In order to activate the process of change, at least three main steps should be taken: establishing the Team in charge of the Action Plan; assessing the current procedures and practices concerning public engagement; designing the Action Plan. This steps should allow to select the key components of the Action Plan to be developed.
Establishing a team
The first step to take is necessarily creating a Team, even small, institutionally responsible for the Action Plan, endowed with some resources for implementing it. It is also important that staff members have some experience in PE or are able to involve experts in this field. An initial support by the top management is also needed. It is to take into consideration that the establishment and the activity of the Team may be hindered by different kind of obstacles.
Assessing the current procedures, practices and attitudes
Another key element for activating the Action Plan is that of assessing the current procedures and practices adopted by the organisation in the field of public engagement as well as the staff’s and leaders’ attitudes toward PE. In this regards, some tools and approaches have been also developed. External actors and stakeholders already in contact with the research organisations should also be involved. This step is essential for understanding potentials, expectations and needs of the research organisation on PE, as well as to gain an insight about the existing organisational, cultural or professional barriers to PE. It is also important for launching the issue of PE in the organisation and to inform the internal audience about the Action Plan.
Designing the action plan through participatory approaches
The assessment of the current procedures, practices and attitudes should allow the Team to start designing the Action Plan, setting up objectives and priorities and identifying opportunities and risks. This process cannot be but participatory in nature and enlarged to external actors and stakeholders. Depending on the scope of the Action Plan, the designing process may involve single departments or the research organisation as a whole. It is however important to stress that, even when the Action Plan is limited to single departments, the management of the research organisation at any level has necessarily to be involved to some extent.
Identifying the components of the action plan
The Action Plan is a sort of anticipation of the future PE strategies of the research organisation. Therefore, its shape and contents strongly depend upon the features of the research institution. However, some general models about the main components of the Action Plan have been elaborated, usually pursuing a set of recurrent objectives, such as:
- Strategies – Embedding PE in the general strategies of the organisation
- PE Unit – Creating a dedicated unit promoting and managing PE activities
- Resources – Ensuring adequate resources for PE
- Capacities – Building capacities on PE within the organisation
- Culture – Promoting a culture of PE all over the organisation
- Support – Ensuring a support to researchers or units promoting PE strategies and initiatives;
- Networking – Favouring the establishment of networks on PE within the institutions and with external stakeholders
- Learning – favouring PE initiatives at different level, testing new methods and learning by experience.