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Post written by Luigi ReggiThree small but important steps toward a more participatory EU policy were made in the last few weeks between Brussels and Rome, Italy. They are three episodes of a series of productive encounters between students equipped with open data and civic technology and policy makers managing EU funding.
Civic monitoring of EU funding as a way to assess resultsThe first episode happened in Brussels. On November 22, a group of Italian higher education students engaged in a productive discussion with the European Commission – DG Regional and Urban Policy and the EU Committee of the Regions. The debate was focused on the role of open data and public participation to assess the results of the European Cohesion Policy from the point of view of the final beneficiaries. The team MoniTOreali – composed of students from the University of Turin and led by Alba Garavet, responsible for Turin’s Europe Direct Centre – had the chance to present the results of an intense “civic monitoring” activity focused on one of the most visible EU-funded projects in the city. Its goal is the renovation of the “Giardini Reali”, the historical gardens of Turin’s Royal Palace, one of the city’s landmarks. With a total funding of less than 2 million euros, the project is hardly one of biggest investments of EU policy in Italy. However, its central position in the urban landscape gives it the potential to shape the way citizens perceive the contribution of the European institutions to the improvement of their neighborhoods. The goal of this monitoring was to find out how the EU money was spent and whether the project delivered the promise or not. What MoniTOreali students found was mixed results. While the project should have been completed by 2012, actually it is still under way due to a series of administrative delays. Its implementation is also influenced by a complex social environment, as conflicting social groups have different views on the future of the gardens and this had the effect of stalling policy decisions. To disentangle this intricate web of relations, the students interviewed experts, citizens and local public administrators. They analyzed the project’s objectives, strengths, weaknesses, history and recent developments in a civic monitoring report, which was published in the independent civic technology platform Monithon, the “Monitoring Marathon” of the European funding in Italy. The students also provided suggestions and ideas on how solve some the project’s issues. But the most interesting aspect of this experience is that Mrs Garavet succeeded in adapting the methodology of A Scuola di OpenCoesione (ASOC) – which was originally created by the Italian Government for high school students – to a higher education course. She was able to effectively combine her experience as an activist in the Monithon Piemonte civic community with the more formal, six-step ASOC methodology, which also includes sessions on open data, data journalism, EU funding, and field research. Earlier this year, Chiara Ciociola, the ASOC project manager, actively participated in the teaching activities in Turin to promote a sort of cross-fertilization between the two communities. More information on the ASOC method and results is included in the book edited by Javiera Atenas and Leo Havemann. The idea is that an improved version of the course’s syllabus could be adopted and used by other universities in Italy and in Europe to replicate the same practice, contextualising its application. The fact that all European Countries share the same rules when it comes to EU funding can help spread a common approach. It turned out that EU officials loved the idea. The main conclusion of the meeting was that participation in the civic monitoring of EU policy could be a way to bridge the gap between EU institutions and the public. Moreover, the spread of these activities across the EU could also help policymakers evaluate the outcome of interventions from the point of view of the local communities. This is particularly important given that, according to recent developments, EU policies will be more and more focused on actual results in terms of real change for the final beneficiaries. More concretely, the European Commission proposed to use its programme “REGIO P2P” to fund an exchange of civic monitoring practices between EU authorities managing the funds in different Countries.
A new way to communicate policy outputsThe second episode was a stimulating workshop organized by the EU official Tony Lockett at the European Conference on Public Communication. As Lockett describes very well in this report, open data initiatives such as the EU Portal or the DG Regional Policy open data website are probably not enough to get real impact if not combined with effective citizen participation. In particular, Simona De Luca – representing the OpenCoesione team at the Italian government – showed how independent civic monitoring of EU-funded projects, based on the open data published on the governmental portal, can profoundly change the way the policy is communicated to the public. While most of the “good stories” about EU funding are selected by a few experts at the managing authorities and then told by communication officers, the idea of relying on real stories by citizens for other citizens makes official communication extraordinarily powerful. People’s stories, based on official data but augmented thanks to new information collected with a sound and shared methodology, can represent not only a potential risk for the government – when the projects don’t match the expectations – but also a great way to show how problems can be solved together thanks to a meaningful collaboration between governments and citizens. The third episode happened last week at the Italian annual meeting with the European Commission on EU Cohesion Policy. The Agency for Cohesion, a national administration responsible for monitoring the implementation of EU Cohesion policy in Italy, for the first time used the stories from the citizens to present the results of EU Structural Funds. In particular, a set of good practices from the 2007-13 period was selected based on the civic monitoring reports included in the Monithon platform. Most of the projects presented were monitored by the A Scuola di OpenCoesione high school students in different locations. The only exception was a project in Ancona, which was the focus of Action Aid’s School of participation. Although problematic projects were not mentioned at all during the event, the presentation was the first attempt in Italy to represent the results of EU Policy “from the point of view of the citizens”. A kind of Copernican revolution for official communication that surprised most of the participants.
