Our session at this year’s European Week of Regions and Cities (EWRC, 7-10 October 2019) was designed to complement the array of engagement activities that we had set up at our kiosk only 20 meters away from where the session was held. From the outset, we wanted to stay true to the title of our session which is also the overarching goal of our project: to strengthen the public awareness of bioeconomy.
The Monday evening opening of our kiosk served as a fitting precursor to the session the next day, as we invited passers-by to come and chat and share ideas and experiences on bioeconomy. Already then, we observed and were impressed by the curiosity that visitors expressed regarding bioeconomy. We soon got a sense of the potential of EWRC 2019 and our session the next day; to connect with the broader public on issues pertaining to the bioeconomy.
The visual appeal and the overall design of the stands allowed us to accompany visitors through 3 different stages of engagement. First, through our videos and animated presentations that we looped on our screen, passers-by could catch a glimpse of images and visual stories about bioeconomy. Second, we invited those who were clearly curios about what they saw on the screen to hear more about the visuals and their purpose. This typically led to an explanation about BLOOM, what we’ve accomplished to date and sharing strategies to raise awareness even further. Third, we invited the visitors to take part in a 5-minute fun quiz on bioeconomy and afterwards would ask them to pin their region’s current bioeconomy activities as well as their future wishes for a thriving bioeconomy on an interactive map of Europe that we had set up.
Our session on Tuesday the 8th of October followed a similar pattern of participation. We started with a visual presentation of the project, its goals and structure, followed by a more detailed discussion on the engagement activities at the 5 BLOOM hubs and how the needs of different kinds of stakeholders are met through the workshops that we facilitate there. Last, we facilitated an interactive group discussion on the opportunities and challenges that comes with the transition to bioeconomy, fielding suggestions on how BLOOM can continue to raise awareness and influence policy. We quickly became comfortable with the sound technology provided – microphone and headphones – instead of the traditional open space discussion. This somehow combined the advantage of public speaking which is to address many people at the same time, with the deeper connection that one-on-one conversations brings. We were more than satisfied that a meaningful conversation was had on the state of bioeconomy in the regions and could map our next steps towards a an even wider impact. Have a look at the pictures of our session.
EWRC 2019 has provided us with the space and audience to test our ideas, take note of stakeholder feedback and consolidate our key messages for a more effective and responsive engagement with the broader public. The Bloom project is in better shape for having participated and will seek out future European Commission events to repeat the success we enjoyed at EWRC 2019!
“Listen to concrete experiences of citizens. Be less technical and more bottom up, face to face as well as online. Rely on local and regional partners and give quality time for the dialogue with citizens.”