How to run an ECI?

Welcome to the ECI Help Desk of The ECI Campaign. Our goal is to provide you with up-dated information and general advice on effectively using the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). For more detailed information such as legal advice and campaign planing please contact us.

On 26 January 2012 the EU Commission has set up its official website and register for the European Citizens’ Initiative. On this website you also find their latest ECI guide and a short explaination of the ECI procedure step by step as well as many more practical and up-dated information including a detailed Questions & Answers web page.

As ECI campaigns are in preparation, some of them are currently looking for exchange with other ECI organizers in order to share infrastructure and costs for the online collection system. For more information get in direct contact with us and check the our Facebook profile.

Other useful sources by EU institutions and civil society organisations

The European Economic and Social Committee has published a Guide to the ECI, available in all 23 official EU languages.

Democracy International has come up with an ECI pocket guide.

IRI Europe and the Green European Foundation have produced a very helpful ECI Handbook.

The European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) is offering advice on using the ECI, including legal assistance, via an e-mail help desk service.

EuraActive and Fondation EurActiv PoliTech are offering an ECI Blogg as a platform for ECI organizers.

The European Parliament has set up a Questions & Answers web page with basic introductory information on the ECI procedure.

If you are serious about organising an ECI, you will need assistance and should calculate at least half a year to prepare and another full year to collect signatures. The ECI Campaign wants to see many citizens lifting their voices through the new ECI instrument and offers an ECI Help Desk. We advise you to consider the following check-list before you start an ECI.

Phase 1: Deciding to use the ECI

1. Identify and develop your idea as much as possible. Determine if you really need to change EU law in order to accomplish your goal.

2. Verify legality. Check whether or not EU law allows for the type of legislation you propose. Explore the possible political reception of your idea, ideally with those who are familiar with how your policy area has been handled in the past by the EU institutions.

3. Consider alternatives. Compare all available alternatives for reaching your goal. Choose the instrument which best suits your goal. It may not be the ECI.

4. Research ECI procedures. Request information from the Commission’s General Secretariat. Check their official ECI website and register. Study the implementation rules as outlined in the ECI regulation (EU Regulation 211/2011) and the free ECI guide provided by the Commission.

5. Write the initiative. Write in an understandable way and get legal help. Make sure your wording is complete but does not provide a target for those who may oppose your goal.

6. Build a multinational citizens’ initiative committee. It must have members from at least seven EU member states and is required to officially organize your ECI and communicate with EU institutions.

7. Build an alliance. Contact like-minded groups and individuals in at least nine different countries. Alliance building is an absolutely critical task. You need all the support possible.

8. Evaluate opposition. Analyse the strength and validity of opposing viewpoints and organisations.

9. Develop a budget. Consider costs for staff, translation, office equipment, online services, signature collection, advertising, printing, phones and postage. Political campaigns, especially at transnational level, can cost a lot of money. Calculate up to 1 Euro per signature. At least 100,000 Euro should be secured in funds before launching.

 Step 2: Preparing a Detailed ECI Campaign Plan

You will need to develop plans for:

1. Signature collection support. Up to 20% of signatures could be invalidated by national authorities due to incomplete or inaccurate information. So plan to collect at least 1,250,000 signatures. Ask groups and individuals to commit to collect a certain number of signatures over a specific period of time.

2. Online signature collection. Determine the software needed for online collection in order to meet both legal requirements and your campaign’s needs. Embed your online signature collection in a broader online campaign which includes social media.

3. Paper signature collection. Determine how many signature forms and in which languages you need for distribution to organizations and volunteers.

4. Organisation. Identify and assign key tasks and responsibilities within your ECI committee, as well as among paid and volunteer staff. Create clear job descriptions.

5. Volunteer management. Decide how to manage your most valuable partners: your volunteers. Determine how to recruit, train, motivate, supervise, schedule and reward them.

6. Fundraising. Estimate how much money you will need to complete all the tasks listed in your campaign plan. Contact potential large donors, use direct mail and organise fundraising events to reach your fundraising goal.

7. Communications. Make use of all relevant media, including the internet, to inform the maximum number of potential signers, contributors and volunteers for your ECI.  Prepare a plan for how to use paid and unpaid media, speakers, events, endorsements, etc.

8. Signature return management. Signatures from different sources must be assembled in time for submission to national authorities in the different member states.

9. Signature submission. You must follow EU rules to protect both paper and online signatures and personal data. Check national rules and regulations for signature submission for each member state.

Based on our own experience with signature collections, the ECI Campaign recommends that the following criteria be met before a one-million campaign is launched: 1. Create an alliance of at least 100 NGOs. 2. Build up national/local alliances for the ECI in at least eight EU member states. 3. At least 100,000 signatures should be “expected” from NGOs as an advance commitment. 4. At least 100,000 Euro should have been secured in funds.

We hope that these tips will help you to prepare and run a successful European Citizens’ Initiative. The ECI Campaign is dedicated to increasing citizen participation through participatory and direct democracy. For more information contact Carsten Berg by phone +49-1764-3064365 or visit