SURE Synergy Workshop 3: Stakeholder dialogue between sustainability science and society

“Stakeholder Dialogue between Sustainability Science and Society “– this was the topic of the third synergy workshop organised by the SURE Facilitation and Synthesis Research Project on 2nd December 2021. SURE is a funding priority of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, which focuses on research for sustainability (FONA strategy). The funded SURE collaborative projects have set themselves the task of developing concepts and solutions for sustainable urban and regional development in Southeast Asia and China.

Around 45 SURE researchers from Germany and the Asian partner countries took part in the online workshop and discussed challenges and opportunities how to incorporate stakeholder involvement methods and practices in their research projects and how they understand stakeholder dialogues between science and society.

To kick off the event, Dr Franziska Ehnert and Martin Krekeler gave lectures on best practice examples and current concepts of stakeholder participation. Scientific and practical perspectives on how to shape stakeholder dialogues between science and society as “co-creation” processes were presented and discussed.

In the second half of the workshop, the Build4People team, represented by the overall coordinator Dr Michael Waibel and by Dr Anke Blöbaum, leader of WP#1 “Behaviour Change”, introduced about Build4People’s methods and approaches for designing stakeholder involvement” and also mentioned about Build4People’s success and failure stories in this regard.

This was followed by a vivid open discussion among all participants covering several topics. For example, it was agreed upon that co-creation is an added value itself in the process which also deserves scientific analysis. It was also agreed upon, that the facilitation of transition experiments are already significant interventions.

It was also intensively debated on how to avoid the prevalent silo mentalities among local cooperation partners. In this context, the introduction of new innovative cross-cutting institutions (such as competence centres) or the use of new online tools (such as concept or miro boards) were discussed as adequate instruments for transparent digital information sharing across different stakeholder groups. In addition, it was highlighted that is important to create win-win situations among local stakeholders, to enable them to lower their transaction costs, to convince them to share relevant data, for example.

Furthermore, it was discussed that the co-creation of urban development requires resources (time and funding) for civil society stakeholders to really empower them. It was also mentioned about the dilemma, that the most powerful local stakeholders usually have the least of time to join dialogue-orientated multi-stakeholder formats.

Finally, it was agreed upon that besides all digital formats the building-up of long-term social connections and personal friendships are a key success factor for all SURE projects.

Thanks to the digital orientation of real labs, workshops and trainings, stakeholder networks could even be further expanded despite the pandemic-related restrictions. The stakeholder dialogues made a particular contribution to building trust for a sustainable partnership. The participants, however, now hope for the possibility of personal exchanges in the near future. This is essential for the development of reliable partnership relations.