Citizen engagement: how can we move from ad hoc consultations to long-lasting partnerships for R&I?

Outkine of the programme of the event: Every voice counts. Held online on March 18th.

In the framework of the “Conference on the Future of Europe”, on the 18th of March 2022, CHERRIES project organised an online event aimed at shaping recommendations on how to best involve citizens in the R&I processes: “Every voice counts. The role of citizens in shaping European R&I.”

The aim of the event “Every voice counts. The role of citizens in shaping European R&I.” was to highlight the importance of citizen engagement in RRI and to discuss different ways to foster their participation and involvement in this kind of processes.

Responsible Research Innovation (RRI) is an inclusive approach to research and innovation to ensure that societal actors work together during the whole research and innovation process. It aims to better align both the process and outcomes of research and innovation, with the values, needs and expectations of European society. In this sense, citizens engagement is essential for the consideration of the real societal needs and to be able to take into account different perspectives when shaping the policies and strategies of the future.

European funded projects such as CHERRIES are developing different methodologies and strategies to implement RRI and to ensure that all the actors of the society are involved in research and innovation processes.

The main purpose of the event was to show how citizen participation can be best channelled.

The event saw the keynote speech of Rosina Malagrida​, Head of the Living Lab for Health at IrsiCaixa and co-coordinator of the Barcelona “la Caixa” Living Lab on why citizens’ participation is key in R&I processes and how we can encourage and enable it.  She also explained in detail how civil society can be included in public research and innovation policies.  We would highlight two key messages she shared with us:

“If we want to make sure that we will get the impact that we want, we need to work with a broader variety of stakeholders and of projects. One project alone cannot solve a problem, we should move to collective processes where we can work first to collectively understand better the problem and then exploring how to cover all the challenges together through different projects and processes”.

“When starting a process, we need to make sure that group of stakeholders working on it, shares a common vision, a common understanding of the problem and a common strategy. In the strategy there should be a reflection of the following 3 different levels: individual, organisational and collective level. These 3 levels should be connected”.

Two panel discussions followed.

In the first panel the audience heard from Adrián Zittelli Ferrari (Director-General for European Union Affairs for the Region of Murcia) on the need for clearer engagement frameworks and objectives for citizens, and for a better traceability of citizens engagement processes, this to increase citizens’trust in these processes. Moreover, to foster the participation of citizens, they need to see how their opinions are translated into concrete actions and -at the same time – they need to see how the decisions taken at European level can have an impact in their regions.

Stefan Philipp (Researcher at ZSI and CHERRIES coordinator) presented how CHERRIES capitalised citizens’ inputs to define challenges in the health services prioritising the medical innovations to provide a wider impact accordingly with civil society perspectives.

Esteban Pelayo (Director of EURADA) shared insights from the TetRRIS project on the possibilities of incorporating citizens in regional innovation strategies were analysed; in particular, it was explained how the second generation of smart specialisation strategies are proactively involving civil society. Regions are facing not only the exercise of prioritising when it comes to policy making at regional level, they also need to develop tools to monitor the different policies and processes so they are able to involve all stakeholders through the different steps.

In the second panel, the experiences of the regions of Murcia, Orebro and Cyprus were presented from the perspective of civil society organisations engaged in the territorial pilots. CHERRIES pilots aimed at at setting up an inclusive system in which citizens were called to determine their priorities in the healthcare sector and a call for collaboration was launched between companies offering solutions to the proposed challenges and the territorial health services implementing them.

Lotta Karlsson-Andersson (CEO at Activa Foundation) explained how CHERRIES project allowed Orebro region and its partners to take a brave step establishing a platform allowing multi stakeholder interactions and enabling direct exchanges and open dialogue between local and regional authorities and the wider society.

“Regional and local authorities need to collaborate together and make sure that they involve citizens, target groups and organisations from the very beginning. They must be taken into account when defining a need/problem, but also through the whole process. Therefore it is key to have a space/arena for exchange, co-creation and mutual learning”.

Joaquín Francisco Roca González (Sub Director of International Relationships at Polytechnical University of Cartagena) is one of the regional actors involved in the Murcia co-creation team including the solution provider and the other regional partners (Ticbiomed, CEEIMurcia, Sistema Murciano de Salud). He also contributed to the definition of the regional challenge. He stressed the importance of developing solutions to health challenges by taking into consideration and involving the final users of these solutions and the specialists that will deploy them. The development of the devices/precesses/solutions need to take into account all the stakeholders.

“As a driver for a more democratic approach to R&I we need to share responsibility and involve in the different challenges and opportunities different players: researchers, citizens, patients and healthcare professionals working together for a common goal.

Collaborative processes and co-creation, need to be shown as a resource for citizens to solve their problems, but they also need to be perceived as such by the industry and companies. Citizens must be aware that they are part of the solutions as they are the ones that better know the needs.”

He also stressed the importance of disseminating and advertising this inclusive processes and approaches to R&I, especially towards patients and professional as they need to know that these processes exits and that they can take part on them.

Stelios Yiallouros (Chief Information Officer at Arataeio Hospital) shared his experience from the Cyprus pilot. Based on his direct experience, he recommends that patients, professionals and hospital managers have an active role in the co-creation processes as they are the final users of a technology. They should be taken into consideration from the very beginning of the development of a solution, so to ensure this meets their actual needs.

“The system fails when all the stakeholders are not involved. Hospitals, patients and professionals are essential and must be involved in the different processes. By listening to all the related stakeholders, through the entire process, you avoid failure. In order to encourage the participation of citizens and patients, we need to make sure that they are being listened and that they feel it”.

Moreover, a very interestig comment was raised by Claudia Colonnello Senior Social Researcher at Knowledge and Innovation:

“Before engaging the different actors in a R&I process, we should build a common long-term vision at territorial level on how we want to shape these processes. The involvement of local actors is crucial in order to create a dialogue with the aim to restore trust among the society and to involve them in R&I processes”.

If you missed the event, you can watch it online!