A post from our very own Compass Youth member, David Shoare,straight from Bristol. I went to the debate "Unity or Diversity? What Europe do we want?" in London earlier this week. The topic was the PES manifesto and democracy and diversity and there was a lot of discussion about democracy in Europe and how we can make it much closer to the people, and more relevant to them. I would like to suggest one of the ways we can do this is by giving the people concerned more of a say in how EU initiatives, particularly regional and social ones, are conducted and where the money goes.
We have had particular success in doing this at the South Bristol Urban 2 Programme, of which I am proud to have been involved in and also chaired for two years, where the ultimate decision making committee that decided what projects to support was made up of local residents, representatives of community organisations and particularly young people, of which the programme's main aim was to support. We also structured it's meetings so that young people could better access it - the meetings certainly are not boring and if there was any jargon that anyone did not understand then you could show a red card and shame the person into explaining it better! In doing this, we not only made one of the EU's most innovative programmes, but also one of the most successful! Because the Programme gave a very direct say in how it's money was spent to the very people who were effected by it, projects that were more relevant and supportive to young people were given funding by it, and also encouraged projects that operated in the same spirit as the Programme to go ahead. This has included a young-people designed open space, called Spacemakers, and also a new media centre of which young people worked closely with the architects to build.
More details can be found here.
To make the EU closer to the people it effects, we should use things like this as a model to introduce throughout Europe - it is too often seen as too distant by people, but if we can get it to do some genuine good in local communities by not only consulting, but involving them in it's initiatives then it can be more visible, and even better, more democratic. The EU can be a lot of things to a lot of people, but it is often very bad at making obvious all of the good things about it, and if more of this can be done, and hey, if we can put more new ideas into practice like the one I have listed above, then we can have a much better Europe.