He speaks out on international affairs and harshly vented his disappointment on the occasion of the PDL setback in the May 2012 local elections. He seems impatient for his party to start a new political era that is more connected to the citizens.

Pier Ferdinando Casini (right) in his famous twitpic.

7 www.oscepa.org


A Natural Cause

Civil society: Protecting Zvezdara Forest, Belgrade

In 1946, youth volunteers many just out of the army or concentration camps planted trees on Zvezdara Forest, one of the highest places in Belgrade. The hillside planting helped to stabilize the land prone to landslides and protected residents from air pollution. But recently there has been an effort to slice into the forest to create a private development. In June 2009, to protest the potential construction, neighbours of Zvezdara Hill began organizing the Association for the Protection of Zvezdara Forest. They sent letters to the president of Serbia, ministries, the city, but without results. They needed to show their strength in numbers, so they went online. Launching a website, a blog and a Facebook page that attracted more than 1,000 friends, the organization made the web central to their public engagement efforts. Supporters constantly wrote on other web sites and blogs to mention the environmental protection effort they were leading in Belgrade. Social networks, websites and internet forums are powerful tools of associations such as ours in order to alert the public to this issue and break the media blockade, said organizers Dejan Simonovic and Vladimir Martinovic. When organizers gathered 3,000 signatures, measured 900 trees and held several demonstrations at relevant public offices, the battle begin to reap results. Supporters produced YouTube videos of tree plantings as a way to tell the movements story when others in the mainstream media would not. (http://www.youtube.com/ZvezdaraForest) Members stayed active in internet forums dedicated to environmental and urban planning issues and then held public events to strengthen support for the forest and give people a real connection to the cause. In this way we animated part of the public, Simonovic and Martinovic said. They cleaned the forest, hosted a childrens festival and other activities to awaken public awareness. Belgrade Mayor Dragan Djilas ended up sending a letter of support to the association, and on the request of the Serbian Institute for Nature Protection, studied the area and issued an official report. The association is now waiting for the Belgrade Assembly to vote for the protection of the 84 hectares 8 of Zvezdara Forest. www.oscepa.org
Top: A campaign poster featuring mascot Zvezdarko. Middle: An online photo gallery of images like these reminds supporters what they are protecting. Bottom: Volunteers clean the forest.


Parliamentary Questions
Parliament: Ask the Members website
As the lone multi-party parliamentary democracy functioning in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan was in somewhat uncharted waters when six months after violent clashes and a change of power, the people elected a new parliament in October 2010. A new election and a new political environment still needed new institutions to strengthen democratic efforts. By the end of 2011 there was an increasing effort seen through programs like the OSCEs Parliament and Political Dialogue Project to build trusted connections between elected officials and the people they represent. Enter the web site tereze.kg a site launched by the Civic Initiative for Internet Policy, where Kyrgyzstanis can ask questions directly to their elected representatives. Its Ask a Member feature has become a popular tool for interactions between parliament and civil society. So far, more than 1,000 questions have been asked and answered. About half of the countrys 120 MPs have registered on the site so they can login in and reply to constituent questions. It gives us an opportunity to communicate with each other and share different views, said Erkingul Imankojoeva, a parliamentarian who has answered some environmental and food safety questions online. Its working because we see so many people who have internet, they are reading, they are asking questions and they are seeing answers that interest them, said Meder Talkanchiev, project coordinator at the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society. The coalition sent letters to every parliamentarian, inviting them to register to use the site. Groups also used their social networks, public events and mass media to promote the new site and encourage people to ask MPs questions about their parliamentary work or daily activities. Promoting open and transparent dialogue between parliament and ordinary Kyrgyz citizens is a crucial aspect in Kyrgyzstans development as a country with a democratic political system, said Ross Brown, head of the politico-military unit of the OSCE Centre in Bishkek. The internet is a powerful tool that can facilitate such interaction. Sending letters to a parliamentarian in Bishkek used to take two weeks, now the communication is faster and its two-way. People are expecting changes, said Talkanchiev. We are trying to discuss every issue through the website to give them our experience and our suggestions. www.oscepa.org
Tereze.kg makes it easy for citizens to interact with Kyrgyzstans new parliament. Find a member, click on the member, ask your question. A democratic dialogue that used to take two weeks is now down to two clicks.

United States of America

Survey Says...

Regional government: Metros (Portland, Ore.) OptIn Panel

Metro, the regional government in Portland, Ore., is pioneering a new method of outreach thats making it easier than ever to talk to, and hear from, constituents. In 2011, Metro launched OptIn, an online opinion panel that periodically gauges the regions residents on issues ranging from parks to garbage management. In less than two years, more than 16,000 Oregonians have joined the panel. The program makes it easier for members of the public to feel connected to their government. Its also cost effective. Stakeholder meetings on an important topic can cost $35per person. Each completed OptIn survey costs less than $4.50. We asked how can we engage you? said Metro communications director Jim Middaugh. We heard from a bunch of people: Do it online. The survey process is simple. Those who have opted in to the panel receive an email when a new survey is available. They can then complete the questionnaire online. Not every panel member participates in every survey, but response rates have approached 50 per cent in many of the questionnaires. Unique from ordinary surveys, the OptIn approach allowing citizens to join a panel and then consistently asking them their opinions gives the public greater ownership of the policymaking process and shows Metro takes this feedback seriously. (Survey results and demographic data are published online.) The panel has grown to the point that analysts can now extract scientifically valid data from most of the surveys. One recent survey drew 4,000 responses, including more than 300 from members of Portlands minority community. Thats by far more than we would have gotten had we done a scientific survey, said Rebecca Ball, an associate at DHM Research, which manages OptIn. We have enough comments from these groups to look at them in a way that is meaningful. From deciding whether the Oregon Zoo should feature hippos or rhinos to the location of the urban growth boundary, OptIn members have shaped the Metro Councils decisions and affected the lives of 1.5 million people in the Portland metro area. 10 www.oscepa.org

Metros OptIn online panel gives citizens a regular opportunity to have their say in regional park planning, transit, and other issues aimed at strengthening the livable communities of Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington.


A First Try
Government: Citizen input for drafting legislation
When the Spanish Government started writing a new law in March 2012 to require greater government transparency and access to public information, it only seemed natural that the drafting process would be as open as possible. So, for the first time in Spains legislative history, the government created an interactive website where people can fill out an online form with their opinion about the original draft law. Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Senz de Santamara,who led the governments transparency effort, called it an innovative procedure that converted the drafting process into a transparent act itself. More than 78,000 people participated in the legislative process by visiting the site, and nearly 7,000 submitted opinions about the Act on Transparency, Access to Public Information and Code of Good Governance. As a direct result, Senz de Santamara announced 15 amendments to the draft in May. But, citing a practice consistent with other Spanish Government ministries, the government did not publish all the public feedback it had received, resulting in criticism from open government advocates. The draft law includes plans for a new website where citizens can ask the government questions and get replies online. But rather than wait for the law to take effect, the NGOs Access Info Europe and Fundacion Ciudadana Civio set up such a site in March. The website tuderechoasaber.es (literally, your right to know) allows people to submit questions to anybody in the Spanish Government, including those who would be excluded from transparency requirements proposed in the draft law. The site automatically redirects queries to the body of the Spanish government selected by the user. Users submitted more than 400 questions to the site in its first three months. The drafting process on the transparency law highlights the tightrope governments and parliaments must walk when trying to have dialogue in the open. The criticism Spain received for not publicizing every piece of public feedback should serve as a reminder to those considering similar processes to err on the side of openness. Regardless of the details in the final law which is already seen as a step forward for transparency Spains solicitation and use of public opinions in the drafting shows a new dedication to citizen engagement in a country that had been one of only four countries in Europe without a transparency law before. www.oscepa.org

Spains Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Senz de Santamara explains how some citizen input resulted in changes to a draft transparency law. But critics complained the government should have been more open about the feedback it received during drafting.

Enrique Cascallana of the Spanish parliament has 1,547 followers on twitter. He tweets 15 times per week, using his local political experience to share his point of view about current events in the Madrid region. He shows his disagreement with regional austerity policies and questions the effectiveness of the Spanish government at times. He has also used tweets to call for greater integration and solidarity in Europe.



An Uphill Battle

Civil society: Saving historic hillside buildings in Kyiv

When a billionaire developer began destruction of property along the historic Andriyivsky Descent, one of Kyivs top tourist locations, in the spring of 2012, journalist-activist Iegor Soboliev knew he had to do more than write a story. Soboliev, a former TV journalist, runs an investigative news bureau called Svidomo, and had been covering developer Rinat Akhmetovs plans to redesign the 720-metre cobblestone incline lined with 19th century buildings into a modern business complex. As the developer moved forward with the plans, including destroying a 19th century plant (rebuilt in the 1970s), Soboliev posted to Facebook that people who oppose the destruction of the historic sites should meet outside the developers offices. They met and planned a rally for the next day. Hundreds of people showed up on 11 April. I was surprised, Soboliev said. But when riot police broke up the rally, there were minor injuries and Soboliev knew he had a fight on his hands. Soboliev, whose news bureau is dedicated to not just describing problems, but helping solve them, organized an event called Lets Defend Andrivyivsky on Facebook. Online committees formed to make announcements and posters and plan how to secure the safety of a future rally. Soboliev met with local police about logistics. This time there would be no clash. Within two weeks 12,827 people were invited to the event via Facebook. More than 1,800 said they would come, and more than a thousand did on 21 April to send a message to the developer. They think that they could buy everything and everywhere and do whatever they want. Our understanding was we should be fighting in peaceful ways to stop them, Soboliev said. The march occurred peacefully, ending up at Kyivs city hall. The developer reversed course, telling media they had abandoned plans for a new business complex on Andriyivsky in March 2012 but that gross errors led to their demolition of some property already. The company agreed to make repairs. As a journalist, Soboliev knew the government/business process, he said, but this was his first major organizing effort with social media. Most of us, we didnt know each other before this story. Now we have new connections. We have a success that unites us. 12 www.oscepa.org
www.svidomo.org, the web site run by investigative journalist Iegor Soboliev (pictured above during an April rally and scuffle with Kyiv police), is dedicated to doing more than informing its readers about public problems. Svidomo works to solve the problems, too, melding civic journalism with civic participation. And its working. Hundreds rallied in April 2012 and helped protect buildings on the historic Andriyivsky Descent.


Question Period

Government: Prime Minister Harpers YouTube interview

In March 2010, starting his fifth year as prime minister and coming off the hosting of the Winter Olympic Games, Stephen Harper sat down with the people of Canada for the first ever YouTube interview of a prime minister. YouTube interviews give citizens the chance to submit online video questions to their top elected officials. Then, viewers vote for their favorite questions. The most popular questions are selected for use in the actual interview in which someone from YouTube sits down with the official to moderate the questions. In Harpers case, viewers ended up casting 169,800 votes on 1,794 questions from 5,129 people. This is very participatory. This is democracy at work, said Patrick Pichette, Googles CFO, who moderated the questions to Prime Minister Harper in March 2010. The month prior YouTubes interview with President Barack Obama generated more than one million views. More than 283,000 people viewed the Harper interview, which was recorded in English and French, Canadas official languages. Highlighting the power of YouTube to connect citizens regardless their location with their national leaders, the first question came from White Horse, Yukon, a city 5,400 kilometres from Ottawa. Over the course of 40 minutes Harper heard questions from citizens on topics ranging from drug use and foreign aid to child care and the budget. While the YouTube interview does not replace the healthy reporterpolitician exchange, the event still made Harper answer several difficult questions, none of which he was informed of beforehand. The YouTube interview model has also been successfully used in political debates where videos of citizens asking questions are replayed before candidates. Such interviews are simple to produce, and while Harpers interview was technically conducted and moderated by Google/YouTube staff, anyone could pick questions, but having a third party select them adds credibility to the dialogue. To better connect with citizens, elected officials could also do regular video responses to video questions submitted online, in essence creating a rolling dialogue with the people. 13 www.oscepa.org
Prime Minister Stephen Harpers YouTube Interview received more than 283,000 views.


