Josef Lentsch was the Director of NEOS Lab, the think tank of NEOS, and a former Board Member of the European Liberal Forum.

Societies are changing at a faster pace than ever before in history. Humans today are smarter than their forebears, and most of them have access to exponentially more powerful technology than just a couple of decades ago. The same goes for enterprises. What works today might be yesterday’s news tomorrow. Start-ups therefore need to innovate relentlessly. In order to transform the markets around them, they need to keep transforming themselves. In order to evolve, they need to continuously learn. Like AirBnB Founder Brian Chesky says: in order to keep growing, “you can’t stay the same”.

Politics might be slower than the business world to adapt, and there are good reasons for it having more inertia built-in. But why should politics be totally different?

A political enterprise can only be successful if it cultivates what Peter Senge in his book “The Fifth Discipline” called “The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization”.

En Marche has made an art of continuous learning. In April 2016, Emmanuel Macron announced the launch of a political movement called “En Marche”. One month later, the big reachout and learning exercise “La Grande Marche” started. From May to June 2016, En Marche activists knocked hundreds of thousands of doors all over France.

Supported by the consultancy LMP that built on the experiences of the campaigns of Obama and Hollande in 2012, En Marche systematically recorded the gathered information via a type-form that was made available via a mobile app. The tons of information were then analysed with the help of an algorithm. The final results were shared in November 2016 with the working groups that drafted the first version of En Marche’s policy programme. Some measures proposed by citizens were then put in the policy manifesto, and tested with focus groups.

But that was only the beginning: One thing they currently consider is using technology-assisted “listening campaigns” as a standard tool. As with La Grande Marche, but on a smaller scale, and on a regular basis, they try to compile qualitative citizen feedback in order to create a real-time evidence-based image of a certain department or city. For this, they plan to train activists as “civic pollsters”. It will be interesting to see what comes from it.

This blog is an excerpt from the book “Political Entrepreneurship – How to Build Successful Centrist Political Start-Ups”, published in December 2018 by Springer. The research was partially funded by the European Parliament. Neither the European Parliament nor the European Liberal Forum asbl are responsible for the content of this publication, or for any use that may be made of it. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) alone. These views do not necessarily reflect those of the European Parliament and/or the European Liberal Forum asbl.

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