Undoubtedly there's a tendency to exaggerate the importance of Web 2.0 in and around the institutions, as outlined by Mathew in The Brussels bubble may be growing, but it's still a bubble.
The euro blogo/twitter/facebook sphere is still entirely marginal, and even web 1.0, arguably more critical for reaching a wider audience, is still tangential to the real communication issue: the perceived legitimacy of the EU. If the EU wants to be taken seriously it needs to be more credible. EU messages tend to be Panglossian in register, which only encourages scepticism.
However, this is where Web 2.0 can be useful. The euro blogo/twitter/facebook sphere is a resonance chamber for sufficiently switched on EU institution actors to assess just how hollow their words can sound.
And whereas most institutional communicators are paid/indoctrinated into falling over each other to find soaring epithets for his new clothes, the bloggers and twitterers can act like the lad pointing out the nakedness of the Emperor. This may have the salutary effect of switching on a few more. And as the euro crisis unfolds, switched on people will be needed: the happy clappy brigade could be worse than useless.
Further to December's EUuk event in London (see also @nosemonkey) and looking forward to the Butterfly Europe gathering on January 12th and our own Web2EU event on February 17th, we'd like to get a feel for what you think.
PS Dick was supposed to write this, but he's been too busy tweeting with all the EU girl geeks
I agree with quite a lot of what Hugh writes, except the PS (of course).
However, I do think that web 2.0 has opened up the Brussels bubble to lots of people that are not based in Brussels and do not necessarily follow the EU professionally. Those blogging and tweeting in places far away, Ralf Grahn and his blog are an excellent example, can easily contact those inside the bubble. And in a number of cases when visiting Brussels they do meet those in the institutions and around. Very pleasant and useful.
But will all that improve the communication of the EU instutitions? No! There is a lot more needed to break down the walls.
And the EU institutions are not the only and perhaps not the most important player when it comes to bring the EU closer to the citizens.
For those of us inside the institutions it is a fantastic experience to open the window, fly out (virtually) and meet so many. The more critical the better, it keeps us awake.
Can we do better? For sure! What can we do better? That's a matter of discussion.
The floor is yours, now and on the 17th of February 2011!
Just a little clarification about what I mean by the Brussels Bubble - from the post Hugh linked to:
These conversations are now more accessible, at least in theory: some of my favourite Eurobloggers write from Helsinki, Ethiopia and London. But while anyone, anywhere can now join in these conversations, their gaze remains fixed on Brussels - they know the difference between the Council and the Parliament, understand the mysteries of PRE-LEX ...
The Helsinki blogger, of course, being Ralf.
PS Keep away from those girl geeks! ;-)
I like very much the idea that social media will force EU communicators to "keep it real". It can't happen soon enough ...
Technology without strategy and purpose never amounts to much, so to start with, I would say that Web 2.0 (facebook, twitter and co) will not change the nature and engagement of EU institution on themselves. The fact that there is potential for a dialogue between people in institutions and the rest of the world is a good thing, and social media can be an enabler of this dialogue. But for me the key is that the institutions realize that they need to embrace these tools not because they are cool and effective but because of what committing yourself seriously to engagement means. As Aurelie from Eurocontrol proved, anyone in an institutional setting can take the lead and start engaging with people by being polite, helpful and trying to answer questions as best they can. What the EU needs is more people like this (and as we know from Web2EU past events, these people are already there) that start showing how these tools can be used to better inform and engage with citizens.
As people in the EU institutions get to better understand the need for engagement and communication these tools should become a natural part of the process and help them to relax about trying to control something that cannot be controlled (and where control is illusory and counterproductive). Ian Andersen (from the EU, seen here at the Volcano event) - had shared some personal experience of facebook initiatives and other projects that had payed dividends using social media in a smart and effective way, showing that can be done and that it can work.
I'd like to explore the question of how best communicators in the EU can use social media as a form of dialogue with the outside world (communicators, citizens, NGOs) and what both parties need to bring to the table to make this work? Hope we can discuss this further at the Web2EU event next month.
Stephen Clark has been working at the European Parliament (EP) for nearly 20 years. Three years ago he started developing the EP innovative social media communication. Being active during 2009 European elections, he is currently helping reshape the whole digital strategy of the Parliament.
Any bubble has distortion on both sides. To prick' this one will be hard and never easy.
I'd like to make a suggestion. In mid March the kick off meeting for Social Innovation Europe initiative takes place on 16th & 17th March- it presently has a draft programme. The moderator is Geoff Mulgan, presently the CEO of the Young Foundation soon to be the CEO of NESTA in the UK. Social innovation needs to ENGAGE the wider community not just the 'present' establishment players (Government, Private Business etc) so with civil society, NGO's, non-profit organisations all coming to the social innovation party to make this work why not make the Web 2.0 central to this? If the EU wants to manage social challenges they need to embrace and experiement. This might be the ideal 'testing bed'
"One step for mankind" might shift the EU world perhaps. Just a thought?