Designing PE initiatives is not an event, but a process, which implies different mental and operational steps.
Clarifying the objectives and understanding the context
The first step for the sponsor to be taken is clarifying which are the objectives pursued. This step is not trivial at all. It is primarily important to be aware of the benefits that PE may actually produce, thus avoiding to use participatory mechanisms when it is not useful or not appropriate.
Then, it is also necessary to analyse the context in which the initiative will occur, considering the variables of any kind (cultural, social, organisational, etc.) potentially concerned with the PE initiative. At the end of this stage, the sponsor should be able to understand what can be reasonably done and for which reasons.
Potential sponsors of PE initiatives should also be helped in their work by taking into consideration what we referred to as the “right questions” to be answered in order to develop a sound design process.
Selecting the right tools and identifying the phases
A pivotal aspect is the selection of the PE tools to be adopted with respect to some key variables such as the contextual situation, the objectives pursued, the available resources or the nature of participants.
There are many already tested tools and approaches, but few of them are actually largely diffused. Moreover, sometime tools have different names but are very similar with each other, differing only for marginal aspects.
In 2015, the EC-funded Engage2020 project developed an interactive online Action Catalogue to enable researchers, policy-makers and other stakeholders to select the “right tools” for the PE initiatives they wish to develop.
Finally, a set of phases should be identified for planning the process.