I try and avoid weekend work engagements. I made an exception this morning for a good friend and delivered a keynote lecture to the General Assembly of an organisation called ‘RENA’ – Rete per l’Eccellenza Nazionale (website here). The organisation brings together a large number of young Italians in a loose network designed to discuss such themes confronting modern democracies as internet campaigning and voting. The theme of my speech was, predictably, about fleshing out the concept of participatory democracy. There was a lively question and answer session afterwards, with a lot of very perceptive questions, many of them related to what I call the ‘messiness’ of participatory democracy. You cannot quantify it, and you can only qualify it subjectively. Nevertheless, when participatory democracy – the involvement of the citizen through civil society organisations – is working, you know it. I was giving my speech as the votes in the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty were being counted. One of our most active Irish EESC members, Jillian van Turnhout, was at the count in Dublin and kindly agreed to text me through developments as they occurred. This gave my speech a tiny bit of excitement but not much suspense because it very rapidly became clear that the yes camp was going to win a large majority. Here was an example not only of direct democracy at work but also participatory democracy. As Commission President José Manuel Barroso said in his statement after the result, ‘I was genuinely impressed not just by the campaign of the political parties, but particularly, and I want to underline this, by the campaigns by civil society organisations.’ That’s participatory democracy for you. PS A very clever young RENA participant has since written a summary record of my speech here.