To-face or not to-face – that is the question
The transformative experiment in North East Romania
The Regional Development Agency of North East Romania, as part of TeRRItoria, is designing one of the five transformative experiments foreseen by the project. The experiment seeks to develop and adopt a local consultative tool that allows agenda-setting at the local level with the assistance of a platform for innovation brokerage between local innovators and facilitators. TeRRItoria will realise two pilot experiments in the territories. The first will be located in Bazinul Dornelor Local Action Group (LAG) and Vatra Dornei Municipality (the only urban centre in the area and not part of the LAG); the second in Ceahlau LAG.
In order to collect crucial information for the realisation and implementation of the experiment, five meetings were planned with local stakeholders and civil society. Due to the Covid-19 situation, only one meeting took place; this was as long ago as the 6th of March.
What can be done in the near future?
Though the Romanian government has recently loosened some of the restrictions, the organisation of meetings is still not foreseen for the coming period. North East Romania would have preferred face-to-face meetings over online ones, since the experiment addresses a sparsely populated region where people build trust with others by meeting them regularly. Additionally, not all citizens are digitally connected. Despite this, the development agency has prepared a plan B which consists of a number of online meetings and are now putting this into action. They do not expect outcomes to be as high-quality as in the planned face-to-face meeting. In the experience of the partners there, their previous attempts at online activities were not ideal since only a few people replied to the questionnaires they sent out and it usually they took participants a long time to reply to emails. To get around this, they will try to conduct the co-creation by phone. They will now ask their stakeholders not only about public policies, but also about how they can adapt to the new situation in the region brought about by Covid-19. The fifth meeting, which was planned as a citizen summit, ought to be the most important one to collect the for the realisation of the innovative platform. For this reason, North East Romania will do everything in their power to have it as a face-to-face meeting, provided public events will be permitted again by late July.
Emilia Romagna region’s progress so far
ART-ER, the TeRRItoria project partner in Emilia Romagna (Italy), is also confident of being able to have face-to-face meetings at the end of the summer. The staff of ART-ER worked very hard in the first the months of 2020 by activating the entire regional cluster on innovation and by realising the first scheduled meeting on the 28th January; “Responsible Research and social impact: an idea of a long path”. The core of the transformative experiment in Emilia Romagna is to use to develop a methodology to include Science Education and Public Engagement in the formulation of its regional strategy for research and innovation – RIS3.
How they intend to proceed What can be done in the near future
Due to the Covid-19 situation, ART-ER decided to postpone the realisation and implementation of the experiment until late autumn in order to have more time to organise their meetings with local stakeholders. As mentioned above, the staff of ART-ER would prefer to organise face-to-face meetings as they are the best option for collecting information from stakeholders. In line with this, they plan to run co-design activities in person at some point in June and/or July, with a limit on the number of people who can attend. Through online tools it is considerably more difficult to collect information; it is much preferable to target each workshop at the appropriate audience and then filter the feedback received.