Lights, Camera, Economic Action

Parliament/Government/Civil Society: Creating jobs
With unemployment in Ireland near 15 per cent, the countrys public broadcaster, RTE, in 2011 decided to produce a programme focused on job creation. The show, Local Heroes, would be a sixpart series profiling one citys effort to redevelop its local economy. RTE selected as the shows centerpiece historic Drogheda, where one in three people were out of work. This story of success can be attributed to how the local community took control of its own economic regeneration. Drogheda, buoyed by the publicity and positive morale from starring in a national TV show, had several partners to push them forward, including Senator Feargal Quinn, a former businessman now serving in the Irish parliament. The first show highlighted how Droghedas citizens created in five days a Local Heroes headquarters where volunteers united to plan a future of sustainable employment and restore town vibrancy. Great things can happen when a community comes together and this project was about just that, Quinn said. The community of Drogheda was not going to wait for others to improve things for their town, they were going to engage with each other and deliver what was needed in their town. Drogheda on the Boyne River was ripe for tourism but had not marketed itself to attract visitors in large numbers. Through the help of branding consultants, within a few months the citys Local Heroes held three festivals showcasing the quality of life in Drogheda for locals and visitors alike, created a guide for foreign direct investment and a showcase video. Our project seeks to make Drogheda and our people more resilient, said project manager Julie Anne Lawler. If we as a community can be open to change, ready to roll with it and dynamic enough to see the opportunity it brings, we will be less vulnerable into the future. Well after the TV series ended, the Local Heroes programme continues helping jobseekers, mentoring start-up business people, and increasing awareness about the need for people to buy local.
Senator Feargal Quinn and citizens of Drogheda gather to open the Local Heroes headquarters (above), and then celebrate with a Sparks on the Boyne festival (below), a Local Heroes project that brought 5,000 people to town.

Local Heroes is directly responsible for free wi-fi across the Town Centre, launching Droghedajobs.ie with over 120 job listings, and a Shop Local, Benefit Local campaign.
Local Heroes demonstrates that, even with no finance, the energy of a community can achieve real results in a short period, Lawler 14 said. www.oscepa.org

Russian Federation

Medvedevs Millions

Government: Mixing personality and politics on Twitter

Hello to everybody! I am on Twitter and this is my first post! tweeted Russias then-President Dmitry Medvedev on 23 June 2010 while on a visit to Silicon Valley. Within minutes the presidents official twitter feed, @KremlinRussia, attracted more than 1,000 followers. Since then, now Prime Minister Medvedev has opened an account in his own name (@MedvedevRussia) that has more than 1.2 million followers as well as an English version (@MedvedevRussiaE) with another 300,000. When he crossed the one million mark, he posted the old photo of himself from Twitters headquarters, saying, Heres how it all began Thanks for communicating with me. Journalists in Moscow now say Medvedev is a must follow. His tweets cover everything from national and international politics to sports and daily life. Amid a minor media sensation about the whereabouts of his cat, he even tweeted that Dorofei was safe at home. Twitters140-character limit forces a casual approach that Medvedev embraced to show the world a new, tech-savvy style of Russian political leadership. This has allowed his personal voice to resonate with citizens in an age when many governments still use officialspeak. Its not uncommon to see him in the same week or day opine about a draft law in the Duma one second and then congratulate a football team the next. The picture quality isnt that good, but the score sure is. What a start! he typed on the first day of the Euro2012 football championship. Medvedev also tweets links to the official Kremlin webpage, his video blog and occasional personal photos. His steady activity on Twitter has also made people notice when hes inactive. Medvedev faced some criticism during anti-government protests in Russia in December 2011, when his remarks on Twitter failed to acknowledge the significance of the demonstrations. In short, Medvedev is attempting to be more personable with the Russian people. His followers range from pensioners and students to business executives.But hes also got quite the following outside of Russia, including Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy,Herman Van Rompuy,and Forbes Russia among others. www.oscepa.org
Then-President Dmitry Medvedev sends his first tweet (above) at Twitters world headquarters on 23 June 2010. As prime minister he has continued tweeting, including sending frequent photos, like this one (left) where he exclaimed What a start! after Russias first victory in the Euro2012 football championship.



Mobilizing for Housing

Civil Society: Bringing housing back into the political debate

In January 2012, as Frances presidential hopefuls were still working on gathering endorsements to make their bids official, a former football player stirred the electoral campaign. In a letter published in the newspaper Libration, Eric Cantona announced that he too was seeking signatures. In a matter of hours, all major media outlets were reporting the story and wondering, would the famous footballer run for president? The following day, a representative from the Fondation Abb Pierre, one of the leading French NGOs on housing issues, revealed that Cantonas media stunt was actually an effort to build support for a different petition altogether one focused on fair housing. The General Mobilisation for Housing campaign, launched in co-operation with Emmas and the Secours Catholique, two other charitable foundations, sought to bring housing problems to the forefront of the national political campaign. French citizens were encouraged to sign the petition on a dedicated website (www.mobilisationlogement2012.com/) and to raise awareness on the issue through social media. A web video series on housing that garnered more than 3,000 views and the Fondation Abb Pierres annual report on poor housing conditions helped make the case for government action. And the website made it easy for users to spread that knowledge through their networks on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. In a matter of days, more than 100,000 people had signed the petition. We needed a high profile figure like Eric Cantona to bring attention to our campaign, said Patrick Doutreligne, spokesperson for Fondation Abb Pierre. The sudden show of public support shows that housing and homelessness is a nationwide problem that merits more attention in the presidential campaign. A month later, four presidential candidates, including Francois Hollande, signed the foundations social contract on housing, which asks for more affordable housing, greater housing market regulation, more social justice, and the sustainable development of urban areas. Within six months 150,000 people had signed on, and following the presidential election, the new French government lengthened by two months its prohibition on wintertime evictions and announced plans to cap rent in major urban areas. www.oscepa.org
Francois Hollande was one of four presidential candidates to sign the General Mobilization for housing petition.


United Kingdom

140-character Constituents

Government: Tweeting foreign policy at home

When William Hague became the British Foreign Secretary in 2010, he immediately sought to place foreign policy in the context of a networked world. He emphasized the need to bring foreign policy decisions into the hands of the British people, involving them directly in international dialogue. As an elected Member of Parliament, I relish how social media has narrowed the gap between governments and individual citizens, Hague told an internatinoal audience at the London Conference on Cyberspace in 2011. It allows the exchange of ideas between people who otherwise never would meet. To close the democracy gap, Hague turned to Twitter, blogs and YouTube to create a dialogue between the public and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. His #askFS campaign has led to more than 90,000 people now following him on Twitter and hundreds of them directly engaging in foreign policy discussions. In one recent live tweeting session, the secretary responded to 24 questions from the public not just softballs either. One pointed question regarding the invasion of Libya directly asked, Wasnt the real purpose of the invasion of Libya to gain control of the oil, by installing an unelected puppet government? Hagues reponse: No. purpose was to prevent Qadhafi massacring innocent people & to support a better future for #Libya #askFS. Other questions sent to #askFS have ranged from protecting women in Afghanistan to distributing aid in Libya to the United Kingdoms position towards Syria under Bashar al-Assad. With two-thirds of British government staffers using Twitter for faster access to news, Hague has joined in to quickly and accurately spread information and messages that get to the heart of global issues. On the day of an international Friends of Syria meeting, Hague held a live question period on Twitter that generated more than 50 questions on the situation in Syria. This form of direct communication allows for an open exchange of ideas and calls upon the foreign secretary to be frank and accurate about the state of affairs abroad and their effect on the British people at home. 17 www.oscepa.org
United Kingdom Foreign Secretary William Hague answers questions on Afghanistan and Pakistan during his seventh live Twitter Q&A, 29 June 2011.


Feeding the Revolution

Civil Society: The blog that encouraged a democratic uprising

When in December 2010 Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire and triggered a series of street protests across Tunisia, the independent collective blog Nawaat served as the main source of information for Tunisians and foreigners alike. For several years Nawaat (the core in English) was a meeting place for Tunisians to express themselves free from the censorship of the Ben Ali regime. With many sites like YouTube and Flickr censored, Tunisians had increasingly gathered on Facebook. So Nawaat made an end-run around the official censorship, gathering content (400 videos) from Facebook, tagging it, timestamping it and making it accessible to other media organizations, like Al Jazeera. Since 2004, this practice led Nawaat to reach 87,000 visitors a day and become a leading source for content on press freedom, human rights, and politics in Tunisia. In contrast with the governmentcontrolled media, which downplayed public discontent, Nawaat posted numerous articles covering the uprising. Co-founder Sami Ben Gharbia said the network helped create a support and solidarity movement within the Arab web-sphere that was crucial to informing the world about events inside Tunisia. This fostered the spirit of change and the shockwave that we witnessed in the region after the Tunisian revolution, he said. Nawaat then used its network of Internet activists to help mobilize protesters through social media, providing analysis on the root causes of the revolution, including restrictions on personal freedoms, the imprisonment of opposition members, and economic stagnation. During and after the revolution, bloggers also offered advice on how to circumvent censors. These solutions are only temporary, said one blog entry. But we will continue to find new methods to bypass censorship until our constitutional rights are respected. Nawaat continues to publish on human rights and social issues and train activists about Internet technology. Time magazine called Nawaat instrumental in the Tunisian Revolution, and the site received the Reporters Without Borders 2011 Netizen Prize for its pioneering work for Internet freedom. In receiving the award, co-founder Riadh Guerfali said, This award is not only a tribute to Nawaat but to all our fellow journalists who often risk their lives to keep working in countries where freedom of expression is suppressed. 18 www.oscepa.org

Tunisian bloggers and Nawaat co-founders work on the site to help strengthen democratic institutions and press freedom in Tunisia.

European Union

Stopping ACTA

Civil society: Saving Internet freedom through social media

In early 2012, as member states of the European Union were set on ratifying the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), opponents of the treaty used social networks to protest across Europe. Incensed by what was widely seen as sweeping new controls on Internet freedom that would criminalize the sharing of music and other content, protestors said the proposed law would only result in creating new black markets for copyright-protected content. Hundreds of thousands protested from Belgium to Bulgaria and all across the EU. It appears the entertainment industry still does not recognize what kind of beast it awoke, TechDirt.com wrote as European streets filled with Stop ACTA protest signs. In the works since 2007, ACTA aimed to establish a global legal framework for targetingcounterfeit goods, generic medicines and copyright infringement on the Internet. But opponents argued that the treaty would limit freedom of speech online. On 11 February 2012, tens of thousands of people took part in coordinated protests across Europe. Using social media like Twitter and Facebook, protesters framed their message, gained visibility, and demonstrated widespread discontent with the proposed regulation. Three months later, on 9 June, a second ACTA Action Day brough some 200,000 people together in 120 cities across 24 European countries. By then 2.8 million people had signed an international petition against ACTA. Although 22 of the 27 EU states had already approved ACTA, the widespread protests yielded tangible results as the governments of Germany and Latvia joined Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia in reconsidering their position on the treaty. Dwindling governmental support was echoed in the European Parliament which rejected ACTA on 3 July marking the first time the Parliement exercised its Lisbon Treaty power to reject an international trade agreement. To protest similar legislation in the United States, Wikipedia and other sites went dark for the day, making their information inaccessible. Forty per cent of voters on a Mashable.com poll credited this protest with turning the tide in America. The movement demonstrated the power of new media and old advocacy techniques to affect legislation. When Brussels voted against the treaty, politicians from varying parties said the calls and mails from ordinary, concerned citizens had made all the difference. www.oscepa.org

Pins on a map (above) show the hundreds of protests across Europe held to oppose ACTA in February 2012, like this gathering in Brussels.



