Third ML meeting – future scenarios

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Third ML meeting – future scenarios

Incorporating the methods of “Mutual Learning” processes within a project can increase the connectivity among the partner actors and possibly achieve the desirable information transfer between cooperating parties. Within TeRRItoria project, the mutual learning activities enhanced the transfer of all the gained experience from one consortium partner to the others. They also encouraged a further consideration of the future of each participating territory/transformative experiment (TE) specifically, while the partners were able to envision each territory’s future growth on many important dimensions, such as the one of “Sustainability”.

After two successful Mutual Learning (ML) activities, the project held their 3rd and final ML meeting in September 2021, in two separate days (with one-week gap in between). On the 17th and 24th September, all the TeRRItoria partners gathered virtually in order to focus on each territory/TE exclusively and consolidate the feedback exchanged between them. The objective of the whole process was to encourage each territory to reflect on:

  • What remains to be done for ensuring the TE’s success till the end of the project,
  • The obstacles and the key drivers for change to be potentially encountered while attempting to ensure success, and
  • The solutions to these problems.

To cover all the above, the meeting adopted the method of future scenario planning. Each territory/ TE formed their own future scenario, and during Day 1 of the workshop described how they imagined their territory to be 2 years after TE completion. All five scenarios were presented, reviewed by project partners and discussed separately during the online sessions.  Between Day 1 and Day 2, partners revised their scenarios based on the feedback received and presented the updated versions during Day 2.

The ML meeting was attended by all the project partners and some External Advisory Board members: Anett Ruszanov (European projects manager at the European Society of Cardiology), Giulia Bubbolini (head of EU and Public-Funded Projects at CISE – Centre for Innovation and Economic Development, Agency of the Chamber of Commerce of Romagna, Italy), and Dimitris Corpakis (former Senior EU official)

When it comes to the outputs and lessons learned during the ML meeting, partners highlighted the importance of some key future activities for their territories. In detail, the importance of collaboration and networking were particularly highlighted as they are both aspects that assist in strengthening the influence and continuity of their TE and territorial RRI implementation. Networking has been discussed as a distinct subject when it comes to establishing cooperative grounds and remaining extroverted. This enables every territory to progress towards the desirable results and ultimately works for the benefit of all those involved, with a vision of further expansion and influence.

Another core focus of the 3rd ML meeting was the topic of sustainability, discussed accordingly to each particular territory and their desired outcomes. Subsequently, each group of partners contemplated on how they can move forward and enhance the RRI dimensions according to their region and TE. Partners here suggested the involvement of more actors, interregional cooperation, joint projects, and enhancement of inclusion, where this is applicable. Learning from others and offering assistance were also some of the featured topics. It is evident that in order for some territories to achieve sustainability, they had to address the current state and challenges in their region and offer radical transformation solutions towards the capacity of the local stakeholders. This is clear in the case of North East Romania, where the partners responded to low digital literacy in some communities and decided to offer their support by sharing their knowledge and further guidance. 

Partners also discussed different aspirations concerning the desired innovation results on their TEs. The task of achieving innovation in a responsible way may ultimately require adaptability, and regions may have to respond to existing gaps of knowledge transfer and different types of inequality, and thus strive for inclusion. Regarding maintaining and expanding innovation, all partners are in tune with the exploration of further opportunities and innovative schemes-methods tailored to their specific area of focus. The future steps of the territorial partners included among others, plans for S3 development and smart-digital transformation, supportive stance to other initiatives connected to innovation, policy innovation, inclusive innovation and gender mainstreaming. Here, partners also identified different key drivers that enable them to proceed with their plans. One example pertains to the regional S3 strategies, which provide an opportunity to experiment with further innovative approaches and enhances some undertakings included in the project. In reference to initiatives that respond to Gender Equality issues, the support by the European Union and the European Commission that enabled initiatives as such to assist on response-able measures was also highlighted. Moreover, and with reference to all the territories, the commitment of other Quadruple Helix stakeholders, as well as the personal commitment of the partners themselves are both encouraging drivers for the future.

TeRRItoria partners have also addressed some common challenges. The phenomenon of brain drain, the Covid-19 restrictions and the funding opportunities are some of the main challenges that territories face. The issue of brain drain certainly creates a gap in the regional dynamic, especially when RRI activities and implementation require the design of new ideas. Practical solutions through cooperative processes and by motivated individuals with contemporary approaches are an asset that favors regional transformation. Additionally, public engagement was a core method featured by the territorial partners and one of the first impacted by the sudden events and limitations that were introduced due to Covid-19. The restrictions that followed the start of the pandemic have definitely caused a lower degree of participation concerning public engagement activities, where and when those were not completely canceled or postponed. Nevertheless, all partners clearly state that the engagement of more relevant actors in their next steps offers a light of possibility for their future plans and for achieving the desired outcomes. Some examples laid during the session include: capacity building activities, events, forums, trainings, co-design activities, digital presence and communication.

The lack of funding is another common barrier reported by the territories. Many of the partners addressed the need for further resources in order to form stable and novel realities in their regions. In some cases, this aspect was also another implication influenced by the pandemic crisis. With reference to the Region of Central Macedonia, the funding opportunities came to a halt, since funding was allocated to the support of the affected companies and businesses. But it seems that the funds committed for Covid-19 measures were another addition to an existing problem; the available EU funds concerning RRI initiatives are nowadays notably reduced, which raises genuine questions for the future of follow-up initiatives and possible joint projects. Concerning this issue and in regards to all the territories involved in the project, the partners have suggested being flexible and having a ‘plan B’ for detecting other opportunities and other possible gateways for innovative and responsible activities (e.g., private- public funding, investments from abroad etc.).

Overall, the 3rd ML meeting increased the knowledge transfer between the territories and helped all involved partners to look into the potential of all the regional TEs. They had the opportunity to exchange their experience and receive feedback from one another. This communication presented both an opportunity for new hints and recommendations to be delivered, but also indicated that there are common challenges and driver points in different regions.

Article written by Efthalia Kallia – SEERC

Efthalia Kallia is a Junior Research Assistant at the South East European Research Centre (SEERC), working on RRI-related projects funded under H2020
in collaboration with George Eleftherakis – SEERC

George Eleftherakis is a Full Professor and the Director of the PhD program at CITY College, University of York Europe Campus in Thessaloniki, Greece, and a Senior Researcher at the South East European Research Centre (SEERC).

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