Sixth annual review

By Gabriele Bammer

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Gabriele Bammer (biography)

As the blog enters its 7th year, it is time for the annual review of how well it is meeting its aims of:

  • sharing concepts, methods and other tools for tackling complex societal and environmental problems and acting as a repository of those tools
  • being a global vehicle for exchange, discussion and network building to strengthen use of those tools.

All the trends are in the right direction, providing impetus to keep expanding the base of contributors and coverage of key topics. If you have developed a relevant tool or use an existing tool in a new way, I would love to hear from you. Comments on blog posts are always valuable. And, of course, feedback and suggestions are welcome.

This is the last blog post for 2021.

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 10. Advanced skills

By Gabriele Bammer

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Once researchers understand the basics of stakeholder engagement, what else is it useful for them to know? What additional concepts, methods and processes are helpful additions to their skill set so that they can engage more effectively?

Two areas for building additional skills are considered here:

  • Understanding and managing power and control
  • Working effectively with multiple stakeholders.

These areas are ripe for consolidation of existing knowledge and experience, as well as of useful tools. Here only some considerations are sketched out, drawing predominantly on key contributions to the i2Insights blog.

Understanding and managing power and control

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Understanding researcher positionality using the insider-outsider continuum

By Rebecca Laycock Pedersen and Varvara Nikulina

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1. Rebecca Laycock Pedersen (biography)
2. Varvara Nikulina (biography)

How can researchers express their positionality? What does positionality mean?

In working at the interface of science and society, researchers play many different roles, even within a single project, as, for example:

As researchers, our role within a project is a part of our ‘positionality,’ or our social position. Positionality as defined by Agar (1996) is whether one sees oneself as an outsider, a ‘neutral’ investigator, or something else.

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 9. Evaluating engagement

By Gabriele Bammer

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How can the effectiveness of stakeholder engagement be judged? How can the outcomes be assessed? How much effort should go into such evaluation?

How and when to evaluate

In any stakeholder engagement there is no shortage of aspects that could be evaluated. The challenge is aligning the audience for the evaluation, the key issues to be assessed and the available resources.

For example, if a research team is interested in learning from what went wrong in a stakeholder engagement (for instance, if a stakeholder stopped participating or became hostile) and has no money set aside for evaluation, it might rely on self-reflection and anecdotal evidence to figure out what happened.

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Leadership and the hidden politics of co-produced research

By Catherine Durose, Beth Perry, Liz Richardson and Rikki Dean

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1. Catherine Durose (biography)
2. Beth Perry (biography)
3. Liz Richardson (biography)
4. Rikki Dean (biography)

What are the hidden politics of seeking to co-produce research with stakeholders? What kinds of leadership are common in co-produced research? What trade-offs does each kind of leadership make in addressing issues such as being directive, inclusive, innovative, accountable, open to what emerges and sharing power?

The hidden politics of co-production in research

The hidden politics of co-production in research involves tensions and debates about:

1. The purposes of scientific work.
Co-production brings together people, not only with different expertise, but also with different purposes for being involved, which can range from achieving more effective policy and practice outcomes to delivering social justice and empowering those experiencing disadvantage.

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 8. Generating ideas and reaching agreement

By Gabriele Bammer

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What skills for generating ideas and reaching agreement should every researcher involved in stakeholder engagement seek to cultivate? What key methods and concepts should they be familiar with?

The focus in this blog post is on generating ideas and reaching agreement, as well as recognising the “groan zone” between these two phases in a group process. Researchers will have diverse attributes and not everyone will be well-placed to cultivate the skills described here. Having an understanding of the skills can help in choosing the researchers best placed to undertake the stakeholder engagement.

Generating ideas: Brainstorming

For brainstorming to work well, it requires rapid-fire contributions, no holding back or self-censoring of ideas, and no discussion or criticism of the ideas proposed. It often involves a group of stakeholders (or stakeholders and researchers) sitting around a flipchart or whiteboard, with one person writing down the ideas as members of the group say them.

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A tool for transforming resistance to insights in decision-making

By Gemma Jiang

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Gemma Jiang (biography)

Do you encounter resistance from your team members, especially in regard to difficult decisions? How might decision-making processes be better facilitated to generate insights instead of resistance?

I describe a conceptual framework and an accompanying practical tool from Lewis Deep Democracy (2021) that can transform resistance to insights in decision-making processes.

The conceptual framework: Understanding how decision making generates resistance

It is important first to understand the consciousness of a team. If you think of a team’s consciousness as an iceberg, the ideas and opinions that are expressed are the conscious part above the waterline, while those that are not expressed are the unconscious part below the waterline. If decisions are made based only on the team’s expressed ideas and opinions, those below the waterline will likely form resistance. This is often what happens with “majority rules” democracy.

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 7. Listening and dialogue

By Gabriele Bammer

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What skills should every researcher involved in stakeholder engagement seek to cultivate? What key tools for engaging stakeholders should they be familiar with?

In the next two blog posts, I present key skills and tools that are essential for engaging with stakeholders. Understanding these skills can help teams decide who would be best among their members to be responsible for stakeholder engagement. Those involved in stakeholder engagement can also work to strengthen these skills to underpin other useful methods such as surveys, interviews, focus groups and participatory modelling.

This blog post presents skills involved in listening and dialogue. The next presents tools for generating ideas and reaching agreement.

Listening to understand

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Theory and process for interdisciplinary undergraduate course development

By Ana M. Corbacho

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Ana M. Corbacho (biography)

How can interdisciplinary courses for undergraduates move from being intuitively designed to theoretically based? How can course design accommodate cohorts of teachers, not previously experienced in interdisciplinarity, from across a university?

Here I share how colleagues and I developed courses where teams of university faculty worked with undergraduate students to tackle interdisciplinary problems.

I first describe three useful theoretical perspectives for building an interdisciplinary undergraduate course, namely:

  1. social constructivism and situated-learning theory
  2. academic motivation
  3. interdisciplinary education from a diversity perspective.

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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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