PEP-NET: another European e-Participation network

A new eParticipation project/network has just launched:

PEP-NET will be a European network of all stakeholders active in the field of eParticipation. PEP-NET therefore already includes public bodies, solution providers and citizen organizations as well as researchers and scientists. The network is open to all organizations willing and actively trying to advance the idea and use of eParticipation in Europe.

The project aims to help overcome fragmentation and promote best practice by connecting established and experienced eParticipation players and networks throughout Europe as a critical first step. The objective of this project is to achieve critical mass for the establishment of a Pan European eParticipation Network (PEP-NET). Such a network will act as a repository and disseminator of good practice and exchange of experience, and be a visible resource for all interested parties across the European Union.

PEP-NET will ensure wider access to European eParticipation projects and permit more effective dialogue between eParticipation experts, researchers, practitioners, public administrations, civil society organisations and the interested public with the ultimate goal of facilitating knowledge transfer, encouraging further eParticipation trials and establishing European leadership in this field.

Hat-tip Chris Haller.

PEP-NET will be joining a crowded field. A quick scan back through past items I’ve flagged e-participation comes up with the following:

  • DEMO-net, possibly the daddy of them all – it’s been around since as far back as 2006, and has begun to spin of special interest groups (SIGs) and look forward to creating its own sustainable network of practitioners
  • eParticipation and eDemocracy Network on – I thought I was already a member: I’ve joined now
  • eParticipation Community Portal – Led by Thanassis Chrissafis (a big figure at the EC’s DG INFOSOC), mainly aimed at the research field. Currently 6 projects: Dalos Legese Lex-is LexiPation Seal TID+
  • The Momentum Project which includes ICELE as “the main policy issues driver, plus the national initiatives master mind”. It’s a European SSA to “strengthen political, social, scientific, and technological excellence in eParticipation by integrating results and practices of relevant initiatives building upon the ICT research capacities of individuals and organisations”
  • The modestly named e-Participation site which claims to hold a database of best practise in internet based participation projects in the United Kingdom and in Germany (Only. Why?).

There’s also a project called the European eParticipation portal which seems to be a Leeds ICS project to keep track of all these things. Its claimed aim is to “identify People with involvement or experience in eParticipation at the European level. eParticipation initiatives, projects, events, etc., especially at the European level, that can be considered good practice, or from which lessons can be learned”.

Enough already?

Update 1: DO Europe

I remembered today about another network for e-participation practitioners. It’s part of the Democracy Online network and still being put together:

European Democracy Online Exchange is an Online Group for people who run or who want to run citizen focused, popular democracy websites anywhere in Europe. It is not a research list, although a lot of knowledge about what makes sites succeed and fail will be swapped. It is open both to individuals working in grassroots organisations, and within governments. The only common bond is a desire to use the Internet to make democracies in Europe work better, and to improve the health of civil society. It was founded at the BerlinInAugust unconference in August 2007. Co-hosts from each European country are invited to volunteer and join lead host Tom Steinberg (, UK) to encourage the exchange. Join now, opening for posting soon.

Find out more here.

I suppose the difference is that PEP_NET is an institutional network whereas DO Europe and are for individuals.

Update 2: PEP-NET Workshop notes now posted

Notes from the kick-off workshop last week have now been posted which deal with some of my questions, including the relationship with DEMO-net. More here


About Peter Cruickshank

Lecturer in the School of Computing and a member of the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland. Interested in information systems, learning, politics, society, security and where they intersect. My attempts at rounding out my character include food, cinema, running, history and, together with my lovely wife, bringing up a cat and a couple of kids.
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8 Responses to PEP-NET: another European e-Participation network

  1. Steven Segaert says:

    Enough already? Perhaps not…

    New initiatives can only be good, as they wouldn’t be there unless there is a need for them (real or perceived).

    Sure, there are a lot of initiatives like this (and even more long-standing efforts that are not exclusively dedicated to the topic but that carry more weight). But it is also true that the correct approach – one which appeals to citizens and experts alike and becomes the benchmark for everyone else – seems to not yet have been found. I have only a sample knowledge of what is out there, but to my mind, the “obvious winner” is still far from being present.

