On 3 February 2012 the Danish Presidency will host an informal ministerial meeting which aims to raise the level of ambition for innovative thinking when it comes to Council meetings.
The European Ministers for the Internal Market will meet for an informal meeting in the Competitiveness Council in the Bella Centre in Copenhagen to discuss a central issue for the Danish Presidency – the strengthening of the EU’s Digital Single Market.
Compared to a traditional EU ministerial meeting, the format of this meeting will be very different. The ambition is to create a framework and a process for the meeting which turns the relatively abstract political discussions about EU regulation into something concrete, visible and immediate for decision-makers.
What are the central elements in rethinking something as traditional as a meeting of the Council of the Ministers? Working with the cross-ministerial innovation unit MindLab, civil servants from the Danish Ministry of Business and Growth have designed the meeting in accordance with the following four principles:
1. Digital agenda, digital workshop
The meeting process will be held in a workshop format, where the Ministers will deliberate in small, facilitated groups. Because the theme of the meeting will be digitalisation and the digital single market, the meeting will too be digital. When the participants arrive in Copenhagen, they will each receive a tablet to use during the entire meeting. All meeting materials, including films with the end users, will be uploaded to the tablet in advance, so the use of paper will be kept to a minimum. Moreover, during the workshop session, different digital ballots will be held, using the tablets, which will give a real-time indication of the Ministers’ assessments and attitudes.
2. Focus on the end user
Ultimately, the Council meeting is about giving European consumers and businesses easier and more secure options for digital trade. Both the voices of European consumers and companies will be put in play during the Council meeting. A total of six short films have been produced with real case stories from different, actual European situations, which illustrate the specific potentials and barriers to the digital single market. The films will create a point of departure for the Ministers’ group discussions. A group of companies will participate in a lounge session during the meeting, where they will present digital business concepts and talk about the barriers they meet when engaging in cross-border, digital activity.
A unique input to the meeting will be the work of 27 students from the Danish School of Design who have worked with innovative ways of illustrating the large amount of abstract quantitative data about the EU Digital Single Market. Three of the projects have been specifically chosen to be exhibited at the Bella Centre and will give the Ministers a different and inspiring representation of data that they would otherwise receive via a report or from their talking points.
For example, a group has transformed the EU flag into a large physical bar chart. The distance from the stars to the flag’s surface illustrates the variations in the degree to which EU countries use the Digital Single Market. And the large differences can be clearly seen. During the process of creating the visualisations it has become notable how the visual work has created excitement inside the Ministry, something that numbers printed on paper rarely achieve.
4. Total meeting experience
Participation in the informal ministerial meetings during a Presidency is also about getting a first-hand impression of the host country. Thus the final principle of the meeting is to create a coherent concept, demonstrating a series of features of Denmark and Danish society. This includes the meeting’s graphical design, which plays with the balance between the digital and the analogue world and the setting for the traditional dinner the day before the meeting.
Danes have a tradition of inviting people home for dinner. This aspect of Danish culture is emphasised by hosting the Minister’s dinner in an informal setting in a private apartment in Copenhagen. And the food? It’s New Nordic Cuisine, of course.
As a whole, the four principles are expected to give the Ministers not only a different kind of setting and experience but also to create a more concrete and focused dialogue between the Ministers.
Progress for the EU’s Digital Single Market is a serious issue: According to reports, if the Digital Single Market is fully realised by 2020, it could result in as much as a 4 pct. increase of the GDP of the EU. That would be a rather timely counterweight to the current crisis.
Last, but not least, the meeting will demonstrate that the EU system can work differently and be more innovative than perhaps many sceptics believe.
This blog entry by Christian Bason has previously been posted on the website of the Danish weekly Monday Morning.