What a year it has been, a year that had promised coming out of a pandemic, and then dived back in. A year where democracy seemed to win out by a sliver over in the US, and yet risks crashing to the ground. And in Europe, where we see more cooperation than ever in rolling out a vaccine to millions, we see a continuing deluge of disinformation and threats to the rule of law. Going into 2022, we need a plan of action to pull out of a rabbit hole, or at least start climbing out.
Alliance4Europe has built up an approach to protecting and improving European democracy. First, we bring together communities of players from across sectors to work together. Secondly, we develop or source the best tools we can find to have a louder voice or greater impact together. Then, thirdly, we run campaigns to engage people for democracy. Throughout the year, we managed to put this up to the test.
We started out the year together with our partners, launching the European Hub for Civic Engagement, a cooperation platform to strengthen the backbone of democracy. We went on to support gender equality campaigners on digital communications, and provide analysis and training to those at the forefront of the struggle for equal rights. Together with the Citizens Take Over Europe coalition, we have supported citizen participation events on the future of Europe all over Europe. A democracy can only exist where citizens take up participation.
The stories we tell ourselves are crucial in defining who we are, what kind of society we live in, and whether or not we get involved. We (re-)launched the Humans in the EU project early this year to bring artists and communicators together to tell the stories of those across Europe who reach out in dialogue, across borders, or are marginalised from the debate. By telling those stories to those who might not otherwise hear them, we want to activate those who might otherwise not get involved. Towards the end of the year, we ran a narrative-change campaign with our partners the European Citizens Action Service, to tell a new story about migration and freedom of movement. Those who hear a story on migration that provokes fear and hate, might change their mind when they hear about hard work, opportunity and success.
There is a challenge in telling stories about complex issues, and that is especially critical when it comes to how our institutions make policy. The European Union is now making law about our digital space, where we live a lot of our lives, but we have not yet developed the public discourse to talk about it. With the project Exit Platforms we joined the Project for Democratic Union in bringing together decision-makers and opinion leaders from different sectors and focus areas to develop a forward looking agenda towards a digital space that enables democracy.
This new year is going to be yet another make or break year for Europe. The Conference on the Future of Europe hangs in the balance, looking like it could well turn out to be another missed opportunity. As the challenges we face become more acute, we need more powerful responses. Coalitions of campaigners like Citizens Take Over Europe or People v Big Tech make a difference when they leverage their capacity and reach. New tech solutions can only drive that forward for more impact, with a vision on how technology can effectively be used to drive education and understanding. In the coming year, we have our work cut out for us, and we can only keep on at it.
*Photo taken at a citizen assembly held in Florence and organised by the Citizens Take Over Europe coalition, which we are co-founders and members of.