Digital Economy and democracy, a dialogue on social inclusion

Digital Economy and democracy, a dialogue on social inclusion

On March 23rd-25th, LabGov took part in the Brussels Forum, the annual high-level meeting of the most influential North American and European political, corporate, and intellectual leaders aiming at addressing pressing challenges currently facing both sides of the Atlantic. Between the participants were heads of state, senior officials from the European Union institutions and the member states, U.S. Cabinet officials, Congressional representatives, Parliamentarians, academics, and media. The event offered the exceptional chance to share views on a wide array of themes, from the digital economy and social inclusion to the ability of nation states to retain democratic control over economic decision-making processes.

@Picture from GMF website

Brussels Forum is an international conference convening every year in March in Brussels, organized by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), a non-partisan American public policy and grant-making institution dedicated to promoting better understanding and cooperation between North America and Europe on transatlantic and global issues. Founded in 1972 through a gift from Germany as a permanent memorial to Marshall Plan assistance, GMF maintains a strong presence on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to its headquarters in Washington, DC, GMF has six offices in Europe: Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Belgrade, Ankara, and Bucharest. GMF also has smaller representations in Bratislava, Turin, and Stockholm. GMF supports individuals and institutions working in the transatlantic sphere, by convening leaders and members of the policy and business communities, by contributing to research and analysis on transatlantic topics, and by providing exchange opportunities to foster renewed commitment to the transatlantic relationship. In addition, GMF supports a number of initiatives to strengthen democracies.

As a matter of fact, leaders on both sides of the Atlantic continue to deepen transatlantic cooperation on a vast array of distinctly new and global challenges, from the international financial crisis to the digital economy, democratic participation and the changing work market. Brussels Forum, this year in its 12th edition, has provided a venue for the transatlantic community to address these pressing issues. By bringing together leading politicians, thinkers, journalists, and business representatives, Brussels Forum helps shape a new transatlantic agenda that can adapt to changing global realities and new threats.

@Picture from GMF website

LabGov was present at the third panel titled “Inclusive Innovation: Can the Digital Economy Benefit Everyone?”. The background? The status of inequality perceived in both sides of the Atlantic.

“Inequality has been a major topic of transatlantic policy discourse for years. But despite the attention, statistics continue to show a rather dim outlook: the incomes of the top 1 percent in America are 38 times higher than those of the bottom 90 percent, while 9.8 percent of EU citizens are unemployed. Much of that unemployment is concentrated in countries like Greece, Spain, and Italy, whose economic situations have threatened to politically destabilize the Union in its entirety. The digital economy could provide a pathway toward achieving more inclusive and sustainable growth.”

Modarated by Ms Sylke Tempel, Editor-in-Chief of the Berlin Policy Journal, the discussion was enriched by the keynote speeches of the four high-level panelists: Ms. Caroline Atkinson, Head of Global Public Policy at Google; Mr. Robert Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; Mr. Ambroise Fayolle, Vice- President of the European Investment Bank; and Dr. James Manyika, Director of the McKinsey Global Institute.

They tried to answer the following core questions:

  • How can we ensure that all citizens are able to unlock the benefits of this new era?
  • How do we need to change policy and investment approaches to ensure that people benefit from, recognize,and are better able to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital economy?
  • Given the current political environment on both sides of the Atlantic, how can a transatlantic conversationaround innovation for inclusive growth benefit leaders in both public policy and the private sector?
As a matter of fact, “embracing technological innovation provides unprecedented opportunities for education, employment, showcasing talents, and making global connections, contributing to higher growth. Here, statistics provide a more optimistic outlook: SMEs that use the web to connect them to global markets experience 22 percent higher revenue growth than those that stay offline. However, despite policy doctrines and investment programs, too few structural changes have been implemented to deliver the type of transformative progress demanded by U.S. and European publics. As a result, political rhetoric increasingly seems to be reacting against the potential of technological progress and the promise of the digital economy, to the detriment of the publics, SME’s and effective public policy.”

Trade and innovation have lifted millions out of poverty, raising standards of living around the world. But the benefits of an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world have not been shared by all. An issue of democratic participation is on the table as the impacts of this unfair distribution eroded public trust in institutions and governments. Hence, public faith in the pillars of society has vanished. Here are a few insights on how participation, access and education can improve the democratization of innovation and technological development.

