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Ricardo Mendes

The Brussels Civic Data Hack: Episode 1 #civictech #digityser #dataviz

3 min read

The Brussels Civic Data Hack: Episode 1

Why

Like nearly everywhere in Europe, Belgium is undergoing a crisis of trust between citizens and their legitimate institutions. Brussels and Wallonia, in particular, are having a bad year.
Scandals, corruption, lack of ability for the political parties to clean up their rank is pushing toward a narrative where the whole PS is corrupt for example, when in fact depending on the scandal, take for instance, CDH and MR are part of this system, even though PS is taking most of the heat thanks to the fact that it was in power in the last 25 years or so.

What if we could precisely visualise the data and spot possible conflict interests between institutions, public services, private business and political parties ?

What if we could explain the problem of the accumulation of mandates and their possible conflict of interest through some state of the art visualisation that can help anyone, without any related skill to form his own opinion on these issues ?

We believe we, ordinary citizens, can help. We wish to help by using data, open data in particular, to investigate problems for ourselves, and share our results with our fellow citizens so that they can used to draw factual stories about these scandals allowing citizens to have a better perception of the issues at stake hence able to make better choice in the next electoral round (2018-2019).

What

We wish to organise a small event called a civic hackathon. Everybody interested in a civic use of data and data science is welcome, without exception and with no skill requirements. It’s about gathering under one roof to work with data with a civic purpose in mind. It could be anything: applications tracking parliament activities; crunching and visualisation of societally relevant datasets; dreaming up infographics that would make a complex issue more accessible, and so on.

There is already a open-data movement in Belgium and civil society initiatives like Cumuleo to track mandates and maintain these information in the public sphere. We do not want to reinvent the wheel, so we want to invite you all and see what we can do together.

How

We envision two steps. In step 1, we gather together for a few hours to hash out some possible projects to develop in the hackathon proper: we make sure each project has the data it needs and a skeletal crew with all the skills to pull it off.

In step 2, two weeks or so later, we take one or two full days to actually develop projects.

The results of the different projects are presented to the whole group at the end of step 2. All code is released as open source. Processed data are published as open data wherever the license of the primary data allows it.

Who

Absolutely everyone is welcome. All you need to take part in a civic hackathon is a passion for all things civic. Every skill is needed. Among them (but there are others) are: software development, statistics, math, journalism, law, design, communication, storytelling. Female and minority participants (however you want to define “minority”) are particularly welcome.

We are Ricardoand Alberto. We commit to working the hardest, but welcome any help anyone can offer.

When

September?

Ricardo Mendes

Ricardo Mendes

Registration extended : Bridging civic innovation and politics Tickets, Thu, Mar 30

Good news...the registration deadline has been extended for 2 more days!! And...we will have Xavier Troussard, HoU for Foresight, Behavioural Insight and Design for Policy from the European Commission, joining us :)

70 citizens of Brussels will be there...don't miss out: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bridging-civic-innovation-and-politics-tickets-32811664572

Ricardo Mendes

@alemannoEU @JamesPanichi I will try to give my theory without entering into the last decade of real reasons why we're on this state today in Europe, you both known already and have your own opinions.

There is 2 dimmensions in Brussels: the national & local dimmension and then the EU institutions dimmensions, being "Capital of Europe" but there is a third hidden one : you can notice it with @PulseforEuropeBE : it's completely disconnected from the local/national reality and so it goes for most of the EU institutions. Belgians, unless confronted on TV/Press to it, won't even see , beside a minority, probably busy near or close EU institutions or the Federalist movement.

Because the Brussels Bubble is a bubble inside a Bubble, only those inside the first Bubble see whatever is going on inside the second bubble : a bubble formed by very nice people, that probably want nice things for them and for Europe in general, but People none the less cut from the reality of 90% of Europeans in a post-financial-crisis, Brexited Europe.

So what's the problem ?

and the meeting in Rome will be just another ceremony in the long road leading to nowhere, we could stop this debate right here, but there is much more to say :

Since 2007, grassroots movements in Europe, organized, built platforms, aggregated themselves to have more power, learning how to lobby like the big lobbies, learned how to pressure different political level without any professional funding, any real means the big corporate lobbies are able to leverage in Brussels to reach their goals.

In short since the Financial Crisis, civil society in Europe has learned a lot on how to build transnational movements, how to build national and European wide pressure (think or or Lobby Transparency or NetNeutrality) in some of those areas, some success emerged or sometimes foreign developpments helped to block new projects civil society deemed not in his interest on their current form.

But on other issues, like Austerity, banking bailouts, total impunity of the responsibles of the financial crisis, either in US or EU, civil society failed, completely to push for another agenda.