Point, Click, Vote

Government: Internet voting
In 2005, Estonia became the first country in the world to have nationwide Internet voting with binding results. In six years, this voting method has been used twice in local elections, twice in parliamentary elections and once in European Parliament elections. Voting over the Internet is a supplementary voting method that is carried out during a seven-day period. Online voting thus does not replace traditional voting but supports it. And the numbers show Estonians 93 per cent of whom pay their taxes online -- have rapidly embraced Internet voting as well. In 2005 almost 10,000 citizens voted online; in 2011 online voters numbered 140,000. In order to vote, citizens need an Estonian ID-card or a mobileID (for remote authentication and digitally signing the vote), a computer connected to the Internet, and a voting application, which is downloadable from the elections website. During the voting period, you can vote as many times as you want, but only the last vote cast counts. You can also go to the polling station where your traditional vote counts and any Internet vote is cancelled. These measures are set to promote freedom and secrecy of the vote. Internet Voting has had a significant impact on advance voting in Estonia said Priit Vinkel, advisor of the Estonian National Electoral Committee. Almost half of the advance votes were given electronically and a quarter of all votes in the 2011 parliamentary elections were digital. Scientific surveys have shown that making voting more accessible through online methods may increase participation by three per cent over traditional in-person voting systems. There is no doubt that Internet voting is crucial for voters residing abroad during election time, especially in local elections where other abroad voting methods are missing, Vinkel said. Estonian voter data also shows that the Internet voting is not just for young people either. Forty percent of online voters were over 45 in the 2011 parliamentary elections, and the oldest Internet voter was 102 years old. Internet voting will next be used in the 2013 local elections, as Estonia, a leader in e-government services, continues to press the envelope on ways citizens can participate in their government 20 through new technology. www.oscepa.org
Estonian President Toomas Ilves (above) goes online to cast his vote for a local election while traveling abroad. An example of the national ID card citizens can use to vote online.


Partners for Improvement

Local government/civil society: Improving transparency

In government, as in business, what gets measured gets done. In Montenegro, the Center for Democratic Transition (CDT) and local municipalities demonstrated that leaders can easily improve transparency as long as they know the steps they need to take. In July 2011, CDT launched POTEZ (Projekat Odgovorne, Transparentne i Efikasne Zajednice, or the Project on Accountable, Transparent and Efficient Communities) to establish principles of good governance and publicize local government performance. At the projects launch, over half of the countrys municipalities lacked transparency according to 44 specific indicators measuring such factors as the availability of government documents online and the accessibility of government meetings and elected officials. The site (www.potez.cdtmn.org) proved to be a simple starting point for local governments seeking ways to function more openly. In the three months following the reports release, most of the countrys municipalities contacted CDT to discuss ways to improve. Maria atovi, mayor of Kotor municipality, credited POTEZ and its co-operative approach and useful suggestions with increasing her citys transparency rating 26 per cent. Their success opened new possibilities for informing citizens and interest groups about the activities of municipality, she said. After announcing the preliminary transparency results, CDT called on municipalities to improve their scores and offered any assistance throughout the process. Several cities responded by publishing meeting agendas, budgets, and public procurement documents online. Others created fixed times for constituents to meet with their elected leaders and began sending press releases to the media after city council meetings. These efforts increased the transparency levels for Montenegros cities from an average transparency rating of 5 to 6.3 on a 10-point scale. Such progress over only a three-month period has shown that change does not have to be hard and that the POTEZ research did not request municipalities to do anything which was unreasonable due to short funds or human capacities, said Ivana Draki, project coordinator for CDT, which is supported by the Open Society Institute - Budapest and the NGO GONG in Croatia. By making more local information available quickly and easily, the cities ushered in new, more interactive, communication between elected officials and the people. www.oscepa.org

Maria Catovic, mayor of Kotor municipality, credited the POTEZ project for helping her city improve its transparency more than any other city in Montenegro during the three months after POTEZ published initial findings.



Politics and Personality

Parliament: Your friend on Facebook
Former Lisbon Mayor Joo Soares social media breakthrough moment occurred in Washington, D.C. during the 2008 elections. As president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, he was leading the 2008 election observation mission to the United States and found himself impressed with the huge impact of sites like Facebook on voter participation. I was really inspired by the Obama campaign and thought this is something I should do, said Soares, a member of the Portuguese parliament. He had blogged before, but in 2008 he expanded his use of Facebook as a platform to showcase his political and personal life. Despite younger MPs increasingly using Twitter, Facebook remains the most influential Internet site, according to parliamentary staff. Soares and Nilza de Sena, both delegates to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, use personal profile pages on Facebook rather than fan pages. This has allowed them to become friends with their constituents Soares says he basically accepts all friend requests and both have over 5,000 friends. De Senas posts tend to be more policy-oriented, including links to op-eds she has authored and pictures of herself in parliament, visiting schools, or at charity events. This has allowed her constituents to see the inner workings of a parliamentarians everyday activities. Her posts on improving family policies in Portugal have generated 70 likes and 20 comments. Soares offers a variety of content ranging from pictures of his sons judo tournament and beach vacation photo albums to comments on parliamentary sessions and political satire with the former mayors trademark wit. In February, 350 people liked his joke about the elimination of some national holidays. Government PSD/CDS prepares shortening of Easter: Jesus Christ dies, is crucified and resurrected on the same day, he quipped, stirring 60 mostly positive comments on his Facebook wall. This form of internet activity directly connects parliamentarians with their constituents, bringing a new more personal level of transparency to the political process, and opening a new avenue for dialogue with constituents. There is an overwhelming amount of formal information on public figures on Wikipedia, blogs, and news sites, but Soares and De Sena have managed to use Facebook to show a more casual, human side to politics reminding their voters that politicians are regular 22 people too. www.oscepa.org
Top: Isabel Santos, the vice-chair of the OSCE PA Committee on Democracy Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, has more than 4,860 friends on Facebook. She has used her page to highlight local artists from Porto and link to articles she has written. She allows friends to post anything on her wall, ranging from the personal to the political, and has posted more than 80 pictures to her page. Bottom: Lus lvaro Campos Ferreira, pictured on a TV talk show, uses his public Facebook page to show support for measures adopted by the Portuguese government. Through pictures, video and statements from his addresses in parliament, he has gained more than 5,500 followers.


A Crowdsourced Constitution
When Iceland was severely hit by the global economic crisis, the national currency plummeted and stocks were decimated.

Parliament: The first ever Facebook Constitution

Icelanders felt betrayed by a reckless banking sector and blamed what they perceived as governmental inaction. Widespread protests called for reform, and, in June 2010, the Icelandic parliament passed a bill ordering the re-writing of the constitution to restore faith in the political system. Icelands constitution, first written upon gaining independence from Denmark in 1944, would need to reflect the values of a modern Iceland and for the first time the public would play a key role in its design. Drafting began in November 2010 with a national forum of 950 randomly-selected citizens gathering to discuss ideas for a new constitution for the nation of 350,000. In April 2011, voters elected 25 members from civil society to a constitutional council, the Stjrnlagar, which was established to draft the document. Thanks to the advent of social media, the Stjrnlagar was able to set up Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr accounts to keep the public informed and involved. The meetings streamed live on the Facebook page and received more than 5,500 likes and encouraged further debate. There is not a particular policy about transparent government, but its the overall spirit in everything were doing, explained Birgitta Jnsdttir, a Member of Parliament, about the process. By making the work of the constitutional council easily accessible through social websites, Icelandic citizens were able to participate in the discussions, suggest new ideas and directly critique the actions of the Stjrnlagar. Throughout the process, citizens submitted more than 4,000 comments furthering the spirit of openness and transparency that was credited for much of the success of the drafting process. The public sees the constitution come into being before their eyes, said Thorvaldur Gylfason, a University of Iceland economics professor and member of the constitutional council. This is very different from old times when constitution makers sometimes found it better to meet in a remote spot, out of sight and out of touch. On 29 July 2011, the Stjrnlagar presented its work to the Icelandic parliament. And while the new constitution is still awaiting ratification, the process signalled Icelands eagerness for citizen empowerment. www.oscepa.org

Icelands citizens - of every generation - joined together to write a new constitution in July 2011. Above, scenes from the opening meeting and news conference in Reykjavik.



Be the Media

Civil Society: Bloggers work to inform the public

In the wake of one of the most violent days in Kazakhstans history, a group of bloggers sought to enter the sealed-off city of Zhanaozen to report on how (reportedly) at least 16 people died and over 100 were injured after police quelled a public protest against oil companies there. The violence had broken out on December 16, 2011 Kazakhstans Independence Day. A long-standing labor dispute between oil workers and companies in the southwestern city had boiled over, and workers used the national holiday to stage a rally. Police used force and live ammunition to disperese the demonstrators. There were mixed reports as to how the events occurred and the pictures painted by human rights groups and the government differ widely . In a country with limited press freedom, opposition politicians and journalists sought to seek out the full truth, and thats where the Liberty Activists, a group of bloggers, came in. We went to Zhanaozen because mainstream media werent covering the Zhanaozen events objectively, said Dina Baidildayeva who organized the group with support from opposition party Alga. But with the Zhanaozen in a state of emergency with soldiers guarding access to the city, Liberty Activists requests to enter the town and interview witnesses was denied. To get the story, four of the bloggers snuck in early one morning when security was lax. You could see burned buildings, scared to death people, Baidildayeva said. A lot of them didnt really want to talk to us but those relatives of oil workers who were tortured in prison then agreed to interviews in order to help release their husbands, sons, or brothers. The Liberty Activists posted the content online and shared it with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty ensuring their interviews a larger audience. One of the most popular videos, viewed over 50,000 times on YouTube, shows a mother of an oil worker speaking of her son who is now in prison for his role in the demonstration. The government organized blog tours of the town, but Liberty Activists reported the dispatches were written to protect the government message on the incident. The work of the Liberty Activists showcased how ordinary citizens, whether they just have a pen and pad or a video camera and an internet connection, can themselves be the media they wish to see in their communities. 24 www.oscepa.org
Above: a mother talks about her injured son to a Liberty Activist journalist in Zhanaozen in a video seen by more than 50,000 people. Below: Web videos show what state-run media did not, as authorities used deadly force to break up a demonstration.


