As any process involving many players, PE initiatives rarely go smoothly from beginning to end. Almost always the implementation process requires to introduce changes in the original plans so as to cope with unexpected events or participants’ reactions. Hence the need to closely follow of the implementation phase.
Recognising and coping with the implementation problems
There are many recurrent critical aspects which may arise during the implementation process of PE initiatives. Among them, of particular importance are the methods adopted for recruiting citizens, which necessitate specific attention. Sometimes, there is also the tendency of overlooking the logistical and organisational aspects connected to the implementation of PE initiatives, which instead may play a pivotal role for their success. An attempt to categorise obstacles to PE implementation has been also made under PE2020.
Being aware of the skills needed
A key element is that the sponsor possesses all the skills needed for a PE initiative to be successful. Beyond the skills related to the substantive aspects of the PE initiative and other kinds of cross-cutting capacities (for example, those related to project management or the organisation of events), facilitation skills are usually indicated as playing a major role in conducting the PE event as well as in managing the entire public engagement development process (designing, preparation, implementation, reporting, etc.), since each phase, to different extent, has (or should have) a participatory component.
Equally important are the skills related to the development of the so-called “online public engagement”. In fact, public engagement, not only is increasingly carried out using web-based communication tools, but is more and more often fully developed online, without any face-to-face segment.
The organisations promoting the PE exercise should be then aware of the skills they hold and, when necessary, to be ready to hire external experts.
Ensuring the follow-up
Public engagement with science and technology is an approach for pursuing specific objectives related to the governance of science or the management of the research process. It is therefore a means to attain an end and not an end in itself.
In this framework, the follow-up of the PE initiative is a crucial component of the implementation phase, since this is the context where the outputs of the participatory process are actually negotiated and defined with the participants, thus opening up to new future cooperation initiatives.