Lessons learned though co-creation in a time of COVID-19

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Lessons learned though co-creation in a time of COVID-19

If there is one word that describes the skill we have all had to develop during 2020, it is adaptability. The 5 regions that form part of the Territoria Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) project are no exception. Since the first quarter of 2020, the 5 regions participating in TeRRItoria have all, to varying degrees, lived – and continue to live with – the impacts of the global pandemic. Therefore, they have found alternative ways to ensure their co-creation activities with stakeholders, which we will share in this blogpost. 

The territories formulated their co-creation strategy in January 2020, when no one could anticipate that co-creation activities as we know them would, to a significant degree, not be possible for most of 2020. In May, the regions gave a first account of the Covid-19 implications on their co-creation process (see blogposts). Some co-creation activities were carried out before the lockdowns in their respective countries, while most were planned to take place during the spring and summer of 2020.  

The reality of the current situation has led to adaptation of the co-design phase in all five regions as they have been working towards formulating their respective Design and Plan for the Transformative Experiment to be carried out in their respective regions during 2020 and 2021.  

The focus of each region and their lessons learned from co-creation in a time of social distancing are as follows: 

  • In the region of North-East Romania, where the aim is to increase the degree of involvement of local communities in decisions regarding investments for innovation in local areas – co-design activities have been made in an online manner, due to restrictions on events. The region of North-East Romania conducted one-on-one consultations with main stakeholders, while also publishing the draft of the experiment plan online for public debate, for example on the website of one or more organisations involved in the project locally to heighten online interaction.  
  • In the region of Emilia-Romagna in Italy, the focus is on the systematic insertion of RRI into the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of regional Smart Specialisation Strategy (S3) with reference to the RRI keys of Public Engagement and Science Education. Due to the implications of Covid-19, co-creation activities have been conducted online through collaborative document tools and through online focus groups, including a webinar open to all citizens to underline the importance of RRI in S3.  The region of Emilia-Romagna also hosted an online livestreamed debate, combining various online tools, and made efforts to gain access to the e-democracy and participation platform already existing in the region in order to reach more citizens.  
  • In the region of Central Macedonia, effort is going towards designing a transformative experiment which will foster improvements in the Gender Equality key of RRI with the aim to oversee the implementation of a Gender Equality Plan to trigger institutional change within the organisations of the regional stakeholders involved, as well as by pushing for the inclusion of RRI principles in the regional Research and Innovation Strategy for Smart Specialisation (RIS3). The region of Central Macedonia was able to carry out the co-creation activities through online tools and online focus groups, and experienced a higher number of online participants of representatives from all of the Quadruple Helix (industry, academia, public and civil society) than would normally have been the case. This was due to an increased awareness of on-line tools in the general public, making it easier to engage them virtually in the Central Macedonia’s co-creation phase. Furthermore, the region experienced that smaller meetings online allowed for discussion to be more in-depth than would otherwise had been the case with a larger group of people present.  
  • The Municipality of Gabrovo in Bulgaria are focused on a Public Engagement Plan for S3 development, with the second key challenge to be addressed being the Science Education RRI key, with the aim of achieving collaboration and interaction at territorial level among the main stakeholders. For the Municipality of Gabrovo, co-creation activities in a time of Covid-19 included online surveys, with the results analysed, discussed, and evaluated as a resource for future regional planning. Open questions were posed in the online surveys in order for the respondents to easily express their ideas and make suggestions.   
  • In the Region of Trøndelag in Norway, the focus is on increasing and improving knowledge flows between Norway’s largest university, NTNU, and two less populated regions that belong to the same county as the university, which struggle to retain and attract a qualified workforce. To ensure the co-creation activities, the region of Trøndelag transformed workshops into a series of online interviews with students and organised an online write shop by collaboratively editing a common file. 

Each facing their own challenges, the five territories have employed sometimes overlapping, sometimes different approaches to persevere with their Transformative Experiments, depending in each case on the specific context they operate in. In the upcoming implementation phase, it is the hope and expectation, that the ongoing Covid-19 situation will have a less pronounced effect on the activities of the project.

Article written by Julia Miljevic Jakobsen – DBT

Julia Miljevic Jakobsen is Senior Project Manager at the Danish Board of Technology

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