Say it, Sign it

Government/Civil Society: Making accessible web videos

On 20 June, the Principality of Liechtenstein became one of the first countries ever to translate governmental websites into sign language. The government had been actively using online videos to communicate policies and be generally more accessible to citizens, but until project Sign Language the deaf community had not benefited from the videos. With this pioneering project, we are able to jointly create important areas of opportunity and accessibility for deaf people, said Prime Minister Klaus Tschtscher. At the same time, we also provide a greater awareness of sign language as a recognized minority language. The project brought together government officials with volunteers from the principalitys deaf community, who themselves selected which pages should be translated on the government sites www. liechtenstein.li and www.regierung.li. The Culture Club for Deaf People and Handlaut, an association for sign language interpretation, did all the translations which ensured the projects acceptance by the community. It is because of these projects, that we no longer feel marginalized, said Bernadette Arpagaus, a project participant. So far, more than 75 pages were translated into 144 videos featuring sign language. For us in Liechtenstein, it is especially important that people with disabilities should not need to adjust to society, but we should organize the daily life so that they are in the thick of it, said Markus Amann of the governments information and communications office. In a year and a half, www.liechtenstein.li and www.regierung.li have received more than 1.3 million combined page views from more than 300,000 visitors. The sign language project has brought the small state international attention as well, with other organizations and governments viewing it as a model for inclusiveness in other projects. Motivated by the positive response in the local community, the government of Liechtenstein is determined to pursue the translation work further. Plans are underway to expand the use of sign language during news conferences and major government events. 25 www.oscepa.org

A woman offers a sign language welcome to the Principality of Liechtenstein as part of an effort to make the governments web site more user friendly for all citizens


Free Thought University

Civil society: Teaching democracy online and off

In Azerbaijan, a country where there is limited access to mass media, independent TV or newspapers, social media has become the most important tool used to spread messages of social activism to youth. OL! Azerbaijan, a non-political social youth movement aimed to foster independent thinking and personal responsibility, began Free Thought University in 2009, inspired by a need to educate and encourage democratic values in Azerbaijan. Years ago we came to realize that in order to attract youth that are open to being involved, whatever we do has to be done in a very creative way, Vugar Salamli, co-founder and executive director of OL! Azerbaijan, told the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. The project offers lectures on human rights, freedom of expression and democracy topics you wont find in mainstream Azerbaijani universities. For the last three years, we have organized more than 200 lectures, Salamli said. We are actually filming all our lectures and posting them on our website so people who did not or are not able to participate in our lectures can access them online. In a video published on the organizations Facebook page, Azerbaijani youth hype the FTU project, a first of its kind endeavour in the South Caucasus. I feel very comfortable here. I have friends here. I have my favourite professors here, my colleagues are here, one woman says in the video. Azerbaijani youth face serious deficiencies of timely information, the project website says, citing restrictions placed on innovative professors and student activities. Salamli and his colleagues say they are motivated by the vision of a better, more civically engaged Azerbaijan. When I was 20 years old back in the late 90s, we did not have good examples of youth activism in Azerbaijan, so we started to follow activism in Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia and other countries. We had to build everything from scratch, he told IFES, but now people in Azerbaijan have success stories they can implement or improve upon. The best thing we can do for society is to give them success stories and good examples to replicate. 26 www.oscepa.org

By recording and storing videos online, students at Azerbaijans Free Thought University are able to hear lectures at any time on a host of topics related to democratic governance -- even if they cant attend the university in person.


Civic Participation through E-petitions

Parliament: A simple step to bring citizens close to their government
When the Chamber of Deputies of Luxembourg looked into ways of encouraging civic participation, one simple step made it easier for citizens to submit petitions: creating an email address. Since 1999, when the right to petition public authorities was enshrined in the Grand-Duchys constitution, the parliament has considered more than 300 public petitions. However, until 2012, documents could only be submitted in person or by regular mail. But since January, petitions can be sent via email to petition@chd. lu. This March, a grandmother from the small town of Consdorf became the first person to email a petition in Luxembourg. Claudine Penen wanted to alert MPs to the negative effects of pesticides and chemical products used in agriculture. On 27 June, she was invited to express her views before the parliamentary Petitions Committee. I am just a simple grandmother, she explained, but I urge you to take measures against the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and other harmful chemical products. Penen also asked parliamentarians to encourage organic farming as a way of protecting the environment. The petition, which has just about 130 signatures (a tenth of the population of Consdorf ), led deputies to hold meetings with the agriculture minister and the minister in charge of sustainable development to discuss the use of pesticides in Luxembourg and determine whether to ban the use of certain chemical products. The Petitions Committee, which generally works by consensus, also agreed to find ways to better support organic farming. Citizens of Luxembourg are now one click away from raising issues in parliament, said Camille Gira, the president of the Petitions Committee. Making it easier to submit petitions is only the first step to encourage greater transparency and accountability in government. In the future, the Chamber of Deputies intends to further increase civic participation by expanding the use of the Internet. Under a new public petition system, the parliaments website will allow the electronic collection of signatures. Petitions that receive more than 4,500 signatures would receive a televised public debate including a member of the Luxembourgian government. Creating an e-mail address was a starting point, explained Gira. By establishing a new public petition system, the Chamber of Deputies will do more towards engaging its constituents and fostering civic dialogue. www.oscepa.org

The Parliament of Luxembourg (above) has moved away from the business of receiving paper petitions (left) and created an online process for people to electronically gather signatures and submit their petitions to parliament.


The Netherlands

Opening the Floodgates

Government: Making public data publicly available

If knowledge is power, the Dutch government over the last year has taken an extraordinary step to make its people more powerful. As part of a global open government movement, the Netherlands has made sure its agencies make their data open and accessible. The governments open data practice provides to any individual, organization or company any and all information that is not specifically protected by law. To make the data most accessible either free or at a low cost Interior and Kingdom Relations Minister Piet Hein Donner in 2011 launched data.overheid.nl as the one-stop shop for government data. In the past, varying terms of usage and inadequate forms of supplying data proved to be obstacles to access information. The new portal has largely removed those barriers, Donner said in announcing the new site. The power of open data rests in what citizens create with it. Open data practices end up not just strengthening democracy, but giving entrepreneurs a tool to establish new services and products. Government data are the basis for all kinds of creative solutions, said Donner. People sometimes forget just how much data the government has that can be useful to a potential business owner or anyone in daily life. I consult Buienradar.nl regularly before I ride my bike, Donner said of the weather website that depends on data from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. From basic weather forecasts to quirky apps like the toilet finder (wcvinder.nl), you never know what citizens will create when given access to public data. If people know what information the government has, they are better equipped to interact with their government to improve a community as well. In Eindhoven, residents can now report local issues from their phones using the BuitenBeter app. See something that needs fixing? Use the app to take a picture, categorize the issue, map the location, and send the complaint to the city where workers can resolve it. I challenge you to make more of these smart and innovative applications with open government data, Donner said. The challenge is a call to any citizen to create something useful for their neighbors, but it only works if the government first makes the data easy to access.

1. See trash. 2. Photograph trash. 3. Report trash to city. 4. See trash disappear. Directly linking citizens and governments through information can do wonders for public service.

Yup. Theres an app for that too.




Building and Blogging

Parliament: Digital development in full public view
Openness and transparency form the basis of communication in most parliaments. But how open can we actually be? And what happens when we expose our work to the public? This is something the Riksdag learned when the parliament decided to implement digital development in full public view. This was the digital equivalent of building a new house and letting the public walk in as you are hammering to tell you what they want changed. Im incredibly proud that we havent just talked about being an open parliament, weve also worked on a daily basis on putting this maxim into practice, says Hanna Bergander project manager at the Swedish Parliament. The Riksdag published a beta version of a new website in February 2011, and simultaneously blogged about building the new site. The old site remained visible the whole time. We published posts about the background, the process and about what was to come. Users could submit opinions and comments both via the beta version and the blog, Bergander said. We answered every comment and question, and throughout the process we explained why we were developing certain functions and the ideas behind the new content. Most of the responses on the development blog were positive and polite and mainly came from people interested in web development. Looks good and modern, excellent! wrote one. Yes, focus on open data! said another. When the new Riksdag website officially launched in April 2012, the parliament reported a massive increase in new comments from target groups such as the government workers, teachers, and MPs. The criticism was sometimes harsh, Bergander said. Some users wanted the old site back and said it was hard to find relevant documents. Developers prioritised the concerns, blogged about what they were fixing, and after about six weeks dealt with most of the serious complaints. After fixing the search engine, broken links and webcasting problems, the public outcry abated and the number of critical comments decreased. Launching such an extensive website as this, gradually, in an open and transparent process, was essential in order to achieve the successful result we now have, Bergander said. Although it was sometimes painful to receive the criticism we received, we were never criticised for the actual process. www.oscepa.org

Internet World Sweden named the Swedish Parliaments website (above) the best public authority site in Sweden -before it was even completed. The new Riksdag website is among the most ambitious we have seen in the public sector, the magazine said in praising the lengthy and open betatesting period. www.riksdagen.se



Seeing Double

Parliament/Civil Society: Moving televised debates online

Airing since 2010, Debatten, produced by Denmarks Radio (DR), actively uses Facebook to involve viewers in political debates. A lot of shows use Facebook for marketing or to solicit a question from the public here or there, but Debatten uses Facebook almost as a parallel public affairs programme. Tune into DR each week and youll see big name politicians and opinion leaders debating the most salient topics in front of a live studio audience. But go online at the same time and youll see even more. The shows Facebook page features two panellists specifically chosen to represent either side of the TV debate holding their own online discussion with viewers. The intensive use of the Facebook page has surprised programme editor Bo Hasseriis. It has been interesting to see how many visit the Facebook page, and thus involve themselves in the issues that we present, he said. A roster of participants on Debatten reads like a Whos Who of Danish politics, with the show hosting such notable figures as Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Former Prime Minister LarsLkke Rasmussen, current Foreign Minister Villy Svndahl, Conservative leader Lars Barfoed, and leader of the Danish Peoples Party Pia Kjrsgaard. Debates surrounding gay marriage have inspired the most participation, often leading to 250-300 comments on Debattens Facebook page in the course of the one-hour programme. A show debating cuts to social benefits also attracted a heated commentary on Facebook, with over 400 comments in 45 minutes. It was abundantly clear that there was a clear polarization of attitudes to these public cutbacks, said Hasseriis, who likens the discussion on Facebook to a parallel universe where sometimes the debate moves entirely away from the television programmes topic. Denmarks Radio has also used Facebook to float potential topics for the live TV programme and gauge public interest before moving ahead. Hasseriis admits the Facebook page has influenced the show to a much greater extent than he could have envisioned. We use it extremely actively, he said. When Debatten first went on the air, Facebook was not even a part of the set up, now Debatten has over 24.000 likes, and its continued growth on Facebook is a sign that citizens are interested in new venues for public affairs discussions. 30 www.oscepa.org

Photos posted to the Debatten Facebook page give the audience a behind the scenes look at the public affairs show and a chance to join politicians in the debate itself.


