The citizens are at the center of attention in The Danish Board of Technology Foundation’s new and ambitious EU-project, CIMULACT where more than 1000 European citizens helped articulate visions of the future Europe.
As a part of the EU-project CIMULACT, Steffen Damskier and 1087 other European citizens gave their recommendations for how the research and innovation of EU could be made more sustainable and socially relevant. The Danish Board of Technology Foundation coordinates the project which is EU’s greatest venture in engaging citizens in the makings of its research- and innovation policies to date.
Steffen Damskier, 67 years old and a retired architect, was first introduced to this project in November 2015 where he participated as ‘a citizen’ in the first of 30 national vision-workshops arranged by the CIMULACT-project.
These vision-workshops were held in each of the 3 participating countries and at every one of them, 35 citizens took active part in articulating their visions for a desirable and sustainable future. In a number of subsequent meetings and workshops with citizens and experts, these visions were transformed into guidelines for EU’s prioritized funds for research and innovation.
Listen to the citizens
A part from the Danish vision-workshop Steffen Damskier participated in a subsequent ‘co-creation workshop’ where citizens and experts alike continued to work on the visions.
Steffen Damskier chose to participate in the two workshops because he thought the agenda exiting, but also because he considers it important that we have these European discussions about our shared future: “Based on immigration and everything else on the current European agenda, it is important for the EU to be able to say that they speak for the citizens as well.”
However, Steffen Damskier also acknowledges that including citizens on matters of such size and complexity as the visions for a future Europe is a difficult task: “You could easily get caught up in some very lengthy discussions. But I thought that we had some of those highlights where you think, wow, this is completely amazing, too.”
The process itself has been long and at times overwhelming but even so Steffen Damskier feels that he and the other citizens have succeed in providing unique and specific recommendations for EU: “It is all about keeping your eye on the ball, in this case the visions. Don’t get caught up in individual cases like the politicians do.”
The strengths of citizen engagement
Research and innovation influence all aspects of our everyday lives and affects everything from how our children develop in school, where we get our energy from, which treatment we receive when sick, how we educate ourselves to what type of life we can look forward to as we grow old. Even so, it is primarily politicians and experts who determine the research and innovation agendas.
The CIMULACT-project helps set a new standard for how citizens get a say in how EU’s funds for research and innovation should be spend. Steffen Damskier considers this a positive development and he has no doubt that listening to citizens’ wishes across Europe strengthens the unity and offers everyone an opportunity to learn.
“It must be crucial as an EU-politician to be able to document and understand what the citizens want for their future,” Damskier explains and according to him, the size of this project has not been too big. On the contrary, “It is exactly what is needed. It’s the way forward.”