Collaborating with the Open Government ecosystemThese three examples indicate that a process of positive change is under way among European and national administrations that manage EU funds toward a more collaborative management of EU policy. However, stronger and more stable mechanisms are needed to ensure real participation in the monitoring and evaluation of EU policies. What seems to drive this change is not only the desire for a more open and inclusive public policy, but also the urgent problem of finding out whether the projects funded really deliver or not. It is in the interest of all actors involved to assess the actual performance of the huge amount of money that flows from the EU budget to the European regions and cities, given the common ambitious goals of sustainable growth, innovation, job creation, social inclusion, and education. I believe that this question cannot be answered only with aggregated figures or econometric exercises. It requires a painstaking, bottom-up assessment of each single project involving local communities, journalists, analysts, and public officials at the EU, national and regional levels. This is a complex task that public authorities cannot handle by themselves. They need to be ready and capable to collaborate with the whole open government ecosystem composed in this case of
- open data producers such as OpenCoesione.gov.it
- government proactive initiatives such as A Scuola di OpenCoesione, which focus on the crucial element of civic learning
- data users like the MoniTOreali group developing the right skills and expertise to provide meaningful feedback
- civic tech initiatives like Monithon
- intermediaries such as local media or NGOs aggregating and interpreting the feedback from the final beneficiaries
- policy makers willing to listen and act upon the suggestions from the public.
The DataLabe is a project that aims to empower young leaders from vulnerable communities with data skills and civic hacking through technology, open data, processes of political engagement, social mobilization and citizen journalism to ensure they are capable to produce new narratives to support the the development of their communities.
The Observatório de Favelas, is a Civic Society Organisation in Brazil that collects data about Brazilian slums, which has received a grant from the Open Society Foundations to develop a Data Journalism training course and mentorship project for four young leaders from Rio de Janeiro slums working for 9 months to build a data-driven project related to youth and technology.
The first part of this development consisted of five young fellows learning the basic principles of data journalism with Escola de Dados Brasil. During the four initial months of the lab, each one of them had the opportunity to create a personal project involving data visualization concerning themes that they cared about.
For example, on the research done by the fellows, Eloi Leones, a fellow from a Favela called Maré, chose to show data about the killings of transgender people in Brazil, gathered by the NGO Grupo Gay da Bahia, since the federal, state or local governments do not collect any kind of information on the subject. Fábio Silva, from the Favela Baixada Fluminense – decided to do a visualization on people’s perception of this location. He collected data from Twitter and scraped news about the zone to see which themes were commonly associated with the Baixada, such as politics, culture/entertainment, violence, urban mobility, education, etc.
Another interesting study is the one done by Paloma Calado, she aimed to know to know which students took the ENEM exam (which people take in order to see if they get scores that are high enough to go to college) in Maré and Complexo do Alemão, two of the most populated slums in Rio, to explore the data from the research center linked to the Ministry of Education. While it was not possible to find out how many young people from Maré have actually taken the test, Paloma could at least find the data on the performance of local schools, which do better than the general national average and the average of the Southeast zone of Brazil.
Another example is the research by Vitória Lourenço, a Social Sciences major that also works as a doula, who wanted to explore data on maternal deaths in the public health system. She collected data from the Ministry of Health to provide a better comprehension on the general profile of the mothers who have died in those facilities, figuring out their age group, how many years they have spent on school, their race, marital status, and so on.
And since the public services were a cause of concern for some of them, Fernanda Távora thought of investigating the public transportation system. Working with Coding Rights – a brazilian NGO that focuses on digital rights and privacy –, she was able to estimate how much the bus companies knew about the people who live in Rio and use those services. She also tried to convey the flow of personal data that these owners and the government agency that supervises them have access to, including IDs, addresses and routes.
The individual projects can be found at the Data Labe website and the group also has a Medium page to document all the problems they’ve found along the way and to share their personal perspectives on their work, explaining what drew them to the topics they’ve selected, what motivates their current work and what are they doing whenever they can’t follow through the script they’ve originally planned.
The next step of the DataLabe consists of a group effort in order to build a big collective visualization project that answers some questions on the utilization of technology by young people from favelas and how these affect their ways of living. After that, the fellows of the team will organise an intensive training course, replicating the methods learned throughout the project to another 15 fellows who will work with popular communication, and who will be selected through an open call.