Texting for Safety

Civil Society: Connecting to government through SMS

In rural Georgia where Internet access is spotty but cell phones are prevalent, the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC) and Saferworld have teamed up to ensure voices from the regions are heard in government. Theyve created Elva, Georgian for lightning or express message, an online platform that uses text messages received from citizens and redistributes information onto digital maps, reports and graphs for use by appropriate public entities. Originally designed for communities to report security threats, Elva has expanded to incorporate such issues as theft, irrigation, and community activities and is being tested for use in election monitoring. More than 8,000 texts have been sent since 2010, the vast majority of which relate to security concerns. The project has been successful in fostering cooperation between citizens and their local authorities, and facilitating joint responses to local and regional issues, said the programs director Jonne Catshoek, a CRRC consultant. So how does it work? CRRC gives citizens and local authorities in remote communities a weekly survey with codes to use to report any incidents occurring there. Incidents can range from agricultural incidents like livestock thefts or robberies to cultural events like weddings or other celebrations. Once citizens send an SMS, the data is recorded on a web server. Based on type of incident indicated by a corresponding number the reports are mapped out where other members of the community and local authorities can see them on myelva.com. The data is also collected for a quarterly early warning report, which includes a geographical break down of security incidents and emergency reports and further helps government officials track and respond to trends in the regions. In January 2012, when an elderly person with a mental disorder went missing from Atotsi village, the early warning networks emergency function helped recover the missing person. CRRC and Saferworld are promoting the use of Elva and lessons learned from the project with other NGOs in the region. The platform has been field-tested for two years and is completely open source, so that it can easily be used by any NGO around the world, said Catshoek. The platform is already being piloted by an NGO in Libya, and we are also expecting to launch it in Armenia later this year. www.oscepa.org

More than 8,000 texts from ordinary citizens through the Elva project get plotted on a map (above) and colorcoded so it is easy to for the government to spot trends in anything from a bumpy road to a burglary.


Russian Federation

Open Duma

Civil Society/Parliament: Explaining parliamentary action

To promote public engagement in political decision-making, in January 2012 Russian social activist Alyona Popova founded the OpenDuma project a website, featuring a video-blog and chat to promote understanding of happenings in the Russian Parliament. In the public mind, the State Duma is a closed fortress, a pyramid, Popova said. We want it to be transparent and responsive to popular needs. Her site posts legislative bills at early stages of the process for people to offer their amendments, some of which can be announced at the Duma. Most voters are unaware of what their elected parliamentarians are actually doing for them, Popova said. Even if some parliamentary debates and voting are streamed directly on Russian TV, it can still be difficult for the average viewer to understand. On OpenDuma, once the Duma votes on a law, experts who are either deputies themselves or subject specialists explain and interpret the legislation. The primary goal of the project is to help people understand how the parities we voted for work for us in the Duma, simply to help them understand how they vote, Popova said. In its first six months the project has been considered an exemplary case of civil society initiative in Russia for its use of Internet technology to help open up the legislative process. The site reports 2,000 to 3,000 daily visits and up to 90,000 visits during key or controversial legislative votes, such as acts on direct gubernatorial elections, simplifying political party registration, increasing fines for violations during public demonstrations, and ratifying Russias entry into the WTO. A week before a legislative project is to be debated in the Duma, its draft is put up on the website where all the website users are able to comment on it and submit amendments. Currently, the organizers of the project are working with interested parliamentarians to get them to voice and bring up the most widely supported amendments during the actual debate. The project also provides a platform for the parliamentarians to become better known in an informal setting and to co-operate more closely with their electorate. The OpenDuma project aims to bring a lively debate to the State Duma, making sure that laws passed are created together with its 32 citizens. www.oscepa.org

Inside and over the Russian State Duma. To increase public understanding of the legislative process in Russia, some Members of the Duma, have shared their expertise and experience online at Open Duma.


Amended by the People

Parliament/government: Increasing citizens legislative voice

When the Greek government launched the OpenGov project in 2009, it wanted to make sure that the concept of open government would not only encourage greater transparency and accountability, but also inspire greater civic engagement. OpenGov.gr went live that October featuring an interactive blog where citizens themselves could weigh in on pending legislation. Almost every draft resolution or governmental policy initiative was made available prior to its submission to parliament, and Greek citizens proved very interested in playing such a direct role in their political process. By December 2011, OpenGov.gr had 4.6 million visitors and 239 discussions generating more than 76,600 comments on policies ranging from tax reform to immigration. In addition, the government has opened accounts on Facebook and Twitter, attracting more than 6,300 followers. Hot issues drive large and meaningful participation, said Giorgos Karamanolis, the technical coordinator who helped launch OpenGov and the Greek governments multiblog environment. There are many cases where the online deliberation process helped improve the final document. In addition, the government has opened accounts in Facebook and Twitter, attracting more than 6,300 followers. In one case a draft resolution aiming to make the government vehicles respect eco-friendly criteria would have mistakenly only affected cars from one single manufacturer. When a citizen caught the error, the resolution was redrafted to affect all auto manufacturers supplying the governmental fleet. Participation is open to anyone, be they individuals or organizations. Observations, suggestions and criticisms are made articleby-article to promote a detailed review and remain visible for all users. All the comments submitted are then gathered and assessed by competent authorities before being incorporated in final regulations.
Greece also launched Labs.OpenGov as a platform to encourage citizendriven innovation for public services. The site invited corporate and noncorporate users to submit proposals for new ways to use government data. The idea is to provide an open platform for people to submit ideas to improve the government, explains Karamanolis Ideas have ranged from an online map (above) clarifying various fishing regulations off the coast of Greece to an online medical information system to simplify the sharing of information between doctors and patients. After public comments, the scientific community chooses the best proposals to present in workshop and discuss ways to implement. So far about 850 proposals have been submitted, 30 of which have been selected to be formally presented to government ministers.




They Rose for Peace

Civil society/government: Mourning through social media

he July 2012 terrorist attack on Norways Utoya Island, targeting the Labour Partys youth summer camp, marked the most violent incident in Norway since the second World War. Seventy-seven people died; their average age just 21 years old. The incident was also the first such national tragedy to occur in Scandinavia in the age of social media. Many peopled learned of the attacks through their social networks, and they turned to social media again in their time of grief and mourning. In the hours following the massacre, Terje Bratland, a man with no background in community organizing, decided Norwegians should gather in solidarity. With his idea, a walk in Oslo with lit torches of peace, he launched a Facebook group: Torchlight - Norway is united against terrorism. Soon more than 26,000 people had joined it. We will show the deceased their last respects and the injured that we care about each other. At the same time, we show the world together that we are a united people who show no fear of terrorism, Bratland said. As it became clear that thousands of people would converge in Oslo, Bratland and partners in government and political parties spread the word to bring roses instead of torches and the event became vast display of flowers throughout the capital city, an image that would be repeated in sympathy at sites throughout the world in days to follow. An estimated 150,000 people, including Norways top political leaders and parliamentarians, participated in support of the victims and their families. This unified gathering signaled to Norwegians, and the rest of the world, the strength and resilience of their country, their values and their opposition to violence as a means of political expression. Although social media can be used as an outlet for hate, evident from the spreading of anti-Islamic sentiments attributed to the gunman Anders Behring Breivik on right-wing fundamentalist websites, social media also can be a positive mobilizing force, in this case bringing out thousands of people on short notice to stand with one voice denouncing terrorism and promoting peace and democracy.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg speaks at a memorial ceremony in Oslo that was organzied online and brought more than 150,000 people together in support of the victims killed in the July 2012 massacre on Utoya Island..

34 www.oscepa.org


Citizen Observers

Civil society: Improving election information

In the spring of 2012, Armenia took a major step forward embracing the internet as a tool for political and social change. As international election observers descended on Yerevan for Mays parliamentary elections, Armenians launched outreach initiatives online, informing citizens about electoral rules and empowering them to report alleged problems on election monitoring websites. The non-governmental organization Journalists for the Future developed the site Irazek.am, which also linked to a similar site, iDitord.org, to give people information and a voice in the conduct of their own elections. Irazek.am is an interactive community platform aimed at bringing about positive change through the free flow of electoral information and helping voters make an informed decision on election day, said Suren Deheryan, president of Journalists for the Future. The website, supported by the OSCE and the U.S. Embassy, provides information on candidates, legislation, the role of citizens in elections, and locations of polling stations. Irazek.am also had an interactive message board for observers, which received 171 messages leading up to and throughout Election Day. The website linked to iDitord.org, an interactive election monitoring and reporting site, that also enables every citizen to be an observer. In Armenia, approximately 90 per cent of the population has a mobile phone. So, iDitord.org, a project of Transparency International and the Media Diversity Institute in Armenia, let people call, text or tweet election-related problems to the site. This accessibility resulted in the site receiving more than 1,100 reports, which were displayed on an interactive map. Then iDitord forwarded cases to police and other officials for their consideration. The defense ministry responded to every complaint regarding the armed forces, said Sona Ayvazyan, project director for Transparency International Armenia. Administrators of both websites said government officials responded to many complaints that were related to problems with the voters list, but did not immediately investigate other concerns. Regardless of the government follow-up, the sites themselves helped the election to be more transparent and capitalized on new technologies to engage Armenians in a new form of civic participation., The inclusion of iPhone and Android applications helped engage younger voters in the electoral process a demographic often difficult to reach. www.oscepa.org

Voters look for their names on a local voters list posted outside a polling station on election day (above). The iDitord.org website maps user-generated election observations in realtime (below).



Laughing through the Revolution

Civil Society: A new show for satire
As the Egyptian Revolution began to unfold in 2011 the state-run media monopoly labeled pro-democracy demonstrators in Tahrir Square as foreign agents and worse. Egyptian journalist Shahira Amin famously resigned as deputy head of Nile TV after becoming disillusioned with the near total blackout of coverage of the ongoing unrest acrossEgypt. With Egyptians being denied a full picture of what was actually occurring in their country, a 37-year-old surgeon, Bassem Youssef, took it upon himself to expose the media corruption through satire. His show came out not just to make people laugh but to expose the amount of lies injected into media and politics, he said. Beginning his comedy career with one table and one camera in a spare room in his apartment, Youssef aired five-minute webisodes criticizing mainstream media for its ineptitude in delivering honest news. He called the government hypocrisy and misinformation amid the revolution a gold mine for his comedy show, which in just over three monthsreceived more than five million views on YouTube. Al Bernameg (The Show) has been picked up by the independent television network ONTV, becoming the first successful web-toTV show in a region where broadcast media is characteristically government-controlled. Modeled on the successful American comedy shows of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (of which Youssef is a big fan), Al Bernameg airs twice a week in 20 minute segments. The shows early popularity has also inspired other Egyptians to try their hand at online satire, helping to expand the number of people using YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to express their political concerns and demand true information and transparency from their leaders. Given the government involvement in Egypts media landscape, the 2011 revolution in many ways toppled old media paradigms too. Yousef says mainstream television anchors have fallen behind social media sites as major sources of news and information in the region.The heightened interest in politics and civic life has led to broadcasts of parliament gaining more views than soap operas. Youssef believes that this new age of information and internet access will never again allow authoritarian or radical regimes to take control of the media and inhibit the Egyptian ability to freely express themselves. The voice now belongs to the people. The media now belongs to the people, And the power belongs to the 36 people, he said. www.oscepa.org
From a camera in his apartment to international prime time, Bassem Yousseff, and The Show, have fed the people of Egypts appetite for poltical satire in what was a previously closed media environment.