    Unless and until an obvious contestant with the necessary authority to unite and to make all other initiatives relatively marginal emerges, I’m thinking “the more, the merrier”. Once such a leader makes its mark, I’ll be the first to support calls for consolidation, but until then: let grow what grows!

  2. Peter says:

    @Steven – you may well be right, (and there’s certainly no obvious winner out there at the moment) but I find it kind of confusing!

    I guess I also worry that since most of the money’s coming from the one place (the Commission), it may be lost amongst a number of smaller projects. It might not necessarily be a bad thing so long as there is a vigorous process of evaluating the projects and supporting the stronger at the expense of the weaker – that means we need more than just an evaluation/review process that looking at whether individual projects have succeeded in their own terms.

    I’m interested in the other weightier projects you mention – could you name one or two?

  3. Bengt Feil says:

    Hi Peter,

    Thanks for mentioning our project and for the critical remarks.

    To clear things up a little bit:
    DEMO-net is a network of exelence for scientist and reseachers and Momentum is a support action for existing EU funded eParticipation projects like Lexipation etc.

    PEP-NET strifes to faclitate communication and cooperation among all the active stakeholders in the field. So we are more focused on the players.

    Besides that: Organisations working in DEMO-net, Momentum and the eParticipation studie launched in March are part of PEP-NET. Therefore we will try to combine our efforts and use all synergies.

  4. Peter says:

    Hi Bengt

    Thanks for the feedbacks and clarifications. I wasn’t really meaning to be critical, I was just confused 🙂

    It will be great to see synergies happen – much better than networks competing to occupy the same space, which is what I was initially worrying about. I’ll keep reporting on your activities to help spread the word…

  5. Bengt Feil says:

    Thanks Peter,

    Btw: The article by Morton you mentioned (workshop results) will be followed by the results of the two other workshop groups: Solution providers and Citizens and Municipalities to provide a more complete picture of what PEP-NET will be.

  6. Fraser says:

    Yes, I am pleased to say that there is quite a clear interplay of these networks.

  7. Steven Segaert says:


    To confuse you even more (and to add to what Bengt wrote), the eParticipation Community Portal was actually set up to support the projects from the first round of the EU eParticipation Preparatory Action, as they were asked to find common synergies and to make an effort to work together. Momentum came after that, as a project dedicated to supporting the projects in the first and second round of the EU Action (I hope I summarise all this sufficiently correct).

    With the weightier projects I meant to indicate scope and longer existence, not importance per se. There are some international sites and outfits involved with e-participation and e-democracy, but the trouble is I’m not sure in how much they are concerned with or involved in the “European scene” (Democracies online can perhaps be named here, but I’m sure there are many others with an equally long and encompassing tradition). Likewise, of course, one can wonder in how far a place like is interested in what happens outside Europe – even if it is definitely a credible candidate when it comes to bringing things together under a solid umbrella.

    Call me utopian, but I still would like to see all sides from all oceans involved when this topic is concerned. After all, the value of eParticipation is to build more transparent and inclusive societies, something that is more relevant in other places than purely the EU or the US. Sharing practices globally and figuring out a way to do this in an appealing and understandable way is imo crucial to advancement and development in less privileged places. And that requires having different focus fields and angles. Not an indefinite number, I agree, but I feel there is still room before we reach saturation.

    “ICT for development” is after all more than just a catchphrase. And by making information available and accessible, all of us are doing our little part.

    So, what I’m hoping for is the emergence of an open network with open information, sufficiently disconnected from personal or project interests. I fully agree with you that one such a place would be enough, but in order for such a place to emerge, a lot more trial and error needs to be done.

    In that sense, I welcome any serious and high-quality initiative which makes information available. Even if it is in a way that you and me find redundant, it might offer more insight to others who don’t have the information at present.

    You have a point, of course – one comprehensive place would be much preferred – but it needs to be comprehensive in order to work.

    Thanks for allowing and replying to this discussion, by the way. That is very much appreciated! Just like the rest of this blog 🙂

  8. Pingback: A whole lot of e-participation « Spartakan

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