C3. Involving leaderships and staff

C3. Involving Leaderships And Staff_softThe keyword for developing a PE Action Plan is involvement. Before any other aims, the primary objective for an action plan is that of creating the conditions for mobilising the interest, willingness and attention of both leaders and teaching and research staff on PE or, at least, creating the conditions for reducing resistances, preventing oppositions and limiting indifference.

Combining top-down and bottom-up approaches

Experiences in structural change projects made in other sectors suggest that there is not an opposition between top-down approaches (based on the engagement of leaders) and bottom-up approaches (based on the engagement of the staff). Rather, both are essential to attain changes that have the possibility to last beyond the project lifespan. Mobilising the staff and other internal stakeholders is evidently pointless without an involvement of those leaders allowing mobilisation to produce hard facts (new measures, practices, or resources), making the changes permanently rooted in the life and culture of the organisation. On the other hand, obtaining some concrete results, thanks to top-down interventions, is likely to be episodic and short-lived, if they do not link up to interests and willingness to change of the staff and internal stakeholders. The conclusion is that the leaders and staff are both necessary to an anchorage of PE in research institutions.

Involving leaders at any level

There are many reasons why leaders should be involved. Such an involvement cannot be considered important only because leaders are “those who decide” but also because leaders have a big influence on the involvement of their staff. However, a simply formal engagement is of little use. Rather, their engagement should be supported by real interest, motivation, and passion and framed in a larger strategy. Leaders at any level should be targeted by the Action Plan so as to allow PE to take root within the organisation. Many different strategies and tools for facilitating leaders’ involvement can be used, to be however selected and modified according to the features of the Action Plan as well as the kind of leadership style adopted in the organisation. To attract leaders, it is particularly important to demonstrate the usefulness of PE for the research organisation in order to pursue its own objectives. They should be aware that PE is to be embraced by the research organisation not because it is right, but because it helps them solve the problems and attain the objectives of their own organisation.

Mobilising the research and teaching staff

To make PE a stable component of the organisation, research and teaching staff should be fully involved. In fact, public engagement is in principle connected to every aspect of the research organisation, potentially affecting the life of the research and teaching staff at any level. However, involving the staff could be often problematic, because of obstacles of different nature. It is also necessary to be aware of the many factors affecting the participation of researchers in PE initiatives. Specific mobilisation strategies and tools to involve the staff are therefore to be included in the Action Plans.

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