The Brussel Forum speeches can be found in streaming here: announcement


Dal 23 al 25 marzo ha avuto luogo il Forum di Bruxelles, l’evento che ogni anno raduna leader politici, intellettuali, giornalisti e rappresentanti di grandi aziende europei e nord-americani con lo scopo di affrontare le complesse sfide che interessano entrambi i lati dell’Atlantico. In questa dodicesima edizione del forum i partecipanti si sono confrontati su importanti tematiche, dalla crisi finanziaria internazionale all’economia digitale, dalla democrazia partecipativa ai cambiamenti nel mercato globale.

LabGov ha assistito alla panel discussion “Inclusive Innovation: Can the Digital Economy Benefit Everyone?”. Durante la discussione diversi esperti si sono confrontati sul tema delle diseguaglianze e sulla necessità di trovare una nuova modalità di redistribuzione che consenta a tutti di godere dei benefici delle numerose innovazioni tecnologiche che caratterizzano la nostra epoca.


DigiPay4Growth: how digital payments can stimulate local and regional growth

DigiPay4Growth: how digital payments can stimulate local and regional growth


DigiPay4Growth, a project co-financed by the EU, aims at generating a new economic model in order to find a solution to the economic crisis that is affecting the Eurozone. The idea is to implement a new system of digital payments (DPS – digital payment system) through a business network, in order to stimulate local and regional economic growth.

The software produced, Cyclos, has been tested in four pilot regions: Britols, Sardinia, Catalonia and the Netherlands. As explained by the website, it creates a system where purchasing powers is “trapped” within a local system for a specific amount of elapsed time so to increase economic activity and provide more income for local businesses while it remains in a networked business of SMEs.

Cyclos channelled inflows of purchasing powers from different sources in order to finance the development of SMEs in the regional and local economy. The three-year project, partially funded under the ICT Policy Support Programme (ICT PSP) as part of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme by the European Community, involved 10,000 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Those SMEs circulated around EUR 34 million of digital payments.

Through the DPS, and by means of the Cyclos software, local and regional institutions optimized their revenues. SMEs could have more credit and consumers received bonuses if they supported local and regional SMEs.

In fact, the DPS worked on two different levels:

  • Conditioning (government) expenditures to positively increase of the local/regional multiplier effect of those expenditures;
  • Providing a counter cyclical credit to SMEs, named also Social Trade Credit. Though this mean actors that will benefit from the inflow of credit within a specific supply chain, are also contributing to the cost of credit risk.

Find out more here.


DigiPay4Growth, progetto co-finanziato dalla Commissione Europea, propone un nuovo sistema digitale di pagamenti volto a stimolare la crescita economia a livello regionale e locale. Scopri di più qui.

From cities to platforms: the future lies in participatory governance

From cities to platforms: the future lies in participatory governance

This week LabGov recommends “The city as a Platform: How Digital Networks are Changing Urban Life and Governance” by David Bollier, an insight into the digital challenges our cities are facing. It is the result report of the 24th roundtable on Information Technology, hosted by the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program. Thirty leaders and experts from local administrations, the private sector and academia gathered in San Francisco, US, in July 2015 to share, analyze and foresee the impacts networks and networking have on cities from different technological, economic, social, cultural and political viewpoints.

Do you ever think about how our ordinary life would have been so extraordinary just a few decades ago? Imagine about every single action we carelessly and repeatedly take every single day that couldn’t be conceived in the near past. Think about our smartphones, our super-fast internet connection, how we can find everything we need in few seconds or even talk face to face with friends thousands of kilometers away.

Our lifestyle has changed tremendously. So have not the political and administrative structures which we live in, or at least not at the same hectic pace. That’s the challenge launched by David Bollier in its “The city as a Platform: How Digital Networks are Changing Urban Life and Governance”. It’s all about “keeping up” with ourselves, using the spread of digital connections and networks in a strategic fashion. The American activist, writer, and policy strategist argues that city administrators have to realize that the explosion of digital technologies is no longer escapable and it must be a key element in policy making at the local level. In fact, this proliferation has changed how we live in cities. It is time for them to adapt to the digital revolution, showing creative leadership in fostering economic growth, urban development, social inclusion and political participation.

In his own view, the future of cities lies in platforms, i.e. networked cities, virtual loci where to use digital and network technologies and make the best use of citizens’ mastery.  Inclusive processes aimed at exploiting their digital expertise would be key to solve urban problems through urban agenda co-setting.

