The European Hub for Civic Engagement (Hub) uses tech-driven solutions to network and strengthen European civil society. The Hub envisions a digital platform that allows civil society actors across Europe to create community, share ideas and resources, and rethink funding opportunities.
In many European countries, civil society is being eroded and in several countries, civic organisations are even being forced to dissolve. This trend poses not only an existential threat to democracy but is also a roadblock to the current European integration process. As space for civil society shrinks, now is the time to work on supporting a diverse and sustainable civil society for Europe. Civil society is a potent antidote against the rise of authoritarian governments many democracies around the world are currently experiencing. As these undemocratic forces slither across national borders, it is imperative that civil society actors also collaborate on regional and European levels. Unfortunately, cross-border cooperation in Europe has proven to be difficult, as there is a lack of a central institution for civil society to turn to for community, information, and support.
We believe that recent digital advances can empower civil society across Europe. To help support an integrated civil society in Europe, we launched the pilot phase of the European Hub for Civic Engagement in 2019. The pilot phase’s main goal was to identify civil society’s current needs and the most pressing issues they face.
The pilot phase began by commissioning a report that compiled expert opinions on European civil society, its challenges and opportunities, as well as civic tech. The Hub then used the report’s findings as the framework for workshops in Gdansk and Lisbon, where invited civil society actors were able to debate and elaborate on the current main issues affecting their work and what their organisations would need to continue working. This feedback was categorised into four main challenges, which were then used as framing for civic tech actors at our hackathon in Tallinn to create four prototypes that directly address the needs of civil society organisations in Europe. Following the pilot phase, the Hub will continue by testing the prototypes and other digital tools in close collaboration with our target user groups and partners.
During the Hub’s pilot phase, we achieved our goal: we were successfully able to identify civil society’s needs through a collaborative process. We also learned that connecting and matching civil society actors across Europe should be the core of our work. As we move forward, we hope to match and network a wide range of civil society actors across Europe, so that they can build community, share ideas and resources, and access a larger pool of funding opportunities.
As the Hub continues to grow, we look forward towards embodying the Hub spirit by working at the intersection of civil society, technology, and politics, and to together turn the Hub into a reality.