Government: Citizen input at every stop

A Tradition of Participation

How do you connect with the public about a light rail transit line that will cover 27 kilometres (17 miles) of a diverse city? You include public engagement from the start. In 2009, the City of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada presented its new Transportation Master Plan, The Way We Move. The plan calls for sustainable, healthful and practical projects to address Edmontons future transportation needs. One of these projects is a city-spanning rail line that will directly affect hundreds of thousands of residents and businesses along the route and will change how Edmontonians navigate their city. Gaining public input on a project of this size could be daunting, but in Edmonton there was already a foundation to build on. In 1907, Edmonton became the first Canadian city to adopt the concept of giving community-based organizations (Community Leagues) a direct channel of communication to the city government. Edmonton has continued to develop its public engagement approach and now has an Office of Public Involvement and official framework to guide projects, such as the rail line, to build public involvement into their plans. The citys depth of experience in public involvement has been invaluable to this project, said Nat Alampi, Edmontons program manager for the transit project. When the overall goal is public service, it only makes sense for the public to be informed and engaged every step of the way. Edmontons experience with communicating public involvement and the familiarity residents have with the process brought a large and varied group to the table. Between March and December of 2010, during the projects planning phase, 2,965 people participated in 74 events to have their say in the future of their travel. Through online surveys, workshops, and open houses, as well as stakeholder interviews, the public was consulted at each step of the transit lines planning process from selection of the route to the location of stops. After each major decision, the city government returned to the public to show what had been selected, why, and how their input had been used. The project is now in preliminary design and Edmonton residents continue to assist in its refinement through community roundtables and drop-in sessions regarding how the stop locations will look and integrate with their communities. 37 www.oscepa.org

Above citizens discuss plans for Edmontons new light rail transit line and examine photos for the new rail line. Since 1907, the City of Edmonton has adopted an approach that calls for including citizen input at all stages of public projects.

United States of America

New Methods, Old Process

Congress: Campaigning for a constitutional amendment

Amending the U.S. constitution is a rare event. Its happened only 13 times in the last 100 years. But in 2010, when the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission that corporations were free to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections, some lawmakers got so incensed they moved to amend the constitution and effectively overturn the courts decision. In December 2010, Senator Bernie Sanders called the 5-4 court ruling disastrous on the Senate floor and introduced the SavingAmerican Democracy Constitutional Amendment with support from several citizens groups. Corporations should not be able to go into their treasuries and spend millions and millions of dollars on a campaign in order to buy elections, Sanders said. The ruling has radically changed the nature of our democracy. It has further tilted the balance of the power toward the rich and the powerful at a time when the wealthiest people in this country never had it so good. Sanders amendment would establish that corporations are not people and therefore not eligible for constitutional rights equal to individuals, and it would prohibit corporations from making any campaign or election expenditures. But what makes the senators effort different from every amendment campaign before it has been the remarkable public response visible on every social media platform. His Senate speech has been viewed more than 119,000 times on YouTube, and a simply-designed website for the amendment at www.sanders.senate.gov/savingdemocracy makes it easy for people to support the process. Social media has helped my office spread the word about this amendment and has hopefully brought more attention to this issue, Sanders said. The campaign has been shared 236,000 times through simple buttons on Sanders site for social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. This has led to more than 220,000 people signing the online petition for the amendment, and as a result Sanders delivered the petition to President Barack Obama. Successfully amending the national constitution may still be a ways off, but Sanders has already succeeded to engage citizens in the fight against corporate money in U.S. political campaigns.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders has attracted more than 200,000 people to sign a petition supporting his constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.




Experts Among Us

Parliament: Commissions give public a role in parliament

Since 1969, the German Parliament has enjoyed the fruits of the work of Enquete Commissions, commissions of enquiry that bring citizens together with parliamentarians and experts to focus on solutions to long-term problems. But in 2011, they took on a whole new form when the German Parliaments Enquete Commission on Internet and the Digital Society created the first online platforms for its members to hear a much wider range of views. The platform (www.enquetebeteiligung.de), based on public participation software called adhocracy, makes it easy for citizens or interest groups to register, comment on papers drafted by the commission, and post their own ideas or suggestions. Only citizens can vote on the ideas. More than 3,000 people have signed up to use the site, which has received 457 proposals, 2,285 comments and 14,042 votes. All this adds the strength of crowdsourcing to what otherwise is a 34-person commission made up of 17 politicians and 17 outside experts, including professors, software developers, and bloggers. The groups debates take place in working groups that deal with such issues as privacy policy, media competence, net neutrality and consumer protection. The new online platform has also generated new ideas for the commission to forward to parliament, ranging from a plan to export Germanys e-government management to a proposal about the best ways to objectively teach students about controversial environmental topics. Another idea proposed requiring the public sector to use open software systems, including free software for the filing of tax returns electronically. The whole participatory platform being used in a parliamentary body is an unprecedented experiment in Germany, and the adhocracy platform is still being customized, but the early results shows citizens taking advantage of a real opportunity to participate and see their ideas move forward. The project group on Democracy and the State has taken up more than 50 proposals in its working agenda. Politics is benefitting twofold from citizen participation, said Axel E. Fischer, Chairmen of the Enquete Commission. With online participation of citizens, politics is opening up to new ways of communication. At the same time it can access a collective body of knowledge. www.oscepa.org
The Bundestag web site shows video from a recent meeting of the public Enquete Commission on Internet and the Digital Society.



Small Town Flurries

Government: Social media for tourism and civic talks

The small mountain town of Ordino in Andorras Pyrenees mountains has proven what draws tourists to its snowcapped peeks can also draw them to their Facebook page. The town of 4,000 people embraced social media as a new channel of communication between elected leaders and citizens in 2007. Its an instantaneous, direct and bidirectional form of communication, which is different from the conventional means of communications, Ordino town spokesman Ludovic Albos told the OSCE PA. Ordino launched the campaign Ordino es viu, Catalan for Ordino is Alive a multimedia approach to town communications that included a newsletter, website and Facebook page. The photos capture the message: showing the region alive with skiing, music, and cuisine. As of January 2013, the Facebook page had 2,042 followers, which is about half the population of the town itself. Images of the snowy landscapes and the extreme sports images which have generated the most interactions. In some cases more than 100 people engaged with city-posted content. The Facebook page aims to encourage the participation of the citizens, to know their reactions, worries and complaints, Albos told the OSCE PA. Social media is an authentic revolution for us, since the citizen can use his voice daily, not every four years in the ballot box. In 2011, the city added a Twitter account @ordinoesviu to quickly share news, images and video links. With this channel, the local administration tries to best understand the pulse of the community. The page is a space of coexistence and exchange of information between all the inhabitants of Ordino. All together, we make Ordino es Viu, Albos said. Local candidates were active on social media during the last campaign in Ordino, and Albos predicts such democratic engagement will increase again before the next election day. But he and the Ordino Communication Council are not waiting. They are already developing a presence on the photo-sharing site Instagram and seeking to build social media networks that can improve citizen engagement and make democracy come alive every day with a simple click. 40 www.oscepa.org
The town of Ordino proved what works in person works online. Pictures of winter sport competitions, like this one from Ordino es vius Facebook page, and other seasonal festivities have kept Ordino on the social media map as well as the tourist circuit.


Face time

Government: EU Presidency meets the bloggers

In an era of instant information posted all over the blogosphere, face to face interactions can be rare, making it all the more valuable for leaders to meet directly with the people who often comment on their decisions only through a computer screen. The Cyprus Presidency of the EU decided to be proactive and to interact with bloggers from across Europe by inviting writers in July 2012 to discuss European priorities, including: efficiency and sustainability, economic performance and growth, relevance to citizens, social cohesion, and Europes relations with its neighbors. The Permanent Representative of Cyprus, Kornelios Korneliou, opened the event in Brussels by calling interaction between Cypriots and European bloggers a necessity. The discussions streamed live online paralleled with live blogging, tweets and Google hangouts, generating more than 700 comments and tweets reaching an audience of 403,089 followers in 24 hours, making the hashtag #cy2012eublogs among the most popular in Brussels for the day. The Cyprus Presidency remains committed to transparency and openness and is willing to pursue the co-operation that started today, Deputy Permanent Representative of Cyprus, George Zodiates, said in his closing speech. Bloggingportal.eu, the largest aggregator of blogs related to European affairs presented the meet the bloggers event. The portal included blogger Protesilaos Stavrou, author of the EU political analysis blog protesilaos.com, in the meeting. His blog was named among three must-reads in 2012. The Councils Presidency, other EU institutions and probably some bloggers need to reconsider their approach to the social web to understand it as a two-way street, rather than the traditional top-bottom hierarchy of the old media, Stavrou told the OSCE PA. This year is the European Year of Citizens, and since we have already had a good precedent, one can be both optimistic and demanding, that participation will become a common theme in the immediate future. Myria Antoniadou, participated via a live link from Nicosia. She stressed that in Cyprus, a country with about one million people, poltical blogs do not have a big following yet, but the Cyprus Presidency showed the voice of the bloggers is already being heard. Blogs are a way of encouraging active citizenship and constitute an accessible forum for the exchange of views, she told the OSCE PA. However, it takes time for them to grow and play a role in a society, especially towards the political elite. www.oscepa.org

A screen-grab of EU Presidency Spokesperson Marianna Karageorgis Twitter feed shows bloggers interacting with the Cyprus Presidency.



Transparent Treasure

Civil Society: Searchable and accessible public contracts

What would a journalist or good-government advocate do if they were given nearly every contract signed by state institutions in their country? Ideally, read them, right? But what if there were tens of thousands of contracts released every six months? On one hand it is every watchdogs dream to have such access, but no single entity could sift through such a load of data. That was the situation Slovakia faced in 2011, when for the first time the government was required to publicly release its contracts. As a result, a governmental portal was flooded with thousands of documents not all of them useful. Two NGOs the anticorruption watchdog Fair-Play Alliance and the Slovak branch of Transparency International decided to cope with the problem through crowd sourcing. They launched OtvoreneZmluvy.sk (Open Contracts in English) to make it easier for citizens to browse the documents, find potentially suspicious or overpriced deals, and publicize them to hold the government accountable. The site was pretty straightforward: a search engine, a set of criteria for highlighting contracts, and the beginning of a future crowdsourcing function so users could discuss and rate contracts. The theory is simple: give people the means and they will gladly become a watchdog in an area that really bothers them, said Eva Vozarova, head of technology at Fair-Play. For nine years, Fair-Play has been building a database mapping the flow of public money to private hands. Their site, Datanest.sk has information about state subsides, tax and custom remissions, grants, as well as who manages state funds. It has become a go-to place for information about public finances. The database, now with more than 1.5 million entries, was first conceived in 2003 to help Fair-Play improve its own investigative activities. We decided that it would be a waste only to use it once, so we decided to publish it online for anyone to take so that journalists and other activists dont have to request the same information, said Vozarova. By sharing the data with open-source coding, Fair-Play made it easy for journalists or other NGOs to use their databases, like the award-winning site ZNasichDani.sk did to show which companies win the most business from the state. It all helped remind public institutions that their work was being watched helping to prevent 42 potential corruption. www.oscepa.org

What good is data if journalists and good-government leaders dont know how to sort it and search it? Fair-Play Slovakia conducts trainings (above) and has become the central online source for searching public contracts in Slovakia.


