Screen Shot 2013-03-30 at 13.12.36A bunch of committed Europeans – Green MEPs Franziska Brantner and Sven Giegold, and Thomas Houdaille, Charlotte Keup, Virginia Mucchi and Spyros Michailidis – have launched a new website called Avanti Europe. It essentially looks like some sort of European version of Avaaz, 38 Degrees or only, unlike those sites, at the moment it lacks a mob to mobilise. It is accompanied by a sort of manifesto about how the EU project is going off the rails – that is hence its major difference to the other platforms I cite above – it is trying to find ways to solve EU-wide problems.

Yet the site suffers from the same problems as Avaaz or 38 Degrees, or indeed any system of mass online petitioning. What does the signature of a petition actually mean? Is one Avanti signature the same as one Avaaz signature? Or a signature on paper? Or an e-mail to a MEP or head of state? In essence Avanti Europe fails to answer the main question posed by Clay Shirky in this excellent 2010 presentation at PdF New York: how do we separate out the signal from the noise in online participation?

Second, the first Avanti Europe action “Solidarity with the people in Greece!” says too much, and hence says nothing – that the Troika and the Greek government should revise their austerity plans and put humans and their needs at the centre of your decisions. That’s not even measurable, and the Greek government and the Troika would say that they were trying to do this already anyway. SMART objectives work just as well in online campaigns than they do anywhere else.

So, overall, what the people behind Avanti Europe are trying to do seems all very well to me, but I do wonder about the viability of the project. There are already well established players in this sector, and online mobilisation needs to be more savvy than just a petition-gathering effort.

(Note: I know Franziska, Thomas and Virginia, three of the founders of the site)


  1. Marcel

    Thomas, people like me are not anti Europe, we are anti Eurosoviet Union. The undemocratic EU is the main problem as far as I see it. I don’t want centralization of power in the hands of Barroso’s unelected Politburo, or laws in my country voted on by foreign politicians.

    Nor do I want my country to pay lots more and have to make domestic cuts to facilitate fiscal transfers to Club Med countries. I want national democracy and not Eurosoviet rule-by-decree.

    Oh, I’d rather be a populist than be an anti-democratic EU-elitist who disapproves of referendums or election results they don’t approve of.

    There is no EU-demos so therefore there is no EU-democracy. Conclusion: the Eurosoviet Union is 100% undemocratic. Our goal is to end Eurosoviet rule-by-decree and to abolish the tax-exempt jobs in Brussels, every last one of them.

    Like the dissidents in the old Soviet Union, we recognize our fight will be long, but we too will ultimately be victorious and the Eurosoviet Union be consigned to the dustbin of history. Let’s hope it won’t take 74 years for the anti-democratic elitists to cling to their failed structure.

  2. Well thought comments indeed. I would firstly answer that Avanti is in a starting phase and doesn’t show yet all its capacities (like participative functionalities of the website). Unlike the referent players you are mentioning, Avanti does not have yet a build up member list and the improved processes allowing us to launch a campaign within 3 days focusing on a hot news, which makes the strength of Avaaz. This also explains the choice of the first campaign topic: not related to any actual legislative discussion (we had to plan it in advance), it is more an expression of our vision of Europe and thus the call for action may appear to vague. We are now working on more precise recommendations for this campaign and preparing more focused campaigns for the future.
    We strongly believe there is a space, and a need for a European online player contributing to bridge the gap between Europe and the citizens while proposing other European messages than the only ones audible today: the official message and the anti-Europe message delivered successfully by the eurosceptic populists. Our first victory would be to make some noise with this message, which would also be some kind of signal (I know I don’t answer the question of Clay Shirky but I promise I will work on it) !

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