November 2022 marks the beginning of the operational part of EuComMeet project. After more than one year of preparations, our team is poised to advance with the ‘pilot testing’, which will allow our researchers to both test our innovative online platform and observe the effects of the deliberative process on young citizens who are still in the education system. By working with two high schools and two universities from each partner country, indeed, the project seeks to involve over 400 students in experimental mini-publics. Within these sessions, pupils will have the opportunity to interact with each other via both face-to-face synchronous events and text-based asynchronous discussions. Aside from assessing whether the system works effectively and the eventual adjustment of specific technical-procedural features, this ‘pilot’ will contribute to spreading awareness on the importance of supporting the systematic embedding of deliberative practices into democratic representative systems.

Developed by NetHood, our brand-new platform will allow students to partake in this ‘pilot’ through the classical tools of online discussion settings: videoconference set up, integrated chat, ‘share screen’ function, ‘raise your hand’ function, and more. Additionally, the ‘pilot’ will also include an innovative tool that was specifically developed for enhancing the quality of the deliberative events: an automated bot. By instantly translating the participants’ speeches and moderating the overall debate, this technological device will ensure the success of the ‘pilot’ and the main experiment.

As designed for the main experiment, the participants will interact respectively with their peers from the same educational institution, with other students from the same partnered country, and with pupils from all over Europe. This set of three separate events between November and December will help us understand whether students can “learn” to deliberate and whether deliberative education can mitigate polarisation and foster constructive decision making. By targeting a particular segment of the population that is often hard to reach and less involved in traditional politics, we will also explore whether the deliberative events in schools and universities will lead to different outcomes when compared to events with the general public. Moreover, it is also an opportunity to contribute to the education policy by presenting and promoting deliberation to future citizens as a means of learning and decision-making. Students and scholars will take part to the process on a voluntary basis, and will be helped throughout the deliberative process by their institution, their teachers and the EuComMeet team at-large, so as to provide them with a most enjoyable experience.

In order to achieve the objectives, set by this ‘pilot’, indeed, we will rely on the partnered universities and high schools we selected during the course of the past year to aid us in our endeavours. As the process will be entirely conducted on our online platform, they will be in charge of promoting the ‘pilot’ involve the students and facilitate their inclusion into the deliberative process. Additionally, they will also help us with all the logistical and legal aspects related to both the GDPR and the various national legislations on privacy and data protection, as well as providing crucial insight on the various differences between the countries’ different educational systems.

We are all excited to open this new chapter of our project, finally putting both our theory and our design to the test.

Paolo Marzi (Collegio Carlo Alberto) and Benoît Verhulst (Missions Publiques)