Redoing the template of the city implies shifting from a physical locus marked by representative democratic structures and a centralised administration, to a virtual space where power, information and expertise are diffuse, inclusive, shared, open thanks to bottom-up processes.

But how can open networks, online cooperation and open data benefit economic growth, urban development, social inclusion and political engagement? The evolution of the digital era, he elaborates, has already a huge potential for urban planning and city administration.  There is a lot that could be already done by starting to leverage and act on four main assets: infrastructure, people, technology, data. Open data, crowdsourcing, and urban prototyping would be the means to improve public administration and social exchanges.

According to Steven Asler, Chief Information Strategist at IBM, it is all about making cities “self-aware” by letting their citizens participate in their governance. A new configuration fostering inclusion, the networked city is “a vision of city governments engaging with citizens in acts of co-creation” (Pethe Hirshberg).


Abbiamo letto “The city as a Platform: How Digital Networks are Changing Urban Life and Governance” di David Bollier, un interessante report sul ruolo che la digitalizzazione di massa sta assumendo nei processi di policy-making. Dalla città alla piattaforma, passando per la governance partecipativa, il futuro è sempre più condiviso.

Explore, Experiment, Experience, Expand: Lab Connections, Policy Labs in Europe, for Europe

Explore, Experiment, Experience, Expand: Lab Connections, Policy Labs in Europe, for Europe

Last October, the EU Policy Lab hosted “Lab Connections – Policy Labs in Europe, for Europe”, first meeting of European policy labs and first opportunity to generate a community of practitioners and policy-makers at several levels of governance.  Being an applied research-based policy innovation lab LabGov was invited to share its experiences focused on the Sharing Economy, Social Innovation and management of the commons at the local and urban level. We presented our flagship projects already included in the EU Policy Labs report, namely CO-Battipaglia and CO-Mantova, and illustrated our next initiatives: the living lab on civic imagination and urban commons in Bologna, the one on social innovation in Reggio Emilia, and the one on cultural development and digital commons in Rome.  



The first map of European Policy Labs

The European Commission EU Policy Lab, a collaborative and experimental space for innovative policy-making established at the Joint Research Centre (JRC), commissioned to Conseil&Recherche and La 27e Région the development of a mapping exercise of Policy Labs in the European Union. In the past year, the entire research and monitoring process has been implemented. As a result, the map below was created as a first step of an on-going process aimed at identifying actors at different levels of government – local, regional, national, European – designing public policies through innovative, inclusive methods. It will be periodically updated based on feedbacks and new submissions.




In the resulted report published in June 2016 – “Public Policy Labs in European Union Member States” -, policy labs are defined as “dedicated teams, structures, or entities focused on designing public policy through innovative methods that involve all stakeholders in design process”. Each of them is unique in terms of organization, structure, challenges, issues covered, objectives, strategies. However, in order to perform the mapping exercise, researches identified three common features and distinctive criteria  necessary to define policy labs:

  1. A creative, design-oriented, evidence-based and user-centred approach;
  2. Testing and validation of formulated policy proposals through experimentation;
  3. Contribution to shape, re-imagine and co-create public policies for/with public administrations through a wide array of activities – studies, workshops, trainings.



Innovators united: Policy Labs at work

The event, the first inaugural meeting of the LAB CONNECTIONS series, brought together this newly-born community of policy labs in the EU made up of working groups, labs and policy-makers acting at different levels to explore and solve pressing policy challenges of European concern.  It represented a space for open dialogue and practical collaboration between policy labs and policy shapers at local, regional, national and European level.





The first morning session provided an opportunity to learn and share experiences in order to understand the context of policy labs and to frame the following practical works. Speakers and participants tried to give an answer to two questions:

Which are the most promising trends for public sector innovation? Examples from Finland, Estonia, France and Portugal have highlighted the importance of inclusive approaches to embed the principles of participation, inclusion, innovation, and co-creation in the daily working of public administrations and agencies. Openness, investments in management and human resources, and a participatory budget at the national level resulted as the main features of the public administration of the future.




“The fundamental drive of innovation is democratic politics.”

Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport


How to implement experimental, creative and citizen-centred approaches in the public sector? Again, engaging people and bringing them together is the answer. Creating the right conditions for policy labs to be set up means making public policy design human, being respectful of local cultures, bringing back the user into the picture and creating closer connections between citizens and civil servants. That is the only way to keep things moving, that is where the future of public policy design is heading to.



“Think of the unthinkable. Anticipate things.  Have the administrative and political capacity to cope.”

Kristalina Georgieva, European Commission Vice-President for Budget and Human Resources







Policy labs being “do-tanks”, policy labourers had the chance to tangibly demonstrate how their work makes a difference during table workshop sessions. Starting from a list of pan-European challenges formulated by policy units within the European Commission, participants were free to explore and re-frame them according to their own experience, assisted by the EU Policy Lab team. Visually working out the challenges let them practically give their contribution and focus on ideas for action, later transformed into concrete, feasible plans for collaborative action to be actually implemented.





LabGov took part to the table workshop on urban challenges. Together with representatives of policy labs from Spain, Sweden, Poland and the Netherlands we looked for policy changes that could allow social, environmental and digital innovations happen simultaneously in European cities. It represented an effort to overcome the sectorial approaches currently characterizing the way the agendas of smart cities, sustainable cities and social inclusion are dealt with. Since these developments are all happening in cities, a cross-sectorial approach in the only way to get the most out of them. As a concrete contributions, participants to the table presented a proposal for a study mapping European cities already implementing this comprehensive approach to multiple challenges – such as Barcelona and Helsinki. From their evaluation, a phase of prototyping, re-regulation and redistribution of public administration in a network of public systems aimed at changing the mindset and social culture of the city would follow.



In parallel with the sessions, an exhibition and networking area was set up for labs to connect, present their projects and prospect synergies. To have access to exhibition materials, please visit LAB CONNCECTIONS official website.


For further information and materials:


Economic growth scenarios of the sharing economy in Italy

Economic growth scenarios of the sharing economy in Italy

sharing-economy-imageThe sharing economy is worth 3.5 billion euros and expected to grow considerably in the next ten years, according to a recent report published by Università di Pavia. The analysis, supervised by Professors Luciano Canova and Stefania Migliacca and commissioned by PHD Italia, represents the very first attempt to study the impacts and trends of the sharing economy in Italy.

Despite the lack of a worldwide agreed definition of what the sharing economy is and therefore the absence of specific measurement models to assess its economic impact, the analysis bears on the following definition given by the European Commission in its early June communication A European Agenda for the collaborative economy which the EU Council will discuss next Monday:

For the purposes of this Communication, the term “collaborative economy”7 refers to business models where activities are facilitated by collaborative platforms that create an open marketplace for the temporary usage of goods or services often provided by private individuals. The collaborative economy involves three categories of actors: (i) service providers who share assets, resources, time and/or skills — these can be private individuals offering services on an occasional basis (‘peers’) or service providers acting in their professional capacity (“professional services providers”); (ii) users of these; and (iii) intermediaries that connect — via an online platform — providers with users and that facilitate transactions between them (‘collaborative platforms’). Collaborative economy transactions generally do not involve a change of ownership and can be carried out for profit or not-for-profit.

Borrowing its methodology from systems dynamics, the study provides three different growth projections of collaborative transactions sharing economy up to 2020 and 2025.

1) Baseline scenario: given an average 1% increase of GDP, the value of the sharing economy would reach 8.8 billion euros in 2020 and 14.1 billion euros in 2025.

2) Sharing boost: given an increase in the number of users among the over 35, then the value of the sharing economy would reach 10.2 billion euros in 2020 and 19.4 billion euros in 2015.

3) Digital disruption: given an increase in the number of users in all age groups, mainly due to raising investments in digital infrastructures, then the value of the sharing economy would reach 10.5 billion euros in 2020 and 25.1 billion euros in 2015.

Researches warns about one crucial variable that could lead to the inauspicious disappearance of the sharing economy. Governments play a deciding role as through their political stances and regulations they hold the power favour or block its development. Adverse public interventions could create a bubble scenario characterized by the weakening and decline of collaborative practices and their disappearance from the Italian economy landscape.


Shaker: il valore economico della sharing economy in Italia” by Luciano Canova and Stefania Migliacca


Uno studio condotto presso l’Università di Pavia mette in luce tre diversi scenari di crescita della sharing economy in Italia e l’importanza cruciale di interventi pubblici favorevoli per il suo sviluppo.