Be Politics

Parliament/Civil Society: A new way to see candidates

During election campaigns, the flow of general information can be overwhelming, especially to voters in Belgium, where no fewer than 15 major parties play a role in the political system. To overcome the confusion and build citizen engagement, four citizens launched Bepolitics.be, the first interactive electoral site for the 589 Belgian municipalities, enabling candidates to share their political profiles on one website and communicate with the visitors. The goal through this simple and innovative concept was to arouse the interest of politicians, citizens, and media, co-creator Christophe Jouret told the OSCE PA. More than 3,250 politicians, including four deputy prime ministers, added their campaign priorities and contact information to the site, which is available in French and Flemish. Bepolitics received more than 350,000 page views and 60,000 visits during the six weeks before the elections with half the traffic coming from Facebook shares. This has a positive impact on citizen mobilization, wherever it comes from, Jouret said. The site creators wanted citizens to know about all the candidates, especially lesser known contenders, before heading to the polls. Bepolitics combines all the information you could find on other social media in one place, making it easy to compare candidate profiles, pictures, slogans, and other details about the elected position. Some parties immediately saw the electoral potential and diligently relayed the existence of the site to their members. Other parties were more cautious about the question of how to make the best of a campaign on the web and social networks without causing the worst, Jouret said. After the success during the election campaign, Bepolitics.be added a second part: the electoral debate. Citizens can now follow the most discussed subjects on Twitter about politics in Belgium. But through its past success, the team behind the site already has plans to become the Whos Who of politics in Belgium. We will be there for the parliamentary elections in June 2014, which will also be played out on the web and social networks, Jouret promised.

For citizens tired of fishing for candidat comparisons bepolitics offers something new - candidate and party profiles and issue statements all in one place. Above the bilingual homepage, and below a sample of the candidate profiles to click to learn more about each one.

43 www.oscepa.org


Beating the Street

Civil Society: Media create a new platform for dialogue
Newspapers, the traditional backbone of a free press, have undergone wholesale changes in the last decade. But in Slovenia, the major daily paper, Delo, has embraced a new media approach to play a larger role in the countrys political discourse. In the wake of Slovenias 2012 political and economic crisis, and amid large-scale anti-government demonstrations, Delo launched a project called Revolt in Alternative. While the protests showed a gap between political elites and citizens particularly the youth a group of Delo journalists decided to open a wider public debate about the Slovenias future. The project started as an open web platform where citizens could post their suggestions on the future of the political system. Contributions touched on the economy, health care, education, the judiciary, and cultural and environmental issues. Promoted through Delos print and online editions, the project attracted significant participation. More than 17,000 people engage with Delo through Twitter and Facebook. Bostjan Videmsek, one of the Revolt supervisors told the OSCE PA that the response of the public was a pure positive shock. Around 120 top-quality essays have been received since the start of this project. All essays are published on the Revolt website and editors select the best ones for publication in the daily newspaper. Seeing the success online, project co-ordinators plan to take the dialogue to several Slovenian cities for live forums this year. The concept is to build a new social platform, where citizens can discuss and formulate policies, and by the spring of 2013 publish a book of the ideas proposed in these public forums. In short, the newspaper hopes to have built a true alternative, as the name suggests for citizens who feel disconnected from their government. Revolt just may be a platform to turn some of the political shouting into solution-oriented talking, changing the relations between politicians and citizens.

Branko Grims, Head of the Slovenian Delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, has turned to Twitter to better communicate to his constituents on the work of parliament. His 630 followers also receive links to his longer blog where he publishes articles and views on the political landscape of Slovenia.

44 www.oscepa.org


Twitter to the Rescue

Civil Society/government: Helping house earthquake victims

When a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck eastern Turkey in October 2011, amid a flurry of emergency responses, Twitter users came to the rescue as well. Six-hundred people died in the earthquake and thousands were left homeless. To help, Turkish journalist Ahmet Tezcan took to Twitter, initiating the EvimEvindirVan campaign (translated as My house is your house Van) named for the hard hit city of Van. The campaign encouraged people to host a family left homeless by the earthquake. In Turkey, where an estimated 16 per cent of adults online use Twitter, the microblogging site quickly became a critical humanitarian platform providing victims with needed shelter and care from compassionate Turks across the country. The campaigns goal was to see the victims through the winter, offering a safe haven while the government rebuilt homes, Tezcan told the OSCE PA. So what sparked this social media movement? According to Tezcan it was compassion. When I saw the peoples panic, the helplessness on TV [a] few minutes after the earthquake, I wanted to be able to touch them, to be able to hold their hands, Tezcan said. There were kilometres of distance between us, and I would be of no use if I had gone there. It was winter and I wanted to open my house to them. Tezcan created the hashtag #EvimEvindirVan, enabling displaced persons to communicate with those offering up their homes to earthquake victims. The government told Tezcan his campaign helped an estimated 100,000 families receive assistance. In a few hours there were thousands of people willing to open their houses to earthquake victims, he said. We got in touch with proconsulates and this simple desire to hold hands turned into a huge campaign. In many cases one tweet amid the emergency has led to year-long personal aid and friendship. Like in the example of the family in my house, there are still some families living in other cities as guests, Tezcan said. Despite progress on reconstruction, Tezcan says many families are still without proper housing as of January 2013.

Emin Onen, head of the Turkish delegation to the OSCE PA posted this picture of President Milgiori at the Akakale border crossing with Syria. Onen, who has roughly 6,000 followers on Twitter is most active during meetings and events. Most tweets are about foreign elections or domestic politics, but Onen shows his personal side too, engaging one follower in some banter about beards. For Twitters humanitarian impact in Turkey, see the story on the left.

Ask the President

Between 30 July and 5 August 2012, Turkey launched Ask the President, a programme for citizens to directly engage with President Abdullah Gl. More than 2,600 questions were submitted online during the week. Organizers pared them down to 91 for the public vote. Then 14,000 people voted for their favourite questions, with the top 10 winning an opportunity to meet the President in person (and tour and dine in the presidential palace). Questions ranged from jobs and education to the quality of television programming. A police officer asked about restarting unions in the law enforcement ranks. Not now, Gl said. Another asked whether Gl aspired to be the next UN secretary general. No, he said.



San Marino


Parliament: MPs give interviews in 140 characters or less

Tweets may be short. Their 140-character maximum may leave little room for nuance, let alone policy detail, but the elected officials in San Marino are used to things being small. The microstate covers just more than 60 square kilometers. Its population barely tops 32,000 people. That means the 60 legislators sitting in San Marinos Grand and General Council each represent about 500 people. Personal contact may be easier in the Most Serene Republic, as it is known, but some lawmakers, like Alessandro Rossi, have embraced new ways of communicating with journalists through Twitter. Rossi, a member of San Marinos delegation to the OSCE PA, is one of several MPs who gave an interview in September to blogger Patrizia Cupo. Rossi explained international organizations, expressed solidarity with workers, and showed some personality when asked a challenging question. Cupo had asked, You fight in favour of the unemployed, but then you show yourself on Facebook on a boat during summer holidays. Isnt this inappropriate? Rossi replied, For a politician private assets should not be hidden nor shown off. It is up to the citizens to judge, wanna have a ride? Cupo was similarly tough with other MPs. Maria Luisa Berti, who faced questions about her partys decision to ally with another party whose members had achieved some new-found wealth after elections. I would like to know how they made that much money, Berti said. Also on Twitter, Cupo asked Giovanni Lonfernini if any newspaper requested money to publish press releases from his partys candidates. No, he said, we call on our candidates to think hard about these offers. They are not useful to the political debate. Cupo asked about 10 questions in each interview, with some turning to the trivial, like the price of pasta. For San Marino, this spate of interviews (that were reprinted in news articles online) turned out to be a valuable tool, not only to increase media coverage of parliamentarians in San Marino, but to reach a larger audience, helping increase awareness of Sammarinese politics internationally. 46 www.oscepa.org

Several MPs in San Marino have given Twitter interviews answering question from the playfully trivial to politically troublesome.




Bosnia and Herzegovina

Democracy - Why not?

Civil Society: Tracking political actions and statements

From choosing a political party to measuring the actions of politicians against their words, when it comes to improving democratic governance, one group in Bosnia and Herzegovina has a simple question: Why Not? UG Zasto Ne (literally Citizens Association Why Not?), a 12-year-old organization originally established as a peace and demilitarization movement, now works to support the development of civil society through a host of civic activism projects and web sites, which have attracted thousands of users. Their success stems from giving citizens a voice. With a dozen political parties represented in Parliament, for less engaged citizens, it may be a challenge to know which party is most aligned with their thinking. The organization created an interactive application called Glasometar (loosely translated as vote-meter) for the 2010 BiH General elections, which allows users to answer a survey about their political views the answers which determine the party that best fits them. In its first three months, more than 15,000 people from 110 different municipalities used it. Why Not also helps citizens hold their elected leaders to account for campaign promises. The site Istinomjer.ba checks the statements of politicians with their actions or accomplishments and lays out guidelines for people to monitor the ruling parties activities toward fulfilling promises to voters. The aim is to record all the non-fulfilled promises of politicians before the 2014 general elections. The use of social media is very important for an organization of civil society, Dalio Sijah, editor of UG Zato ne web portals, told the OSCE PA. This media helps to promote the activities, ideas and projects of the organization, as well as the development of a network of activists from across the country and the region. The varying websites link from the groups main site and Facebook pages, where collectively they have more than 3,000 fans. Profile pages are regularly used also to organize polls on social issues in BiH, giving users multiple pathways to engage with the different civil society initiatives, including one local project called PopravimiSkolu (Fix My School), where students, parents and teachers can publicly report problems in schools and begin a dialogue with education ministry officials to take action to resolve them. 47 www.oscepa.org

The people behind Zasto Ne (above) know a thing or two about getting citizens engaged in the political process. One of their projects attracted 15,000 people.


Digital Democracy

Government: Public consultation portal

In January 2013, for the first time in Bulgarias post-communist era, citizens were able to vote in a referendum about the construction of a new nuclear plant. The moment came six years after Bulgaria had joined the EU and capped off steady and significant social progress. While that vote was a positive sign for democratic governance, for reforms to be lasting, Sofia had to show a commitment to democratic values. Part of that became a creative decision by Bulgarias Council of Ministers to ensure the voice of the people was better included in government decisions. The council created the Public Consultation Portal website, a veritable index of political issues on which citizens can weigh in, read government documents and see final public decisions. The website has three main sections: a directory of public consultations, documents, and news. Users can click on one of 22 different thematic areas, ranging from the environment to health, farming to tourism. Each topic, once clicked, reveals details on each public consultation, providing specific links for users to enter their own comments and questions. Unfortunately, despite being quite transparent, summarizing proposed laws and then displaying the full text of proposals, relatively few people seem to be commenting on the various policies, and the council is still working to attract users. We trying different things to do that, Pavel Ivanov, Acting Director of the Council for the Administrative Reform, told the OSCE PA. He said the government emails stakeholders on relevatn legislation and regularly communicates with civil soceity to encourage more use of the site. So far, only proposals related to professionalising the diplomatic corps and reforming the juvenile justice system attracted more than 35 comments, but the platform already has the makings of a quality tool for public participation. Ivanov says the web tool is working even though there is no strict framework or legal requirement for such transparency. The low participation rate underscores a common challenge in efforts to increase civic engagement: it often takes more than transparency to draw people into the public debate. Unless there is a major conflict to bring peoples attention to a topic, government officials need to be more creative to attract people to participate in the public process. Its still evolving, Ivanov said.

Bulgarias Public Consultation Portal is one-stop-shopping for citizens to engage on any number of policy issues - but it remains a challenge to get users to post comments on draft legislation.




