Challenges for the implementation of the regional TEs and corresponding mitigation measures
The 2nd TeRRItoria Mutual Learning Meeting was held online on the 12th of March 2021. Representatives from all partner organisations eagerly discussed the advancements of their Transformative Experiments (TEs), and exchanged inspiring ideas for the remaining implementation period. The focus of the discussions was particularly placed on two core topics: a) key challenges for TEs’ implementation (and possible mitigation measures) and b) exploitation and scaling of the upcoming project results.
With reference to the first core topic, partners discussed the prominent challenges encountered so far −regarding implementation in general and stakeholders’ engagement more specifically. Arguments were similarly expressed for a few challenges that partners expect (or assume) to encounter in the remaining project period.
- A considerable challenge identified by TeRRItoria partners firstly refers to the difficulty of interpreting ‘organisational maps’. When attempting to identify the key individuals in organisations (e.g. during mapping procedures), the situation can easily become complicated. The target individuals may, for example, neither be among the executive board members nor be holders of high-authority positions. Spotting such individuals thus becomes challenging and time-consuming. Mitigation measures refer to organisations and their departments having an appropriate and up-to-date organisational map, where one can find and later contact the key people for the target cause.
After mapping and contacting the key individuals, it is necessary to constantly update the list of contacts and ‘strengthen’ the communication established. When working exclusively with existing contacts, identical (or similar) ideas from the same people are retrieved. At the same time, if a helix or a representative from a particular field is missing, relevant input is similarly missed as well. Groups and meetings engaging a variety of people (from different helixes) can contribute to obtaining a differentiated input from various societal layers. In addition, ‘non-uniform’ meetings can prove to be more attractive and motivating for future participants and create a snowball effect whereby, from new attendees, new networks can be detected.
- Other notable challenges identified relate to manifestations of mistrust on behalf of the target stakeholders. TeRRItoria partners highlighted experiencing that distrust is often exhibited by civil society representatives and citizens (often characterised as the most hard-to-get audience) towards local authorities. Concurrently, academia may prove to be reluctant, as researchers often fear to engage with the general public and appear skeptical towards what citizens can contribute to their work. Mitigation measures for strengthening the academia-society cooperation can be found in appropriate science communication. Researchers should employ the proper language when communicating with the general public and by developing appropriate communication channels, they should seek to engage citizens and target stakeholders in fruitful and reciprocal dialogues (e.g. arrange different seminars where citizens can attend and share perspectives).
- A further identified challenge, is the gap between rural and urban areas, which poses additional challenges for some territorial partners who either implement their experiments in smaller and rural areas, or address these areas through their experiments. More specifically, the recruitment and engagement of young talents in the capital cities −where larger and international companies offer better incomes− creates challenges related to brain drain in the smaller areas. Even if brain drain is usually a national problem faced by numerous countries, it seems amplified when it comes to smaller regions and territories, for example due to additional mistrust exhibited by the youth towards the local environment and its authorities. This situation ultimately leads to disconnection and makes it challenging to engage the younger population. A corresponding mitigation measure proposed by the TeRRItoria partners alludes to trying to recruit young talents in their hometowns (smaller areas) with the help of regional innovation centres and companies. Regional policy makers, municipalities and local authorities must likewise continuously be ‘alerted’ and encouraged to place the recruitment and retention of young talents among the main focuses of their policy lines.
- Finally, the Covid-19 pandemic continues to pose a number of challenges to the TeRRItoria consortium, for example related to restrictions on the organisation of physical meetings. However, the issue of physical meetings was not discussed more extensively, as partners have now become familiar with the Covid era and the limitations it poses on such activities. Occasioned, though, by the topic of the pandemic and its consequent limitations, the constant need to use online platforms and digital tools was discussed in more detail. From the partners’ point of view, a considerable challenge refers to the availability and the cost of the platforms/tools. At the same time, regarding the target audience and local stakeholders engaged by using these tools, there is a constant need for them to ameliorate their digital skills and their competences towards handling the online platforms. Luckily, as several partners highlighted, most stakeholders and citizens have become familiar with digital tools. A general mitigation measure indicated −for facilitating even further the smooth participation in online meetings− was to ‘keep it simple’. Hosts of the meetings should: employ simple language (avoid technical vocabulary or academic jargon); choose a simple ‘methodology’ (avoid the use of sophisticated and complex digital tools or apps); organise smaller groups in each meeting, facilitating the discussion and overall interaction (so that participants are encouraged to speak from their side); and make participants feel that the topic discussed concerns them, thus ultimately making them feel as ‘problem-owners and solution enablers’.
Throughout the entire Mutual Learning Meeting, TeRRItoria partners discussed a variety of issues of concern, including the aforementioned ones as well as aspects motivating them to continue their inspiring work until the completion of the project. More mutual learning activities are in the pipeline, and it only remains to see what kind of insightful conclusions will be drawn from them.
|Article written by Maria Michali – SEERC|
Maria Michali is a Research Assistant at the South East European Research Centre (SEERC), working on RRI-related projects funded under H2020.
|in collaboration with Julia Miljevic Jakobsen – DBT|
Julia Miljevic Jakobsen is Senior Project Manager at the Danish Board of Technology