Consumption Research Norway (SIFO) at Oslo Metropolitan University arranged a seminar with special focus on methodologies for engaging citizens in so called deliberative processes. About 25 participants and invited researchers and specialists shared their experiences, views and ideas on the involvement of citizens in complex and often controversial issues within research projects.
There are a number of different approaches for involving citizens on public deliberations in research projects such as Citizens Juries, Hybrid Forums and mini-public deliberations, and the main aim of the seminar was to seek out what we can learn from these different approaches in order to develop these methodologies further.
The seminar was funded by the Research Council Norway and linked to the EU project Organic-PLUS focusing on the current use of – and possibilities for phasing out – contentious inputs within organic agriculture in Europe. Through Citizens Juries one task in the project is to establish a dialogue with the general public to further evaluate how new practices and regulations best can be developed to meet the overall goal of sustainable production and consumption of organic food.
The seminar contained two separate sessions. In the first session invited speakers presented their experiences with different methods for involving citizens in deliberative processes. The speakers were encourage to talk about the following themes and questions: What are the rationale behind involving citizens in specific research projects? How can we design these deliberations such that we get a two-way dialogue between scientists and members of the public, especially on issues that often are too technical for direct public scrutiny? What are the pros and cons of different methods?
After an introduction to the Organic-PLUS project by project manager Judith Conroy and project coordinator Ulrich Schmutz from Coventry University (CU), Adrian Evans and Rosa van Kesteren also from CU presented experiences on science-society dialogues from a previous research on animal welfare:
They used these experiences to reflect on methods to engage citizens in deliberative processes that will be undertaken as part of the Organic-PLUS project.
Further presentations were by:
Cathrine Hasse, Aarhus University: Reeler Outreach: Minipublics
Simon Burall, The Involve Foundation: The UK experience of deliberative processes
Virginie Amilien, Consumption Research Norway (SIFO): Hybrid Forums
Erik Thorstensen, Work Research Institute (AFI): Engaging Older Adults through World Cafés
Pål Strandbakken & Harald-Throne Holst, Consumption Research Norway (SIFO): 3rd Generation Deliberations
During the brakes participants had the opportunity to get information about the Organic-PLUS project from displayed posters and talks with project participants:
- Gunnar Vittersø, Hanne Torjusen and Christian Thorjussen
- Adrian Evans, Rosa van Kesteren and Ulrich Schmutz
- Ulrich Schmutz and Judith Conroy
The seminar ended with a World Café discussion about issues such as the key ingredients of successful public engagement and positive and negative impacts of public engagements. The World Café was an exciting learning experience with colleagues from other projects and will shape the future citizen jury research work on contentious inputs within the Organic-PLUS project in Norway, the United Kingdom and Italy.