A Monumental Task

Government: New tech preserving ancient history

For all the attention social media puts on changing the future, in Poland, there is a new effort to use social media to better understand the past. OtwarteZabytki.pl (Open monuments) engages citizens to help collect and sometimes correct open data about Polish cultural heritage sites in the country or abroad. The crowdsourcing platform builds on data from the National Heritage Board of Polands official register of historical objects and buildings. In the summer of 2012, more than 7,000 people participated in a month-long national crowdsourcing action -- this first of its kind and scale in Poland. We believe that the significance of heritage data, close to the hearts of citizens, is that it can build civic engagement, said Katarzyna Werner, one of the project co-ordinators from Centrum Cyfrowe, a think tank dedicated to building digital society in Poland. People are simply interested in cultural heritage. It is also easier for people to see how this data can be useful in their everyday life - which is a key reason for involvement.
Kana Elblski, an 84 km 150-yearold manmade waterway is considered a Polish treasure. Its one national monument that is getting new attention as citizens fill in information about it on the Open Monuments web site.

The governments aim was simple: to rely on citizen knowledge to improve public data. The site makes it easy for users to upload information The Right to Know and photographs of historical landmarks Article 61 of the Polish Constitution guarantees citizens which can then be searched by other the right to know about the activities and views users. Organizers made the data easily of their public authorities. For five years now the sharable through widgets that can be NGO Association 61 has worked to make it easier for citizens to act on that right through the web installed on external websites. They also site mamprawowiedziec.pl (I have a right to organized cultural activities, ranging know). The site makes information about 100s of from workshops for the elderly to candidates and public officials easily accessible. sightseeing walks to build engagement. In one example, Open Monuments had minimal information about a 15thcentury church in the city of Orzysz, but citizen input helped give a more complete description, including photos, dates, as well as legends and anecdotes of the historic building. Its information that may have been lost to the past had Centrum Cyfrowe not invited citizen historians to contribute to this open data project.
The association collects and catalogs data about Members of Parliament, including biographies, opinions, and voting records, some gleaned from official records, others from questionnaires. Since 2007 questionnaires have gone out during four general elections. In 2011, 945 candidates replied to the questionnaire. In a democratic state knowledge and information are tools of control for citizens that help them choose freely, said Maja Rzepliska, communication specialist for MamPrawoWiedziec.pl. Our website helps citizens to decide who they want to vote for in the next elections. Not only who is promising them what they want but who is really making decisions that are compatible with their own worldview. As an NGO committed to increasing transparency, Association 61 does not interpret the data, but they do provide summary reports on different topics and analyses on policies and activities of the MPs.




Pink Embassy

Civil Society: Organizing for LGBT equality online and off

In a country that is proud to celebrate its diverse religious populations, the celebration of diversity has not always extended to the gay and lesbian community, and efforts to increase the profile of LGBT equality issues in Albania have been rocky a government official threatened organizers of a gay pride parade with violence in the spring of 2012. To move the dialogue forward toward broader recognition of LGBT rights, Pink Embassy launched in 2010, to help change attitudes to ensure a thorough respect for the needs and concerns of the LGBT community. With more than 2,000 followers on Facebook and a continuously updated web site sharing news relevant to the LGBT community, Pink Embassy has used online and offline organizing tools to increase political awareness among its members and education among the political class. In May 2012, efforts paid off two-fold. Pink Embassy held the first diversity festival in Tirana timed with International Day Against Homophobia and celebrated the Albanian parliaments passage of laws against hate crimes and hate speech, both of which include references to sexual orientation. Today has been a day of Albania, organizers wrote on Pink Embassys Facebook page after the 2013 festival. An open day, a day of pride, awareness, information on diversity, tolerance, human rights, of women, marginalized groups, for the right of every individual who wants to live free and respected in this country. Pink Embassy co-ordinates information campaigns, events and discussions, to empower the community and enable its members to become spokespersons and defenders of their own rights. Social media allows Pink Embassy to spread communication in a daily bases and reach to people who are in the closet or too busy to be active themselves, says General Manager Amarildo Fecanji. But the real change happens in person at roundtable meetings or outdoor gatherings like the Festival of Diversity, Fecanji says. Pink Embassys work has had an impact beyond the parliaments new laws. Thanks to training, expertise, and monitoring, the group has actively contributed the Albanian Ministry of Labours formulation of an action plan to help fight discrimination against members of the LGBT communities. The action plan was part of a precondition for Albanias July 2013 accession to the European Union. 50 www.oscepa.org

Whether its an outdoor festival of diversity or an indoor organizing meeting, Pink Embassy, has used tools online and off to bring together the LGBT community and help the government create new action plans for tolerance.


Pedaling for Participation

Parliament: Making MPs acccessible by bike and broadband

Engaging with parliament does not have to mean going to parliament. In Lithuania, the European Information Office of the Seimas has organized civic engagement events that make parliamentarians and European affairs more accessible to the general public. In May 2013, 200 cyclists joined leaders from the Seimas and other state institutions took part in a bicycle ride to mark the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. After finishing Europe Park, Speaker Vydas Gedvilas, and the ambassadors from Ireland and Greece planted oak trees on behalf the EU Presidency Trio. This Office is an excellent tool and platform for communication with wider public, by involving decision makers, experts and politicians. EIO takes a very unique place in Lithuanian Parliaments communication policy, said Petras Autreviius, Deputy Speaker of the Seimas.

Press conferences in parliament are nothing new, but in Vilnius the public relations unit of the Seimas has organized a special program to allow questions from anyone in the country wherever they are. A press conference with MPs about a new law on informal White Gloves education received among the most questions. After working with election officials and seeing concerns about electoral fraud in the first round of the 2012 parliamentary Information technologies make elections, a consortium of NGOs launched Baltosios pirstines press conferences open not only to (White Gloves) as a way to add civilian observers to the traditional accredited journalists, but also to party observers seen on election day. all those interested in the matter, Though they started organizing with only five days until the second round of voting, the NGOs got more than 700 people to volunteer from all over Lithuania, mostly observing the elections while standing outside polling stations. The White Gloves ended up observing the vote at 34 out of 71 constituencies. We helped citizens be more engaged in the election process and they proved, given the chance, they are willing to protect the values of our young democracy, said Tadas Langaitis, one of the organizers and founder of NGO Beehive. The campaigns effort to help the state carry out transparent elections was recognized by the president and honored by the media for involving citizens in the electoral process.

Who says civic engagement is an indoor activity? Lithuanian citizens and parliamentarians pose for a photo after a bike ride event marking the launch of the 2013 Lithuanian EU Presidency.

A news conference in the Seimas

said Vydas Gedvilas, Speaker of the Seimas. This way, policy makers have the opportunity to directly present their decisions and their motives to a wide audience and the voters, wherever

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Predicting the Future

Parliament: Literature contest brings new ideas to MPs

What will change the world next? Which global events will reshape the current course of humanity? And how can we predict them? These are some of the questions Finlands Parliamentary Committee for the Future decided to pose to citizens as part of its Black Swans project. Black swans can be unlikely, surprising and unexpected events, capable of having large scale positive or negative impacts -just the type of things policymakers would like to anticipate. To have a committee dedicated to the future is unique in itself, but Finlands MPs took their innovative approach to policy formulation a step further by soliciting citizens for their creativity. The project consisted of a writing contest aimed at giving Finnish people the opportunity to submit their ideas and to depict their own black swans in the form of essays under 10 pages in length. The committee encouraged writers to consider the unexpected moments of the recent past -- from the collapse of the Soviet Union to the 9/11 terrorist attacks -- and then write about how the world would change following a new black swan event. A jury of professors and MPs chose 20 writings out of 144 submissions to be included in a bound book published in the spring of 2013. Prize-winning authors, whose entries dealt with energy shortages, Africa, organized crime, and Asias role in world politics, received a voucher for a study trip.. The literary contest was a new way to spur creative thinking in the parliament. Traditionally, we in the Committee have listened to experts from research organisations. But it is just as important to listen to peoples values and skills gained through experience, said MP Pivi Lipponen, chair of the Committee for the Future. We can be more creative and open, we have to open our parliament to allow people, especially youth, to send their novels and contributions, said Lipponen. A key goal of the Black Swans project is to boost innovation, she said, to create new knowledge combining literature and science. The Committee on the Future may sound abstract, but this project gave citizens something tangible not just about Finland but about the wider international community. At the end of the project the people of Finland could say with pride, We, Finns, we have written 52 this book, Lipponen said. www.oscepa.org

The Black Swans publication of the Finnish Parliament is an e-book and printed book with citizen-generated creative ideas of unlikely events that could change the future.


Money Maps

Civil society: Mapping public spending and corruption

In 2007 three university students from Budapest wondered why people keep reelecting corrupt politicians (Hungary ranked 46th on Transparency Internationals perceived corruption index in 2012). They figured with no tool designated to easily check whether MPs or local decision-makers were accused of mismanaging public funds, one could hardly expect citizens to do their own research on the integrity of politicians. Thats how the idea behind K-Monitors database was born. The students started tracking news reports about irregular, unethical, or corrupt practices of public bodies and businesses. The site also offered a platform for whistleblowers to report their own experiences. K-Monitors credibility depends on its accurate and reliable searching tools. A sophisticated tagging system enables filtering the articles by different attributes, such as involved people and institutions, or other keywords referring to legal procedures, types of crimes, or relevant sectors -- so users can easily find the exact piece of information they need. Articles are also tagged by location allowing cases to be mapped and the site to show which cities and regions are most challenged by corruption, according to the press. In five years the database has grown to 25,000 online articles. To make people more conscious about how their taxes are spent, as a first step relevant information has to be provided in an easily digestible way. If the state doesnt do that than its our job to bring transparency into public spending thats what K-Monitor is about, says Sandor Lederer, one of the founders of the NGO. K-Monitor is also developing a mobile app to provide citizens information on public funds spent around their neighborhood through an online map. Users will be able to check how much the city spends on the renovation of the library next door or on the construction of the roundabout at the end of the street. When passing by a public institution the app will show if it was reported to be involved in corruption or mismanagement. It is all part of the NGOs work to continually add new functions that foster transparency and accountability.
K-Monitors online mapping and user-generated reporting software allow Hungarians to see where their tax dollars are going and where corruption concerns are most significant around the country.

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sOcialSCapE is designed to feature activities throughout the entire OSCE region. If you know of another good example of civic engagement that others may learn from, please send it to us at press@oscepa.dk.

Neil H. Simon

Look for more sOcialSCapE case studies online at www.oscepa.org

Editing: Nat Parry Xenia Beck, Hanna Bergander, Anna Chernova, Maria Chepurina, Matteo De Don, Caroline Davidsen, Ivana Drakic, William Jack Farrell, Julie Anne Lawler, Sandor Lederer, Alejandro Marx, Jim Middaugh, Borko Milosevic, Loic Poulain, Frederik Rasmussen, Sarah Robin, Danko Runic, Maja Rzepliska, Daro Snchez Andrs, Tatiana Shutova, Wesli Turner, Katarzyna Werner, Eva Vozrov, and Priit Vinkel

Special Thanks
Aidar Botagarov, Dina Baidildayeva, Jonne Catshoek, Ivana Draki, Robert Scott Heaslet, Christophe Jouret, Ivana Jovanovic, Giorgos Karamanolis, Natalie Mychajlyszyn, Michael Dewing, Tadas Langaitis, Svetlana Levina, Valdis Liepins, Kamiel Mesie, Debbie Ratcliffe, Gleb Reshetnikov, Kasia Sawko, Iegor Soboliev, Ahmet Tezcan, Meder Talkanchiev, and the OSCE Centre in Bishkek.

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OSCE Parliamentary Assembly International Secretariat Tordenskjoldsgade 1 1055 Copenhagen K, Denmark Telephone: +45 33 37 80 40 Telefax: +45 33 37 80 30 E-mail: international.secretariat@oscepa.dk Internet: www.oscepa.org