What is Stakeholder Engagement?
Stakeholder engagement is a highly relevant activity, an ongoing process, that builds relationships between parties enabling information exchange. This process allows stakeholder affected by decisions of organisation in question to contribute to the decision-making process.
The process of stakeholder engagement is voluntary, open and active dialog, that identifies current position of all parties included, outlines objectives and outcomes, and identifies how to achieve them. Parties that are included in the engagement can change but the process of engagement is continues.
For stakeholder engagement to be effective there are some requirements: willingness and motivation of stakeholders to participate (Gunton et al., 2010); inclusivity of all possible interests (Reed, 2008); equal access to information and knowledge (Gunton et al., 2010; Gopnik et al., 2017). Some barriers in the process of engagement can be identified as well such as: the participation is more tokenistic (cosmetic) rather than active (Pomeroy and Douvere, 2008; Echler et al., 2009; Gopnik et al., 2017; Flannery et al., 2018); unfamiliarity with the processes and activities of the organisation in question (Water, 2018); public can have deeply rooted value and belief system (local fisherman for e.g.) affecting the trust level in organisation in question (Jentoft and Knol, 2013).
The main value of engagement with stakeholders lies in understanding of dialogue dynamics and enabled participation (Luoma-Aho, 2015). Generally, engagement is referred as interaction between stakeholders and organisation where interaction influences stakeholder thoughts, actions and emotions toward organisation (Broodie et al., 2011). The benefits of quadruple helix stakeholder engagement by development of collaborative network are evident through access to knowledge, development of scientific competence, obtaining competitive advantage through acceleration of ideas, but significant challenges still remain: how to manage such relationships.
Stakeholder engagement – role of QH in GRRIP
Quadruple helix stakeholders for GRRIP project represent a group of all stakeholders in one place with function of reflecting societal needs. They are expected to participate in development (co-create) action plan for RRI interventions within demo sites. They will serve as a reflection group where sites will demonstrate openness with QH. Through mutual learning and interaction QH will support demo sites in development of sustainable inclusion of QH involvement. Role of QH in GRRIP project is to co and includes several points.
Throughout QH engagement this reflexive working group will support institutionalising RRI and ensure that it is reflective to societal needs throughout the process
Step 2: Internal preparation and alignment
Next stage of engagement includes internal alignment with stakeholders, recognition of commonalities between you and stakeholders. The success of engagement with stakeholders is much dependent on ability to align the interests and objectives of your organisation with stakeholders. This does not mean that your objectives and interests must be identical. For coordinated approach some good practices indicate involvement of internal stakeholder management team to support coordination with stakeholder platform, regular communication and feedback and to connect stakeholder engagement process to processes within the company (Jeffery, 2009). At least one person from case study demo sites should be included in coordination/support of QH stakeholder engagement in order to maintain regular communication and collect feedback from QH. Coordinator/stakeholder management team would serve as a broker/mediator bringing across expectations/reflections of stakeholders/societal needs back to site and vice versa.
When you identify who are your key players and who you want to engage with, it is important to motivate your stakeholder to participate. The motivation of QH can be achieved firstly through training, providing necessary information regarding RRI as a concept and making RRI terminology understandable and familiar to different QH categories. It is noted by the survey and indicated in the 4.2.3. document that over 50% of respondents to the survey that they have low familiarity with RRI. Having this in mind each demo site should consider if adaptation of the terminology to the local context/language is necessary as indicated in T4.2.3. QH stakeholder perspective document.
One of the barriers identified by the SoA (3.2. and 4.2.1.) is lack of time and resources, by motivating your stakeholder you are emphasising that benefits from the engagement will be worth “sacrificed” time and resources.
Most common barriers to RRI industrial uptake that can be extrapolated to resistance of industry in engaging with GRRIP sites in RRI-embedding processes. These include lack of RRI expertise, limited resources, the challenges of fulfilling all RRI functions (pillars) within the company and the project partners and value chain actors, unclear added value of RRI approaches and the lack of long-term vision among others.
