Stakeholder engagement primer: 6. Making engagement effective

By Gabriele Bammer

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How can researchers ensure that stakeholder contributions ― whether through consultation, involvement or collaboration ― are properly valued? What steps can researchers take to make stakeholder participation as effective as possible? How can damaging pitfalls be avoided?

Researchers can make the stakeholder engagement process maximally effective by paying attention to the following three aspects:

  1. ensuring credibility, relevance and legitimacy of stakeholder contributions
  2. accommodating stakeholder motivations, expertise and ability to participate
  3. avoiding or managing potential pitfalls.

1. Ensuring credibility, relevance and legitimacy of stakeholder participation

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Eight ways research institutes enable interdisciplinary research

By Paul Bolger

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Paul Bolger (biography)

One of the most substantial structural changes and investments to support interdisciplinarity within universities has been the widespread establishment of research institutes. Many have made the pursuit of interdisciplinary collaboration a central goal in their research mission. Biancani and colleagues (2014) have likened research institutes to a semi-formal organisation occupying a plane between the formal university and informal research teams. Membership of the semi-formal organisation is voluntary and researchers and groups can flexibly come together for short or long periods and depart when no longer needed.

How do these entities establish collaborative communities, and create the conditions necessary for effective interdisciplinary research?

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 5. Choosing engagement options

By Gabriele Bammer

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How can researchers decide which engagement options will be most appropriate for which stakeholders? How can they take into account multiple considerations such as the aims of stakeholder engagement, the requirements of the research and available resources?

It can be helpful to think through how each option for stakeholder engagement (described in Primer #4) would be operationalised for each stakeholder, using the questions below. These make explicit what researchers often do intuitively.

By teasing out specifically what is required and matching this with the available resources – time, money and person-power – the aim is to reduce the possibility of a project running out of steam for stakeholder engagement before it is concluded and to maximise the chances that the commitments made by researchers to stakeholders (the ‘promise’ described in Primer #4) for each type of engagement can be fulfilled.

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Developing facilitation capacities in graduate students

By Gemma Jiang and Robert Hacku

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1. Gemma Jiang (biography)
2. Robert Hacku (biography)

What does it take for graduate students to become good at facilitation? What skills do they need to learn and how can such skills best be imparted?

A facilitator is someone trained in the skill of shaping group dynamics and collective conversations. In cross-disciplinary research, thoughtful facilitation is necessary to enable effective interaction across disciplines and sectors.

We describe an apprentice facilitator program developed in a cross-disciplinary research team comprised of nine faculty and 15 graduate students from four academic institutes, representing six disciplines.

Five apprentices were selected from the graduate students on the team. The program was one semester long and took on average one hour per week.

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 4. Options for engagement

By Gabriele Bammer

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What options are available to researchers for including stakeholders in a research project in order to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the problem, provide ideas about addressing it and help the research to support policy or practice change? Can different stakeholders be included in different ways? Can the same group of stakeholders participate in different ways in various aspects of the research? What obligations do researchers have to participating stakeholders over the course of that project?

It can be useful to consider 5 ways in which researchers can include stakeholders in a project:

1. Inform:
Researchers provide stakeholders with balanced and objective information to assist them in understanding the research.

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A framework for identifying diversity in epistemic communities, linguistic variety and culture

By Varvara Nikulina, Johan Larson Lindal, Henrikke Baumann, David Simon, and Henrik Ny

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1. Varvara Nikulina; 2. Johan Larson Lindal; 3. Henrikke Baumann; 4. David Simon; 5. Henrik Ny (biographies)

How can facilitators take into account diversity stemming from epistemic communities, linguistic variety and culture when leading workshops aimed at co-production in transdisciplinary research?

Although facilitators are skilled in mitigating conflicting interests and ideas among participants, they are often poorly prepared for dealing with these other types of diversity.

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 3. Selecting stakeholders

By Gabriele Bammer

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Given that most research projects will not have the funding or time to involve all stakeholders who have been identified as potential contributors, what criteria are useful for selecting those to be invited to participate? How can those identified be assessed against the criteria?

Four criteria for selecting stakeholders are:

  • their legitimacy
  • their real and potential power
  • the urgency they assign to the problem
  • practical considerations.

Legitimacy

Legitimacy can usefully be examined along the following four dimensions:

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How informal discussion groups can maintain long-term momentum

By Kitty Wooley

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Kitty Wooley (biography)

What does it take to motivate competent professionals to show up for mission-focused conversation on their own time? What is the result? How can interaction, knowledge exchange, and knowledge transfer be achieved when some participants are meeting for the first time – especially if they’re coming from different kinds of organizations and hierarchical levels?

In this blog post, I describe the experience of Senior Fellows and Friends, a group meeting for conversational events that has kept its momentum for 17 years, over 91 meetings, and become an organic engine of opportunity for new and midcareer leaders.

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 2. Identifying stakeholders

By Gabriele Bammer

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How can all those who have something relevant to contribute to a research project be identified? In particular, how can we find those who, through their experience of being affected by or dealing with a problem, can provide:

  • a more comprehensive understanding of the problem
  • ideas about ways to address the problem
  • insights into how the research can best support policy and practice change on the problem in government, business and civil society?

A wide-ranging and inclusive initial process of identifying stakeholders ensures that key individuals and groups are not missed and that the broadest range of knowledge and perspectives is found, for both understanding and acting on the problem.

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A quick guide to post-normal science

By Silvio Funtowicz

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Silvio Funtowicz (biography)

Post-normal science comes into play for decision-making on policy issues where facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent.

A good example of a problem requiring post-normal science is the actions that need to be taken to mitigate the effects of sea level rise consequent on global climate change. All the causal elements are uncertain in the extreme, at stake is much of the built environment and the settlement patterns of people, what to save and what to sacrifice is in dispute, and the window for decision-making is shrinking. The COVID-19 pandemic is another instance of a post-normal science problem. The behaviour of the current and emerging variants of the virus is uncertain, the values of socially intrusive remedies are in dispute, and obviously stakes are high and decisions urgent.

In such contexts of policy making, normal science (in the Kuhnian sense, see Kuhn 1962) is still necessary, but no longer sufficient.

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 1a. Why a primer? 1b. Defining stakeholders

By Gabriele Bammer

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1a. Why a primer?

Do researchers who want to engage with stakeholders need a basic set of skills? Can we define a skillset that will work for many problems and in a variety of contexts?

My starting point for this primer is that the answer to both questions is “yes” and I have set out to provide those basics in nine easy-to-read blog posts. The tenth blog post in the series sketches out selected additional “advanced” skills; these need more interpersonal competences, experience, and knowledge.

The advantages of using a blog over other forms of communication are that it provides a vehicle for input and feedback, as well as being widely accessible. Comments on each blog post are therefore very welcome, particularly examples and lessons from your own work, things you wish you had known when you were starting out, and general feedback and critique.

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Boosting the transformative power of transdisciplinarity with quantum theory

By Cyrille Rigolot

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Cyrille Rigolot (biography)

How can transdisciplinarity improve its ability to foster very deep, very fast and very large transformations toward sustainability?

Quantum theory might be a major source of insights in that direction. Although quantum theory is not new to transdisciplinarity, lately it has become much more accessible, practical, and potentially transformative on the ground.

Quantum theory for transdisciplinarity research

In the debates last century about the emerging transdisciplinary research field, quantum theory inspired theorist Basarab Nicolescu to develop three basic ‘axioms’, which he argues should be recognized at the core of transdisciplinarity research, namely:

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