From fighting corruption, to reuniting refugees, to keeping councils accountable – Personal Democracy Forum Europe 2010


The Personal Democracy Conference (PdF), which Fleishman-Hillard co-sponsored, took place last week in Barcelona. PdF is the biggest conference of its kind, leading the way in providing a forum for analysis of how technology is changing politics.

We had a great time hearing passionate and inspiring people from all walks of government, business and civil society speak and debate about how the Internet can make Europe safer, fairer, more transparent and open, and in particular, how citizens themselves increasingly play a role in the process.

It’s hard to choose amongst the plethora of great speakers (see all here) but I’d first highlight the following amongst speakers representing government. Alec Ross, advisor to Hillary Clinton, who spoke about the struggle for open society; Constantijn van Oranje-Nassau, Cabinet-member of Commissioner Neelie Kroes, who spoke about the potential the web has to improve public participation (and the fact that the Commissioner has become hooked on Twitter!) and Jimmy Leach, whose engaging talk described the advancements made by the UK Foreign Commonwealth Office in communicating through social media, addressing the challenges of bringing a bureaucracy only five years younger than the USA into the modern age! On the company/entrepreneur side, we had a range of speakers, from Randi Zuckerberg on Facebook’s peace initiative to our new friend Jens Steensma’s smartphone app Buitenbeter, which can be used in the Netherlands to report problems to councils. It is the first initiative of this kind to gain nationwide agreement with every council agreeing to follow up on problem reports.

Other highlights of the conference included the announcement of a $2.6m donation to Refugees United from the Omidyar Network to help them improve their technological platform, a powerful search tool to help refugees find families torn apart by conflict; Birgitta Jonsdottir, Member of the Icelandic Parliament, outlining the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative which aims to use transparency legislation to make Iceland a ‘haven for freedom of information, speech and expression’; and Purpose, an organization that helps start and coordinate campaigns for social or political change, also took the opportunity to announce the future launch of their new venture ‘All Out’ which aims to establish a global movement to improve LGBT rights around the world.

Particular mention goes to our fabulous panel, Julius van de Laar, Marietje Schaake MEP, David Lowey and Jon Worth. They helped to facilitate excellent debate on the European Citizen’s initiative.  Their insights were invaluable and we appreciate them having taking the time out to join us. If you were unlucky enough to have missed it you can listen again here (the video will be available soon.)

Overall thoughts? It seems the conversation has moved on from the particular tools to the bigger picture: issues brought up by the proliferation of web tools, issues of freedom and openness, and perhaps most importantly, what we are doing with the tools and how they can be used to empower citizens across the globe.

Credit to the organizers Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry for all their hard work in running the conference and leading the PdF community on to great things: rumour has it they can next be found in Santiago, Chile for Pdf Latin America!

So all in all, I finish as I started, it was excellent. Oh and Barcelona wasn’t bad either…



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