PDF CEE 2019: What Happened in Gdańsk?
In Whom We Trust
At the beginning of April 2019 the 7th edition of Personal Democracy Forum CEE took place in the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk. During 2 days of the conference more than 450 participants from 40 countries joined plenary sessions and workshops. The overarching theme of the conference was Trust with double-click on GovTech and countering Disinformation.
We keep worrying about mistrust and we tend to blame it for increasing populism, spreading fake news and communities breaking apart. This is only part of the truth. Regardless of its object, trust is always there. The question is in what and In Whom We Trust.
Conscious trust in someone or something should be built across all networks of dependencies we belong to. This is never an easy process. The Broken Feedback Circle makes us know less about each other’s needs, opinions and experiences. We live in the era of mass products, fast services, big numbers and quick results. Somewhere on the way, we lose good will to acknowledge the authentic individual and collective experience. Eventually, we are left with Citizen Fake-Xperience.
Increasing trust is a matter of good collaboration between communities, society, governments and individuals. But Good Collaboration Hurts. We should provide solutions rather than deliver products. Governments and media should not feel comfortable with simply bringing in “cool” tools and attractive clickbaits. “They” and “we” should work together on developing processes, defining impactful problems and discovering effective results.
At this year’s PDF CEE we aimed at exploring the ways we can glue back broken circles of trust, build solid collaborations and change authentic individual and collective experience into meaningful solutions.
In order to enable more effective networking and reduce unnecessary printing, this year we decided to go digital with a mobile conference app – Eventory. Thanks to this cooperation, we could offer the participants an option to check the agenda, create new connections and easily give feedback after every session without tons of one-time prints. Thus we could also add another point to our “minimal waste” list – we organized PDF CEE in an eco-conscious way, with reduced purchasing, printing and we offered vegan and vegetarian lunches.
Also, we are very happy that this edition of PDF CEE has been inclusive for people with hearing disabilities: first of all, we had an opportunity to work with Deaf Respect Team and organize simultaneous translation to Polish Sign Language (PJM) of all sessions held in the main Auditorium. On top of that, one of the workshops was dedicated to civic tech solutions for deaf people in Poland and co-lead by Akademia Młodych Głuchych. We also offered travel grants to a number of people to encourage the interest and promote civic tech topics among the deaf community. This initiative worked out extremely well – for the entire team of PDF CEE this was also an opportunity to learn more about the everyday struggles of the deaf in Poland, including the fact that almost no conferences are accessible to this community. We want to keep overriding this trend in the coming years as well.
We started on Thursday, the 4th of April, with a short memorial and a minute-of-silence tribute to Paweł Adamowicz – former Mayor of Gdańsk who was assassinated in January 2019. Mr Adamowicz was not only a friend of PDF CEE for several years (he invited the conference to Gdańsk and used to open previous editions of the conference) but also a very progressive mayor, developing civic tech in Gdańsk, introducing open data policies and civic panels, thus taking Gdańsk to the league of the most advanced civic tech cities in Europe. We are grateful for his legacy and we hope our work will be one of the elements cultivating this heritage further.
Building on quotes from Mayor Adamowicz, the newly elected head of the city and his long-term collaborator – Mayor Aleksandra Dulkiewicz – opened PDF CEE 2019 with a warm welcome to Gdańsk for all participants, and with a reminder about the importance of values in political life. Especially – trust and its ability and power to change people’s attitudes. Kacper Dziekan from the European Solidarity Centre pointed to the fact that this venue is the temple of democracy, with an outstanding permanent exhibition. Andrew Rasiej from Civic Hall, the founder of the first ever Personal Democracy Forum (New York, 2004), reminded us that PDF is mostly about the community. The global community of people who, despite sometimes different political views, are simply trying to make the world work better.
Representatives of TransparenCEE Network from the entire region: Marta Skotnicka from ePaństwo Foundation, Orsolya Barsi from K-Monitor, Danira Karović from Zašto Ne? (CE Why Not?) and Karolina Wysocka from TechSoup Europe, built up on Andrew Rasiej’s message, stating that we all can use time at PDF CEE to network, meet people from the civic tech community in the region and beyond, start new initiatives but also simply have fun and learn new things. Looking back one can see that several country-wide or even international projects, i.e. Code for Hungary or Luftdaten Poland bloomed thanks to PDF CEE in Gdańsk. This community is growing and strengthening every year and we can cooperate on so many different initiatives because we share some common values. In the world changing its challenges constantly, there are always options to develop new solutions and partnerships.
This year, already for the 4th time, the invaluable collaboration and support from the City of Gdańsk ensured the highest quality of discussions and the best choice of guests. It was also the 4th time that the European Solidarity Centre hosted PDF CEE and, as usual, the cooperation with its professional and knowledgeable team was a great experience. The conference would have not taken place without sponsors: Luminate, National Endowment for Democracy, and Main Partners: TechSoup Europe and Google. Our Technological Partners were: Orange and Eventory. We also had a pleasure to work with our Supporting Partners: Transparency International Ukraine, Billennium, Athlon, Bałtyk, Deaf Respect, Teplitsa. Technologies for Social Good and Personal Democracy Media. Media patrons: Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, Gazeta Wyborcza, TOK FM, forsal.pl, dziennik.pl.
April 4-5, 2019, Gdańsk, Poland
*to be continued
Text by: Matylda Szyrle
Editing by: Marta Skotnicka