Notes from the first Personal Democracy Forum Meetup in Rome

Tuesday I took part to this meetup. The only point in the agend was getting to know each other, as a starting point for planning future activities. It was a good and productive time for me. Spending some time to meet in person people you were following online and/or people you’d not heard of before but who share your same interests is always a good investment. Thanks to all participants, and to Elena who brought us together!

I heard a few interesting things that may be of general interest, so here they go, in no particular order, together with a couple of things I say during the meetup for lack of time or simply because… they came to my mind after its end.

We started with an interesting discussion about how and why Italians are incapable (in general, not just when dealing with Personal Democracy) of “fare sistema”. This expression, that literally translates to “making/building one common system”, means more or less creating a high volume of interactions and strong, continuous collaboration and coordination among all the parties interested in solving a problem or carrying on some activity.

The discussion was interesting because it was self-demonstrating: almost immediately, 2/3 participants hijacked it, apparently for the sake of discussion and unconsciously, spending 10/15 minutes without accomplishing much while the others, sensing the lack of purpose, were waiting (I too am guilty, of course, for waiting without suggesting almost immediately that there may have been more productive way to debate the topic. Mea culpa!!!).

At some other point, Ernesto Belisario asked: how can we OpenGov/Personal Democracy advocates make ourselves heard from those who decide? A couple of answers, in my opinion, may be:

  • showing that they can become irrelevant if they don’t listen (immensely difficult in some fields, but much more doable in others, especially locally)

  • instead of talking to them, increasing the pressure on them, from all directions. By this, I mean to increase, by education and consequently the awareness, the number of average citizens that should ask to people in charge the same things that we do, but today either use Facebook only to play Farmville or have no online access or interest whatsoever…

Stefano Epifani expressed well one of the reasons why (mass) presence in online networks doesn’t necessarily leads to actual (social and political) change in real life: much change is driven by communities, but networks aren’t equivalent to communities. Because networks, as hyped as they are, are simply connections of individual nodes, that may have no common purpose, whereas communities are groups with one common goal.

Besides these interesting thoughts and questions, that I hope we’ll reuse soon as starting points for future action, here are a few projects I heard about during the meeting. Not (directly) related to Personal Democracy maybe, but really cool:

  • Share Fairs are events created to showcase, recreate and invent ways to share knowledge and improve access to it. Roxanna Samii invites everybody to the next one that will take place on Sept 26th/29th 2011 in Rome

  • digital participation in Colombia. Stefano Epifani told us they’re doing wonderful things in this field there. This got me thinking that median age in Colombia is 28, that is 15 years less than in Italy: how much what works in one place is portable to another that, on top of all the other differences, is also so much older?

  • the Greenlight for Girls initiative that Elena Donnari hopes to export in other countries

I hope to know more about all these projects in the next month, report about them and maybe even help, where I can.