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How can stakeholders be successfully involved?

By October 2022No Comments

MOST workshop on co-creation & stakeholder engagement

by Sabine Mickler

Within the OStogether inspiration session series, the MOST project invited participants to experience how to engage different stakeholders in a collaborative work process. Annette Klinkert, Executive Director of EUSEA (European Science Engagement Association) and member of the MOST European Advisory Board could be won over as a workshop leader and for this she teamed up with Suzanne Kapelari and Lucas Weinberg from the University of Innbruck, MOST partner with broad expertise and experience in co-creation processes.

Image: Gerd Altmann on pixabay

Image: Antenna on unsplash

In her introduction, Annette pointed out to the importance of stakeholder engagement: “Excellence today is about more than groundbreaking discoveries. It includes transparency, openness and the co-production of knowledge.“ (European Commission, Rome Declaration on Responsible Research and Innovation in Europe). But what does it mean to involve stakeholders? First of all, it needs a redefinition of the notion “experts“: In a co-creation process, everyone is a so-called expert with a certain level of experience, competence and expertise with which they contribute. In this process, the challenge is “ to think outside the box“: not to primarily try to convince others of one’s own idea (others have good ideas too!), but to be open and transparent, to put oneself into others‘ position and to reflect what others want and need. If one tries to understand how others think, what their values and wishes are, sustainable relationships can be built and a joint solution can be developed in the process, in which all participants have their share.

In the subsequent role play, all workshop participants were able to experience how a process takes place that involves different perspectives and demands. The given setting was the courtyard of a building with many residents, which is tob e redesigned. Participants were asked to take on a specific role (e.g., student, elderly lady, family with children) and to talk accordingly with others about the design of the courtyard. It quickly became clear how different the demands, wishes, but also behaviors were in the discussion. How can such a process be designed and how do you move forward when there is no agreement in sight?

Mural with results of the role play

Image: Hugo Rocha on unsplash

Here, the workshop team was able to provide valuable tips: To look for examples: What solutions (for shared courtyards) have other projects found in similar situations, and how do they work?  Look for input from other experts to take an independent look at the challenge. Make sure there is a good power balance among the attendees, it’s about an eye-to-eye exchange and not being lectured by experts. And when the rifts between different camps get too big, you can look for ambassadors who can build a bridge and be trusted by both sides. You can also have conversations in smaller groups, outside and before the plenary discussion. And don’t forget the “human factor”: People work together, not projects. The choice of the venue is just as important as the format for exchange and even the catering: make sure that everyone feels comfortable and accepted – an important prerequisite for collaboration.

The process to a solution can take time, but the inclusion of different perspectives, experiences and expertise can lead to great developments. In view of the great challenges of our time, this is exactly what is called for: A joint effort, gathering expertise and experience from a wide range of disciplines, and trying to make the necessary steps communicable and thus gain the acceptance needed to really move forward.

Image: anemone123 on pixabay

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