Public engagement is a concept with a broad scope. The many definitions given to PE (B3.2) tend to be inclusive and even vague, reflecting the great variability of meanings and practical experiences usually attributed to public engagement. Hence the importance to go in depth into PE, beyond the although necessary abstract definitions, in order to better understand what it is, how it can be implemented and which benefits it may produce. To this end, it could be useful to dwell upon two aspects: the types of PE initiatives and the connection of PE with organisational processes.
Types of PE initiatives
Different attempts have been made in order to classify PE initiatives. The classification criteria prevalently adopted pertain to the kind of interaction among the concerned players and the intensity of participation required to or expected from the participants. Nevertheless, other variables can be also taken into consideration in distinguishing the different types of PE initiatives. Innovativeness, i.e., the capacity of PE mechanisms to actually modify the governance of science and research processes, can be another aspect to analyse.
These classification criteria may be used by the potential sponsors as coordinates in order to better understand which kind of PE initiative to develop .
Connecting the pe initiative with organisational processes
Equally important to start defining the PE initiative is understanding its connections with the life of the organisation. PE never occurs in a vacuum. On the contrary, it must always be intended to improve the quality of specific organisational processes; otherwise PE becomes a fruitless effort. In general, PE with science and technology is usually connected with two main organisational processes: the policy cycle (i.e., the different development steps of a policy) or the research process (i.e., the different phases of a research project). Different models have been defined for describing these organisational processes. Applying such models can be also useful for potential sponsors to better define aims and features of the PE initiative they have in mind.
A three-step pathways
The effort made in this section is that of favouring a rapid access to experience and knowledge on how to develop public engagement initiatives with science, also leveraging upon existing practical documents devoted to. Three main issues will be dealt with in this section:
- Designing PE initiatives: how to design a PE initiatives, based on a specific analysis of the objectives to pursue, tools and methods to adopt and the many factors influencing the initiatives
- Implementing PE initiatives: how to manage the many factors, of different nature, which comes into play in the implementation of the PE exercise;
- Monitoring and evaluation: why and how to assess the PE initiative.
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