Examples from other projects suggest some lessons learned in overcoming these barriers
- Link RRI with ISO and CEN standards regarding management systems in the areas of social responsibility, sustainability, innovation, quality and risks- such as ISO 26000, ISO 31000, ISO 9001 and ISO 56000
- RRI provides a complementary approach compared to existing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices, adding a specific focus on the R&I process and based on three key actions:
- Integrate analysis of ethical, legal and social impacts from the early stages of product development (reflection and anticipation)
- Perform stakeholder engagement to inform all phases of product development (inclusiveness)
- Integrate monitoring, learning and adaptive mechanisms to address public and social values and normative principles in product development (responsiveness)
- There is need to provide specific industry tools for top management commitment and leadership, context analysis, materiality analysis, experiment and engagement, validation and AP design/implementation and monitoring/evaluation
- Use good practices and case study dissemination to raise RRI awareness in industry
- Develop systems and processes to protect key intellectual property rights, data and personnel
- Assess the obstacles that result in academia working at a slower pace than industry.
All these lessons learned should be considered while aligning the interests and objectives of your organisation with industry stakeholders. Aligning interests with SDGs could also be useful way to bridge conversation across many sectors
Type of stakeholder can be very bureaucratic and opposing general resistance to change, RRI aspects shall be of direct interest to its researchers: mutual learning, access to know how on tools (i.e. JERRI self-assessment toolkit on ethical aspects), processes (interdisciplinary by nature) and the imperative requirement to adapt for a better and more responsible way of doing science as to better serve societal needs.
In engaging with academia, GRRIP sites are generally advised to use RRI most attractive specific RRI keys for researchers: ethics, Open access, gender and diversity to open a more holistic discussion on how to strengthen RPOs social role in the site territory of action. Ethics and Open Access is something that most researchers are very familiar with. By including these pillars when engaging with academia, discussions will be more easily facilitated due to researcher’s familiarity with specific RRI pillar. Even such approach has its benefits, we need to consider the benefits of more holistic approach to embedding RRI. By sticking to specific “more familiar” RRI keys we are retaining “status quo” with no chance of growth, by including other RRI keys through more holistic approach we are offering a way QH to grow. Considering other, not so “attractive”, RRI keys we offer openness and inclusiveness and a way to facilitate dialogue between different QH categories rather than choosing exclusively one RRI key that could be interesting to one QH category.
Reflection workshops with focus groups can be organised to reflect on joint challenges/lessons/processes and create trust for sustained alliances with other RPOs, university and multi-spheres institutions. Identify regional and national champions to be brought forward and benchmarking on science quality as gender equality, transdisciplinary or open access. GRRIP sites can propose to join forces among themselves as i.e establish a new role (i.e. Ethics adviser) co-founded and serving a network of institutions or organise joint training courses
The close involvement of policy makers at different levels in the site RRI process, can help in identifying explicit (i.e. migration policies, work permits, statistics laws, etc.) and implicit policy instruments (i.e. funding programs, tax incentives, RRI assessment and indicators as a pre-requisite for national calls participation, etc.) that need to be strengthened or redefine to support the sites- use as pilots – for RRI structural change.
The involvement of policy makers at national level is important and sites can attract their participation by justifying their need of data and experiences/expertise to support the monitoring of the UNESCO RS/SR recommendation on a 4-year basis, and in particular the gender equality issues that has a special organisational structure and priority in many European Member states. The promotion of success stories, at the national and local level, can also inspire change in other stakeholders and shall be done in cooperation with policy-makers covering the different territorial levels. Policymakers can participate in special focus groups discussion or/and be part of the Advisory board for the project/sites.
QH platforms can facilitate engagement and openness to QH. Case study demo sites should identify value areas and actions that might be of mutual benefit; consider:
- How institution supports community in area of innovation;
- Be careful of hidden stakeholders (e.g. fishermen and their wives; wives doing a lot of administration for fishermen);
- Finding opportunities for inclusion of QH around community and innovation.
GRRIP institutions cannot be expected to produce stakeholder engagement solely through their specific efforts, but depend also on the existence of a broader engagement ecosystem that reduces transaction costs and stabilises expectations across categories of stakeholders.