by Frank Schnittger
Wed May 14th, 2008 at 08:51:57 PM EST
There has been much debate within the ET community concerning the possibility of developing an ET vers. 2.0 with much enhanced content management and user functionality - most recently on Meta ET and To ET or not ET.
Most of these discussions have foundered on the lack of resources available to follow through on them. In our last discussion Melanchthon and Migeru pointed to the availability of EU funds to support some of the kinds of activities ET engages in - specifically the EU is looking to fund proposals on the following lines:
Summary of the call for proposals EACEA/07/08...
This call for proposals, concerning action 1, measure 2.1 -- Citizens' projects within the `Europe for
Citizens' Programme (1), is designed to contribute addressing a major challenge of the European Union
today, namely how to bridge the gap between citizens and the European Union. It aims at exploring original
and innovative methodology with the potential to encourage citizens' par ticipation and to stimulate dialogue
between European citizens and the institutions of the European Union.
The specif ic objectives of this call for proposals are to suppor t citizens' panels which enable to:
(a) collect the opinion of citizens on some key European challenges for the future (see themes);
(b) consolidate a method for stimulating active interaction and discussion between citizens on certain
EU policy areas that affect their daily life;
(c) create mechanisms that enable European citizens to develop civic competences, to formulate their views
and opinions on the European integration process in the form of recommendations for policy makers at
(d) encourage the dialogue between European citizens and the institutions of the EU, empowering citizens
as regards EU policies and their impact, and ensuring appropriate follow up of citizens' opinions by the
Applicants under this programme are invited to address in their projects at least one of the following
-- intercultural dialogue,
-- new institutional developments: a new momentum for active European citizenship,
-- women par ticipation in political life,
-- spor t for active citizenship and social inclusion,
-- the European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009.
However in order to apply for such funding, certain criteria have to be met...
2. Eligibile applicants To be eligible for a grant, the applicant must satisfy the following requirements: -- it must be a public body or a non-profit-making organisation with a legal status and legal personality. Consequently, natural persons -- i.e. individuals -- are not eligible, -- it must be established in an eligible country. Project must involve partner organisations from at least four different eligible countries other than the country of the applicant, fulfilling the eligibility criteria as defined above. Applicants must be established in one of the following countries: (a) the 27 Member States of the European Union: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom; (b) Croatia; (c) information concerning the agreements establishing the participation of other countries can be consulted on our webpage: http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/citizenship/index_en.htm 3. Budget and project duration The total budget earmarked for the co-financing of projects within this call for proposals is estimated at EUR 920 000. The grant awarded may not exceed 60 % of the total amount of the project's eligible costs as specified in the detailed budget estimate. Each grant will amount to between EUR 75 000 and EUR 150 000. Activities must start between 1 December 2008 and 28 February 2009. Activities must end before 31 December 2009. The maximum duration of projects is 10 months. 4. Deadline Applications must be sent to the Agency no later than 1 July 2008
The key criterion is thus that we need to identify public or non-profit partners in at least 5 EU states who will sign a letter of support for the project and make a relatively small contribution towards its costs. If we could identify 5-10 partners in at least 5 EU member states, contributing a total of 50K - we would be able to apply for (the minimum) 75K of further funding from the EU (= 60% of total cost thus yielding a total of 125K) - enough to fund a substantial redevelopment and upgrade of the ET site.
This Diary is by way of a call to action to ET members throughout the EU to see if you can find any public or non-profit bodies who would be prepared to give some support to a significant enhancement and expansion of the ET site across national and linguistic communities within the EU. Perhaps you know of an MEP, local EU office, or national foundation which would be prepared to show some support. 5K is a small chunk out of most organisations promotional budget - about what it costs to host a reception or seminar.
