North-East Romania will implement its experiment in 2021
Online activities: a problematic challenge
In recent months, ADR Nord-Est has faced two main challenges in the realisation of their experiment:
- How to adequately involve stakeholders. The foreseen Quadruple Helix events of entrepreneurial discovery (EDP) were set up with the aim of involving as many local stakeholders in the process as possible. Due to the ongoing pandemic, only a few of them, those based in the cities (the big players), were properly involved, while those coming from remote mountains areas were not able to participate at all. This is a consequence of the fact that the audience for online events is completely different from the one for face-to-face meetings. However, all TeRRItoria stakeholders in the region were invited to the regional EDP consultations and focus-groups conducted in 2020 in the region in the fields of Agri-food & Forestry and Tourism, within the largest process of updating the regional RIS3 Strategy.
- How to collect needs of innovation in a participative way, from the stakeholders based in these particular mountain communities. Their feedback plays a crucial role in the project. To this purpose, one-on one meetings had to be taken into consideration.
Due to the Covid-19 situation, ADR Nord-Est was forced abandon the idea of having face-to-face meetings with local stakeholders and decided to shift to online activities. This choice posed a challenge since stakeholders in remote areas would struggle to move online much more than many other people. In some remote areas of the target region, internet is not available. More importantly, a lot of trust is required culturally in these areas, something which is not easily built up online. However, despite the fact that local stakeholders prefer physical meetings and contextual work over online meetings, several bilateral group meetings had to be replaced by one-on-one calls.
In order to solve this problem, ADR Nord-Est decided to collect the necessary information by other means. They created a set of interview guidelines and then asked the stakeholders to reply to the questions. 37 stakeholders from all quadruple helix categories have been interviewed through one-to-one discussions according to the interview guide.
The realisation of the Transformative Experiment (TE) in the region has been affected not only by the negative impact of the online activities on trust-building, but also by three additional factors. Covid-19 cases peaked a second time this year and this has complicated project activities very much due to the restrictions on physical encounters this brought with it. Furthermore, local elections that took place on the last week of September took up many people’s ‘meeting’ time. What’s more, national elections are scheduled for the 6th of December 2020. A reassessment of local authorities’ interest in the project will be necessary, which may potentially cause a delay in TE implementation. However, public authorities count as only one third of local stakeholders, so the impact should be moderate.
Next step of the transformative experiment
By the end of October, ADR Nord-Est together with the help of the Centre for Mountain Economy (CE-MONT Vatra Dornei –a scientific stakeholder in the region, affiliated to the Romanian Academy), will analyse all the data collected so far through the above mentioned interview guidelines. Drawing on this analysis, ADR Nord-Est and CE-MONT will prepare a draft for the experiment’s plan, which will be further reviewed with the ESF, the scientific partner within Territoria. This activity that is due to replace the previously foreseen writeshop, will be completed in November 2020.
To keep in line with the planned co-design, as soon as this draft is ready ADR Nord-Est will need to find the most suitable way to ensure a public consultation. The draft of the experiment will be discussed among groups of stakeholders in order to look for things to be improved in the final version of the document, which is expected to be ready by the end of the year.
If everything goes well, the implementation of the Transformative Experiment will start in the first semester of 2021. The TE in Nord Est Romania contains two steps:
- Identification of the innovation needs of the target communities, by designing an entrepreneurial discovery process locally.
- Setting up an innovation brokerage platform.
The first ought to be done by the end of the year, while the brokerage platform is expected to be functioning by the beginning of Summer 2021 (most likely June). This platform should allow local stakeholders to upload their problems requiring innovative solutions, and on the other hand, should allow innovation players to see these problems and propose solutions. However, this cannot happen without an identification of the needs first. All sorts of innovative solutions are expected to be proposed by the R&I players: new products, new processes, technical solutions, research missions, student internships, and others.
By December 2021, ADR Nord-Est will have to report how the implementation of the TE was realised. Thus, the project team of ADR Nord-Est is working hard to launch the implementation phase as soon as possible.