About the authors
This post was written by
Isis Reis. Escola de Dados Brazil: She was based at the Open Knowledge Brazil, dealing with content curation and digital media and currently, manages the communications for School of Data Brazil.< p class="normal"> < p class="normal"> < p class="normal"> < p class="normal">
Natalia Mazzote: data journalism Specialist, she coordinates School of data Brazil and is project co-director for Gender studies.
Public Higher Education Institutions in SASouth Africa has 26 public institutions of Higher Education. South Africa’s universities accommodate in excess of 1 million students. While SA has the best HE system in Africa, it has flaws and these are becoming very apparent during the #feesmustfall crisis. A major problem for SA, is that while SA has 2 million students in tertiary education, there are 3 million 18-24 year-olds not in education, employment or training (NEETs). For a detailed and expert review of the post-school situation in SA the CHET website has many reports and includes Open Data on http://www.chet.org.za/news/sustainable-higher-education-funding
Open Education at the University of Cape Town (UCT)I work at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) and we developed UCT’s first open content directory. The purpose of the initial directory was to provide a place for UCT academics to share OER. That same OER is now shared in the new OpenUCT repository, launched in June 2014 and managed by the UCT Library. Contribution to the UCT OC directory is voluntary. In 2014, an Open Access (OA) policy was introduced that encourages the sharing of teaching materials. However, there is no specific mandate. There is no financial or status reward or recognition in annual performance reviews for contributing teaching materials to OpenUCT or any other Open platform. Before the OA policy came into being in 2014, 332 resources had been added to UCT OC on voluntary basis (some with the assistance of small grants). Over 200 lecturers, ranging from young lecturers to A-rated research professors across all faculties at the institution, contributed content to the directory (Cox, 2013). Nevertheless, those who added materials formed a small percentage of UCT staff (10% of approximately 2500 part time and full time academic staff). UCT also has a Massive Open Online Project (MOOC) project (2014-2017) managed in CILT. Guidelines for what is expected, how materials will be designed and how they will be openly licensed are set out on the CILT website.
Overview of Open Education in South AfricaIn May, 2012, the South African Department of Higher Education and Training included a section on the value of OER in their Draft Policy Framework for the Provision of Distance Education in South African Universities (Department of Higher Education and Training, 2014). However, there is no South African national policy on OER as of yet. Only five of the public HEIs (UCT, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, University of Limpopo, University of Venda and Rhodes) have policy that gives the lecturer copyright to release their materials as OER. The presence of policy does not automatically result in sharing of OER. There are number of other variables which also need to be in place before OER is adopted. The University of the Western Cape (UWC) was the first South African university to create an OER directory. Although the initiative was strongly supported by university policy, the path to sustainability has been a slow one with only a few lecturers participating. “Getting actual buy-in from participants” was acknowledged as important for the future of the UWC involvement in OER (Keats, 2009:54). The University of South Africa (UNISA) launched an OER initiative in 2012 which included developing a UNISA OER Strategy. This must still be operationalised and encoded in formal policy, but the Strategy suggests that this ideological commitment to openness may eventually pay off in concrete policies, mechanisms and actions. There is some recent interest from Stellenbosch University, although the institution’s focus is still on Open Access (Van Der Merwe, pers. comm.). Additionally, the University of Pretoria, Faculty of Veterinary Science launched AfriVip in 2014. The national landscape of Openness over the past 4 years is slowly shifting.
Barriers to Open Education and lessons from researchThe current IDRC-funded “Researching OER for Development in the Global South” project (ROER4D) seeks to build an empirical knowledge base from across South America, Africa and South and Southeast Asia (Hodgkinson-Williams, 2013). Sub Project 4, for which I was the lead researcher, focused on three South African universities – UCT, the University of Fort Hare (UFH) and UNISA and aimed to understand the factors shaping lecturers’ motivations and concerns regarding OER use and creation. There are a number of fundamental structural issues that needed to be considered and in place before an institution can be considered “OER ready”. If any of these factors – access, permission, awareness, capacity, availability or volition – fall below a critical minimum of operational acceptability, it will comprehensively impact OER decision-making and activity at the institution. We also found that the type of institutional culture that exists at a university will have a powerful impact on the types of options institutions have for engaging with OER.