In order to assist you in writing begging letters to possible sponsors, a short description of what the proposed project is about is included below. It is a very rough draft, and any suggestions for improvements are most welcome:
Blogging is one of the fastest growing phenomena in the world, creating virtual communities which socialise, exchange ideas, hone their writing skills, build relationships, and sometimes create whole new forces in civil society. The phenomenon is most advanced in the USA where some blogs have become quite influential in public discourse and political activism. Blogging is much less well developed in the EU for a variety of reasons - lower broadband penetration, lower levels of computer literacy, but chiefly because there is no single large linguistic and national community on the scale of the US within the EU.
The European Tribune has been partially successful in filling this void. It has 4000 registered members and 2000 visitors per day who engage in on-line discussions on social, political, economic, environmental, cultural and artistic subjects, the publication of papers on various topics, and occasionally, on-line collaborations on specific projects. A series of papers on "the Anglo-Disease" has become influential in both US and European discourse on alternative economic models, series on Peak Oil, Credit and Food have informed public debate, and a recent collaboration opposing the nomination of Tony Blair as President of the European Council received widespread publicity and 27,000 signatures for an on-line petition.
In all of this, it is clear that the European Tribune is making a growing contribution to the development of a European civil society. However, it has become increasingly clear that linguistic and other barriers are inhibiting the further development of blogging, information sharing, and on-line collaboration in Europe, and that a more function rich multi-lingual environment is required to encourage the development of larger on-line communities and a truly trans-lingual demos within Europe.
Many contributors to The European Tribune are multi-lingual, but feel comfortable in engaging in discussions and contributing papers in only one language. Many, who lack confidence in their command of English, do not contribute actively at all. The European Tribune community have decided to upgrade their blogging software to support multi-lingual blogging but lack the financial resources to achieve this objective. Some major US blogs do survive on donations and paid advertising alone, but this model has proved unviable to date within the context of the much smaller on-line linguistic communities/markets within the EU.
This proposal therefore seeks once-off financial support to enable the European Tribune to provide the following enhanced functionality for a rapidly expanding user base:
1. Automated translation of content to a range of European Languages supported where possible by human editorial enhancements
2. More sophisticated content management functionality (tagging) to enable much larger content streams to be presented and channeled to users who express an interest in particular subject areas
3. A wikipedia like repository of seminal papers which have been peer reviewed by the ET community
4. Greater accessibility and search ability of the content to casual users/browsers who are not signed up members of the European Tribune on-line community.
The enhanced site will allow an ever larger membership from a more diverse range of EU nationalities and language communities to engage with each other in on-line socialisation, discussion, research and collaboration on an ever wider range of projects. It will assist in the development of transnational relationships, the development of greater linguistic skills, and in the education and mobilisation of a growing membership on a wider range of issues thus creating a more active and engaged EU citizenry.
The project will be managed by the European Tribune Editorial Board. In order to apply for EU funding we need some initial seed funding and sponsorship from public/non-profit bodies in at least 5 EU member states. We would like to invite you to become one of the founding sponsors of this very worthy initiative and would be pleased to meet with you to answer any queries you might have.
The main problem with this whole proposal is the application deadline of 1. July. However similar "calls for proposals" are issued by the EU from time to time, and all tend to have similar eligibility criteria. Thus, even if we are not successful in meeting the requirements of this application on this occasion, any preparatory work we do now will be re-usable for any subsequent application.
There are also a lot of other issues to be trashed out concerning the exact nature of the enhancements to be included in ET version 2.0, the best technical means of achieving them, who should do the work, and how the project should be managed. However these issues can be thrashed out in parallel with our efforts to overcome the major obstacle to any successful application, and that is to find partner/sponsor organisations in at least 5 EU countries.
So it's over to the ET community now. Are we serious about upgrading ET in a substantial way? Do we accept that this cannot be achieved by voluntary effort alone? Is the EU funding option a reasonable and viable means of funding such an upgrade? Does it compromise our independence in any way? Can we find partner organisations in at least 5 EU countries to co-sponsor the application? Can YOU do your bit to help by sending out begging letters to possible candidates for a partner organisation in your country?
Is this a project we can all engage with, or are we happier just moseying along with Jerome paying the bills?