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Quality over Quantity: A “record high” for ECB’s digital euro consultation?

It’s hard to knock a bank when it decides to consult, particularly as there has been such as void when it comes to branch closures.  So when, in the period between October 2020 and January 2021, the ECB decided to consult on the introduction of a “digital Euro”, we did a mini dance.

The bank did good – and it recognised that not only is monetary policy important to people, a digital euro can only be successful if it meets the needs of Europeans.  Despite the rather bland nature of the consultation, which did not even ask Europeans if they wanted it over how it could work, it was progress.

Fast forward to April 2021 and the results are in – 8,221 of them anyhow.  Christine Lagarde is so happy she Tweeted “I am impressed to see record-high participation in our public consultation on a digital euro. The responses from citizens and professionals show the high engagement and expectations that people have for a digital euro and provide valuable input for our work.”

Trouble is, we’re not convinced. Firstly, it may be true that ‘record-high participation’ is 8211 of the 445 million people or so potentially affected but it’s not a record to be proud of.   Secondly, it wouldn’t be so bad if this were a case of quality over quantity but nearly 50% of responses were from Germans and men accounted for 87% of respondents identifying as citizens (94% of responses).

Our mission is to raise the standard of public consultation so that it is meaningful.  Unfortunately, without active steering and careful orchestration, important consultations like this will fail to provide any convincing conclusions for decision makers.

Sometimes it is hard to know “what good looks like” and here at tCI we are busy working on amassing engagement data to help consultors identify poor practice.  In this instance, we don’t need anything other than common sense to conclude that this consultation has missed the mark.  Our conclusion is, if you’re not going to consult properly – probably best not to do it at all.  As you were.

About the Author

An associate of the Institute for over 10 years, worked in local and central government as well as the European Commission. Fraser won the European award for political technologies in 2005 and is an expert in digital engagement.

Read more about Fraser

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