Citizen engagement TRANSFORMing regional R&I policymaking

Tue 12, October 2021
09:30 - 11:00 CET

Citizen engagement can strengthen trust between institutions and citizens. In the EU H2020 TRANSFORM project, citizen science, co-design and co-creation have been applied to regional R&I decision-making in Catalonia, Lombardy and Brussels-Capital. This participatory lab will provide examples and suggestions, stemming from the TRANSFORM experience on how to create more open and inclusive regional R&I governance processes.

Michael Creek, Co-founder and Lead facilitator, Stickydot, Belgium.
Marzia Mazzonetto, Executive Director of BE participation; Leader of TRANSFORM Brussels- Capital cluster, La plateforme belge pour la participation citoyenne (BE participation), Belgium.
Diana Reinoso, Project Manager at Science for Change; Leader of TRANSFORM Catalonia cluster, Science for Change, Spain.
Angela Simone, Public & stakeholder engagement expert at Bassetti Foundation; TRANSFORM Project Coordinator; Leader of TRANSFORM Lombardy cluster, Fondazione Giannino Bassetti, Italy.
Participatory Lab - world café, ideas labs
Citizens engagement
Association Européenne pour l’Information sur le Développement Local (AEIDL), Fondazione Giannino Bassetti (FGB), La plateforme belge pour la participation citoyenne (BEparticipation), Science for Change
English (EN)

Session summary

The session brought together an audience with a genuine interest in citizen engagement from different regions of Europe, representing public authorities, academia and research, as well as NGOs and CSOs.
First, the speakers briefly presented three citizen engagement methodologies- co-design, co-creation and citizen science - tested in TRANSFORM regional clusters in Lombardy, Brussels-Capital and Catalonia. This was followed by an open discussion in breakout rooms where participants explored how these three methodologies can help enhance regional R&I decision-making, discussing the benefits but also various challenges that might arise in the process. Amongst others, the following comments and thoughts led to lively discussion:

  • The connection between citizens and scientists and search for a common language.
  • Participation improves interest in other fields.
  • In a comparison between engagement in illness and other topics, suffering brings engagement.
  • What can this type of project and approach actually achieve?
  • How co-design could enhance regional R&I decision making via inclusion from the beginning.
  • Agenda setting can be better tailored to needs.
  • Support the aims of governance.
  • Broader acceptance of the plan if citizens feel they have contributed.
  • Citizens are enthusiastic as they feel they have a seat around the decision-making table.
  • What do we mean by regional decision-making? How can citizens contribute and how is it funded?
  • How can we improve the participation of fragile or less represented groups?
  • How can the processes be more open and inclusive?
  • Do we have access to those who can implement the findings?
  • Only a small part of the population joins and they represent their own interests.
  • The importance of defining a common objective that is understood by all stakeholders, but also the
    difficulties in achieving and maintaining them.
  • The acceptance (or not) of a policy proposal. How can we commit the authority to integrate these
    opinions and what are the risks of instrumentalization?
  • How to manage expectations on all sides.

The outcomes of these discussions were clustered into benefits and challenges and presented to the audience, also giving space to participants to share their thoughts and views.  The infographic illustrating the outcomes was published on the TRANSFORM website after the event. 

·       Better tailored policies
·       Broader acceptance of policies
·       Democratisation of decision-making
·       More open and inclusive decision-making
·       Combating misinformation
·       Empowerment of people in R&I
·       Online formats and their effectiveness
·       Potential exclusion of marginalised groups
·       Scaling up of the processes
·       Institutionalisation
·       Fully bottom-up co-creation
·       Tokenism


Take away message

·       Including citizens in policy-making process from the outset leads to better-tailored policies that are more widely accepted.
·       The format does not play a decisive role. The most important thing is that citizens have a seat at the table.
·       It is important to find a common language between stakeholders, define common objectives and maintain them throughout the process.
·       Making decision-making more open and inclusive requires strong commitment and integration of deliberation into a wide range of governance processes.

“The format of the deliberation activities does not play a decisive role. The most important thing is that citizens are involved in decision-making, that they have a seat at the table, whether it is a virtual seat or a physical seat.”

Angela Simona, Fondazione Giannino Bassetti

“When citizens’ voices and opinions are included in the policymaking process from the beginning, at the outset, it leads to better-tailored policies that are more responsive to citizens' needs and more widely accepted. Citizens feel part of the process when they can contribute.”

Angela Simona, Fondazione Giannino Bassetti

“While there are many one-off citizen engagement activities, these do not usually lead to concrete impacts. Making decision-making more open and inclusive in the long term requires strong engagement and the integration of citizen engagement into a wide range of governance processes.”

Marzia Mazzonetto, BE participation

“Various groups of stakeholders use different languages and have different goals. It is of utmost importance to manage the expectations and find a common language between all involved stakeholders (academia & research, policymakers, private sector, citizens); then define common objectives and maintain them through the whole process.”

Diana Reinoso, Science for Change