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The 1989 Generation Initiative: Taking Responsibility for Our Future

by Elena Turci, Head of Events of the 1989 Generation Initiative at the College of Europe (European Political and Governance Studies – Manuel Marín Promotion)

“I don’t know whether the 89ers will come together as a defining political generation, how they will act and – as important – how they will react when “stuff happens”, as stuff will. But one thing is clear: their action (or inaction) will determine how we read the Wall’s fall on its 30th anniversary. On them will depend the future of our past.”

In response to this article authored by Timothy Garton Ash, a group of students, roughly born around the year 1989, thought that it was time to take action.

The political inheritance of 1989 is clear for all to see: a united Europe; a vast single market; democracies in the East; unprecedented mobility. Yet, the lack of visible external threats have created room in our societies for a dangerous complacency. Against this background, one is left wondering: where have our politics gone? For there is no ‘Europia’ to turn to, no major vision that can lead people towards a better and united Europe.

By mobilising young Europeans across the continent, the 1989 Generation Initiative attempts to fill this gap. The Initiative is a think-do tank. It aims at bridging ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’ to achieve the goal of a better Europe. It does not push a political agenda, but rather provides a platform for others to be heard and seen. In only three years of life, it has reached significant milestones in terms of funding and impact.

Thinking: “The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.”

The methodology of our ‘think’ component is based on creating dialogue between young people and experts. We use a complementary methodology of data collection via crowdsourcing and focus group discussions involving young people. Our outputs are policy proposals in several key areas. We are running “Generation Brexit”, a major research project on Brexit - in collaboration with the LSE. We also organise policy roundtables and public events across Europe as part of our “Talking Europe” programme, a project financed by the Open Society Foundations.

Over the next 6 months, we will be running a major research project. This will revolve around the development of policy reports on time for the upcoming European elections. For this, we have decided to focus on the following key areas: Democratic Participation, Civic Education, Digital Policy, Startups, and Innovation, Immigration, and Climate Change and Conflict. Each area will be supervised by those scholars – such as Dr. Natasha Zaun, Assistant Professor in Migration Studies at the European Institute of the LSE and Dr. Marina Cino Pagliarello, Research Associate for LSE Enterprise - who have kindly agreed on directing our research department.

Doing: “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is what are we busy about?”

The Initiative has a vocation to be a pan-European organisation, as the object of our research is the European Union. Therefore, we have regional chapters in Maastricht, Athens, Aberdeen, London, Brussels. The Regional Chapter Coordinators sit in the Core Committee while the Heads of teams are located in different cities (Rome, Brussels, London, Maastricht, Aberdeen, Athens).

However, Europe is much more than big cities and capitals. We strive to widen participation to groups not often reached by the mainstream debate. This effort is in line with our goal of contributing to the creation of a pan-European public space, where each European can have his/her voice heard.

To promote our objectives, we currently concentrate our efforts in two domains: the direct and the digital engagement. We keep our activities relevant and measurable by checking them against the results of our research.

"No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it."

Regarding our digital engagement, we have just recently launched a platform - a hybrid between Facebook and LinkedIn - for people interested in European affairs, with the aim of connecting all the young Europeans engaged in politics, just to connect all the people who are wistling the “Ode to Joy” in their rooms, to create a bigger, lauder and more joyful concert.

The platform is already active, and it will be expanded with more features - to allow direct collaboration on projects and permanent crowdsourcing - starting from January 2019! You can have a look and create your profile here: .

For the direct engagement, beside a cycle of conferences in the Chapters, we aim at organising one of the EU Presidential Debates here in Bruges.

The goal of the event is to have an honest and non-mediated dialogue between citizens and policy makers. The aim is to exercise democracy and make it work, first and foremost. As such, the event will be open to the public and - if funds are available - travel stipends will be offered to people who are not usually involved in politics to participate. Should the debate take place, we will also give to the candidates a booklet containing our list of proposals for the next Commission, prepared by the Policy Team and the Research Directors.

The Concert Hall has confirmed its availability and the organising team has been set up! The invitation process will start in the next few days!

With our actions, if “United we Stand, Divided we Fall”, we want to start knitting the European fabric that will allow us to stand, and to stand united. If Europe is all about economics, then, we betrayed the European project. If Europe stays as it is, then it is doomed. If we do something to make it work and live it, only then we are worth of the inheritance we have received to keep, preserve, nurture and pass it on.

The more, the merrier - Issue n. 2, 9 November 2018


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