A European civic engagement startup: Talos

Following the aftermath of the BREXIT referendum, many EU citizens fell into europessimism regarding the future of our European Union. Yet, for a group of European university students studying in the UK, the exact opposite happened: this was a wake-up call. In their view, the time had come for Europeans to stand up, fight political apathy regarding the EU and channel their discontent with the status-quo into constructive, forward-looking and sustainable solutions to our collective challenges. It was this motivating factor which led a team of students attending University College London (UCL) to launch a social enterprise startup called “Talos”.

Talos has been a work in progress since Summer 2017. Talos’ mission: to foster European civicism by encouraging political participation and engagement among EU citizens. They aim to further this cause through building “Europe’s Online Public Sphere”: an online platform through which Europeans are empowered to become more informed, interconnected and engaged EU citizens.

In January 2018, they began testing their platform. For now, it is used to propose “Topics of the Week“, seeking to raise awareness on contemporary European challenges. Talos presents the user with a selection of articles from diverse European news sources, as well as a poll related to the topic and a section called “Speaker’s Corner”, where users can comment, debate, and share their solutions with others. Some further features are exclusive to each week’s topic. For example, the topic on “European Cinema” included a link to a European Commission Public Consultation on Media and Culture, whereby EU citizens could give their input on what priorities should be set for the EU budget in this area. Further, the topic on “European Minorities” linked to a European Citizens’ Initiative called “Minority SafePack”, which invites the European Commission to propose legislation that could improve the situation of citizens belonging to national and linguistic minorities within our EU. These efforts contain the basic features of what Talos seeks to achieve: to provide easy access to the tools through which EU citizens can directly take part in the policy-making processes of our European Union.

Talos as a grassroots initiative has already reached some milestones. In the summer of 2017, Talos successfully participated in the Startup Campus pitch competition and startup know-how course taught and organized at Imperial College London. The team was selected among the top 3 best startups, and was able to pitch their idea to a forum. 2018 has also started off well for Talos. Having launched the beta version of their platform, they were selected to take part in the UCL Build start-up challenge between January and March 2018. The Build challenge, organised by UCL’s Innovation and Enterprise Institute, is a chance for UCL’s student-led startups to develop their ideas and skills thanks to workshops.

Most recently, Talos Co-Founder Dénes András Nagy submitted an application on behalf of Talos with which the startup won the “Europe Calling” competition.  The aim of this competition, organized by the European Parliament, was to encourage young Europeans to submit ideas on how the institution could better connect with young EU citizens. In an interview for the European Youth Press, Nagy underlined that “On Talos, we seek to raise awareness of the fact that EU citizens can become directly involved in the policy-making processes of our European Union, through utilizing e-participation tools. For example, we can start petitions through our European Parliament’s e-petiton system, or invite our European Commission to propose legislation, by launching a European Citizens’ Initiative. We seek to empower EU citizens to become more engaged politically as, unfortunately, not enough Europeans are using these instruments. In my view, one of the reasons why citizens are not using these e-participation platforms sufficiently is that they are not as responsive and engaging as they could be. This is where the idea to enter to this competition came from: to improve what we have, in order to arrive at a more citizen-centered European Union.” As a prize, Talos will be able to take part in the European Youth Event (EYE2018).

The Talos team faces a daunting task: if you are interested in joining the Talos team, get in touch through their online platform. Currently, the Talos team are actively looking for Campus Representatives across Europe. If you believe that the position is something you would enjoy and be good at, feel free to drop an email with your CV and a short letter on why you would like to participate!

Di Pauline Ries

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