How projects still can make themselves heard and how virtual alternatives can serve the required needs was discussed with eleven projects in the webinar “Bioeconomy Communication and Stakeholders’ engagement in times of COVID-19” organised by EuBionet for an exchange and discussion on how these challenges could be addressed. Like the other projects, BLOOM , under the title “Can you hear me” – presented main obstacles envisaged during the outreach and how the project partners tried to overcome them as it has been experienced and collected by hub partners.
In BLOOM the co-created developed activities were planned to be held in a non-virtual environment. Therefore, being no longer able to stick to initial concepts, the five regional bioeconomy hubs had to be flexible and creative to change the formats of the activities. Additionally, they needed more time for the preparation of the (revised) events, some of the events had to be cancelled or postponed, the outreach teams had to struggle with missing technical skills, both of the audience but also of staff, and constantly, they had to face an increasing number of online events from many projects, which meant a competition on time and attention. Furthermore, less personal interaction with the targeted groups was complemented by online “multitasking”, meaning the poor presence and focus of participants to just a single activity in front of the computer.
How to catch this attention and how to engage participants and create lively and interesting events?
In BLOOM , but not only in our project, partners revised the structure of their events, shortened them, put fewer programs in it and tried to make them more interactive, like using MIRO boards or SLIDO. They used various formats and introduced bio-based products virtually, as they would have done in face-to-face events. Quizzes or informative cards, videos and produced educational materials found their application here as well. BLOOM partners even organised virtual field visits or applied a serious Lego play online.
The EuBionet webinar on 12th of November 2020 allowed discussion of the requirements necessary for successful events and exchanged them with other bioeconomy projects. Consistent recommendations were:
Somehow unexpectedly, the Corona induced switch to online formats not only caused difficulties, but also offered new opportunities. Saving time and money for travel was one of these advantages, also being able to reach out for remote areas, interlink different countries or enable the participation in events which would have been less accessible otherwise. Also, events could be recorded and as such be accessible to a wider audience after the event as well. In general, all partners learned new skills and created flexible ideas.
All in all BLOOM ’s recommendations to organise shorter events but more often and to use different styles, different subjects, different channels to connect, different techniques and tools found a clear echo by other projects, also agreeing to accept that things will go wrong.
The EuBionet workshop successfully connected BLOOM with other related projects and opened the virtual door for future cooperation to enhance exchange of knowledge and ideas and also to join forces for activities and further strategies and conceptual steps in raising awareness for the bio-based economy and related research and innovation.