The reason is that the grand coalition inside the EU parliament and at national level had virtually no real opposition : the so called social democrats and the liberal or neoliberal Right voted the same way, imposed the same austerity, the same neoliberalism, across parties, across countries like a huge normalization of Politics, instead of a vivid diverse and plural democracy we ended-up with (there is no alternative to the German model) and both "socialist", even the so called far-left (Syriza, Podemos or the Wallons Socialist) all voted the same : Austerity cuts for the citizens and civil society and bailout for the banks, impunity for the responsibles of this crisis.

From 2011 to 2014, most anti-austerity movements where still Pro-Europeans, they wanted a different Europe, not Nexit or Brexit or Frexit.

But EU institutions ignored, snubbed, ignorantly denied any legitimacy to these sometimes huge protests in Greece, Spain, Portugal, France, not just EU institutions, the National level was all to happy to impose the same arguments, in fact to reuse the whole doctrine at national level, implying that Social Fraud is THE problem, while , Panamapapers were still ongoing, while tax evasion and tax ruling were the modus operandi of any corporations inside the EU with the means to dive into tax optimization.

Meanwhile the anger was growing, grassroots movements tried to come to Brussels, organized EU wide platforms to have more impact, organized civil society run referendums in different EU states, used the new EU citizen initiative to gather millions of signature, deemed as fake or non-legit by the EU institutions, if not simply discarded without even a look to it.

The result ? EU institutions & their National counterpart knowingly denied Democracy and their voice to very legit concerns regarding the Architecture and Design of the governance model used inside the EU.

After the Greek referendum, after the episode were EU citizens noticed that there was no way to apply real democracy in Europe because no matter the vote, the Troika could always bypass all the democratic reality and simply refuse loans or simply dictate harsh ant-social measures in exchange of funds : this created a EU wide shock turning more and more citizens open to the idea to leave the Euro.

After that came Brexit : launched by a riff inside the Tory party, at some point, citizens connected to it and used it against the very elite that had launched it in the first place : convinced they couldn't loose.

The results we all know it, its enfolding and I predict like I always have said: Brexit will not be good for anyone, neither for people, business, not even good for corrup politicians. in fact Brexit may be the single best attack against the EU itself launched by the very elite directly profitering from the current state of the status-quo. ignorance and arrogance, that's what Brexit will do, nothing more, it will not advance the social issues, it will not create jobs, much less be part of the transition to new economic models. Brexit is the political gaffe of the century launched by its very protectors under the eyes of EU institutions unable per design to stop it, and per design unable to speak about it without interfering inside a members states inner politics.

After that came the Donald and my reply will not say much about it, beside the fact that it may be the only thing actually disgusting from xenophobic Populism: Trump is like a "free sample" of something nobody wants but we still have to eat it for 4 years, even if not in the US.

So why does PulseofEurope is going to go nowhere ? because citizens en masse will not enter the arena, they will not adopt its codes, its slogans, they will not agree with its conclusions because Europeans feel the opposite about the EU, add to that an un-existing EU wide information landscape, where members states are always bashing on EU even before the crisis, add to that members states hypocritical regarding their role in the EU, unable to realize THEY are the EU, sometimes more than the EU Parliament itself and you get a toxic recipe where even in the case of Europe still being a 27 country project, things will never be the same, because even with all that, nothing is changing the course of the EU institutions, not even good lobbying, not even new political parties, not even huge permanent demonstrations, not direct actions, nothing is making the EU change course for the simple reason it is not Listening.

Why would citizen listen to the Pulse of Europe after a decade of denial from the EU institutions and their national counterparts ?

it may be already too late.

Ricardo Mendes

Ricardo Mendes

Ricardo Mendes

Saturday Night rant: It's like History doesn't exist or that we humans conveniently choose to forget correlation in today's issues : refugees don't come from the moon, they flee wars we sometimes sell weapons to both sides. When is that coming to an end?
no wonder the "West" is falling behind, we created our very own descent into it. We can accuse an external enemy all we want, at the end of the day, all the events that disrupted Europe this last few years were entirely predictable and consequential of previous policy choices we either let our representatives doing or we let even higher levels of power with full "carte blanche" to follow deadly, illegal, foreign policies that managed to break the world apart these last 2 decades.
Sometimes to save the face of the international order, we use UN to advance common goals (think climate change) sometimes we bypass UN (think ) because we know it's entirely against the very global order that we put in place after WWII.

all of this doesn't come from Russian News if that even exist. all of this comes from 2 or 3 generations of young people that were born in a sick world that managed to grow up to their 30's or 40's only to realize the world is still fucked up, not because it's complex, or because terrorism is a natural disaster, no, they wake up to realize that all the choices we do as society, as nations, as Europeans, as Humans, have a real & concrete impact around us.

the time of US versus Them is over and until we elect politicians and allow the economic world convergence of interests to think/act like that, peace and abundance will not be possible.

We need to move from confrontation to collaboration, from monopoly of ressources to a conscious finite sharing of resources. from inequality by design to equality by design. from closed men's clubs to parity by design.

And until we do it, the world is going to keep its descent into chaos.

Ricardo Mendes

Ricardo Mendes

Ricardo Mendes

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