Panta Rhei - The Procedural Demand for an Iterative Design of Multi-Actor Engagement Processes

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The growing role played by active participation in public policy, reinforced by the adoption of the Convention of Aarhus in 1998 became more and more integrated in societal relevant projects and environmental planning processes. Unluckily an unfortunate combination of methodical uncertainty, time constraints and preconceived political intentions resulted in a lack of confidence and mistrust of these processes on the citizens´ and stakeholders´ side. Simultaneously experts and researchers developed severe doubts as to the relevance of the civil societies input and sometimes even open hostility towards any process of engagement. The attempt to introduce methodical strictness and standardized formats (like focus groups, scenario workshops, open space, fish-bowls etc.) was a consequence in order to try and re-establish enthusiasm and trust on all sides. This strategy has failed. However, multi-actor and public engagement is today a cross-cutting demand in any science, technology or planning project.
Nearly 20 years of practical experience “in the field” confirmed that participative processes have to be well planned from the beginning but must remain flexible at any moment. The choice of methodology, format, venue and logistics requires a constant adaptation to the ever-changing contexts of real-life along the project´s lifetime.
“Panta Rhei - Everything changes and nothing remains still” is therefore the basic paradigm for the design of any successful multi-actor engagement process, that genuinely targets the creation of knowledge alliances between experts, stakeholders and civil society in order to support consensus oriented conflict management and collaborative decision making.
Insight in case studies will be presented and the authors will show how the consecutive lessons learnt led to a grounded sureness that the existing challenge of institutionalizing and systematizing the practice of engagement must not target to convince reluctant institutions to trial engagement but aim at the development of a collaborative community of practice.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventInterdisciplinary Futures: Open the Social Sciences 20 Years Later - Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisboa, Portugal
Duration: 19 Jan 201720 Jan 2017


ConferenceInterdisciplinary Futures
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