Open Education in SA: The futureCurrently, it is difficult to gauge the impact of existing OER in HE in SA. Crucially, UCT will be hosting the Open Education Global conference in Cape Town in March 2017 in association with the Open Education Consortium for the first time in Africa, and it is hoped that this event can increase awareness and give African-based colleagues an opportunity to attend a conference locally that in this resource constrained environment would be difficult otherwise. The conference with its theme “Open for Participation’ welcomes delegates from all education sectors, the community and government. In South Africa we wait to hear how events will unfold over the next few weeks but the effects are already being felt as 2016 draws to a close. In this time of crisis the sharing of teaching materials and the development of open educational practices across HE must be seen as a priority- we cannot afford to reinvent the wheel. It is up to Open Education advocates to show institutions and lecturers the value in sharing. — About the author Dr Glenda Cox is a senior lecturer in the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) the University of Cape Town and her portfolio includes Curriculum projects, Teaching with Technology innovation grants, Open Education Resources and Staff development. She has recently completed her PhD in Education and her research focused on using the theoretical approach of Social Realism to explain why academic staff choose to contribute or not to contribute their teaching resources as open educational resources. She believes supporting and showcasing UCT staff who are excellent teachers, both in traditional face-to-face classrooms and the online world, is of great importance. She is passionate about the role of Open Education in the changing world of Higher Education.
My presentation on the 9th meeting (ODP ou PDF) – Portuguese.
More info on the UAB System on this interactive map.
A historical overview of licensing and OER at UAB by Duran, M.R. (Portuguese). — About the author Tel Amiel is a researcher at NIED, University of Campinas (UNICAMP) where he coordinates the UNESCO Chair in Open Education. He has previously been a visiting fellow at the University of Wollongong and a visiting professor at Utah State University. He currently conducts research funded by FAPESP and CAPES on schooling and teacher professional development at the intersection of open education, educational technology, and school improvement. UNESCO Chair in Open Education site (http://educacaoaberta.org/).
What the problem is with copyright for education nowThe Commission is proposing changes to the EU copyright framework because it is outdated. The last major change to the copyright law is from 2001. In the years following the directive Member States implemented the directive specifically to their jurisdictions, creating a patchwork of different laws across the EU, including the possible implementation of an exception for education. While most member states implemented the optional education exception (see the CopyrightExceptions.eu databse) it does not mean we can easily share teaching materials across borders, as all implementations vary. There are some pretty outrageous things that teachers cannot do, for example: Finnish copyright law has no exceptions for creating derivative works in education. So creating translations from foreign language news sites is not allowed. The 2001 implementations of the education exception often left European educators with a pre-digital copyright. The EC heard our call for a more harmonised and modern copyright for education and proposed changes. Unfortunately, they are making it even more untransparent for educators what they can do legally.
What is in the proposalIn short (and you can read more about it here) the Commission is choosing to not harmonise the existing exception we have in Europe, but adding a new mandatory exception:
- It only applies to digital resources and online environments, leaving unharmonized most of the face-to-face teaching activities, and also distance learning activities that are developed offline;
- It only benefits educational establishments, which means that online and digital uses made by teachers and students not affiliated with educational establishments will not be exempted;
- In the classroom it only covers digital uses (e.g. whiteboards), and the online uses covered can only be made under the closed networks run by the educational establishments (e.g. intranet). Online uses in the open internet, namely uses of protected works in OERs and in MOOCs, will not be covered by the exception.
What we are doing to help to keep copyright out of the classroomAs COMMUNIA we are launching a project called Copyright Reform for Education. In this project we are doing legal research to understand current exceptions better; we are asking innovative teachers about modern teaching methods – making sure we understand what a new copyright for education should account for; we are also raising awareness as much as we can, by likely doing a public campaign in the Spring of next year. We are aiming at bringing stakeholders in European education together, advocating for an effective change it copyright. Why? To make sure teachers can focus on what they are good at: teaching.
Don’t be a strangerIf you would like to know more about why copyright reform is important for educators across Europe and beyond: please have a look at the COMMUNIA Copyright Untangled series on Medium. If you are curious on the legislative process and what is happening in Brussels around copyright that affects you: please follow the COMMUNIA blog and/or on Facebook and Twitter.
If you have questions about the Copyright Reform for Education project, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are curious about your thoughts on the matter. If you would like to receive (sporadic) updates about the project, please also drop me a line. We will make sure you are in the loop. — About the author Lisette Kalshoven is copyright policy advisor at Kennisland and COMMUNIA in the areas of copyright, heritage and open education. She combines writing policy documents with practical interventions and training sessions for professionals. Creating access to information is always the reference point in her work. https://www.kl.nl/en/people/lisette-kalshoven/