|The main objectives of the BLOOM project are to raise awareness on the bioeconomy and to establish open and informed dialogues, co-created by European citizens, civil society, bioeconomy innovation networks, local research centres, business and industry stakeholders and various levels of government. BLOOM is creating spaces for the needed debate on preferences and values concerning the bioeconomy; for interaction and exchange of information, knowledge, meaning and aspirations, with the aim of establishing consensus on how a bioeconomy can be realized. Across Europe, five regional hubs have been established to foster public engagement in the bioeconomy and to create a space of exchange and debate. The hubs are focusing on different areas important to the regions.|
The Dutch bioeconomy hub of the BLOOM project had scheduled many outreach activities on bioeconomy in 2020 – and then the Corona crisis came. Nevertheless, the Dutch hub and the other 4 regional bioeconomy hubs got creative in how to still do meaningful outreach activities during these special times, be it online formats or smaller face-to-face formats. We talked with Elianne Rookmaaker, project manager from the municipality of Wageningen, who shared with us some insights about the challenges the Dutch hub was facing in the implementation of events during the Corona crisis.
“We planned an interactive talk at the public library of Wageningen about the BLOOM project, which had already been scheduled months before. In the same week a small exhibition in one of the vacant shops in the city center was planned, where people could just drop in and get some explanation about bioeconomy from researchers and other experts who are involved in the project. Because of COVID-19 there were more and more restrictions, so in the end only the exhibition could take place. The interactive talk at the library had to be postponed.
But thanks to the BLOOM bioeconomy exhibition in the vacant shop, we had some interesting conversations with local inhabitants. Some of them read about the project in the local newspaper, and they were interested in and curious to get more information about bioeconomy. Through these conversations we soon realised that the distance between researchers and academic theories, on the one side, and “the man in the street” on the other side, is often even bigger than we thought. We struggle to make the concepts of bioeconomy easily graspable and understandable for everyone. We received some very valuable feedback and new ideas on how to make this knowledge even more accessible by making the context simpler and easier to understand. We also got positive feedback on the practical demonstration of bioeconomy products and processes. For instance, we showed fresh, locally grown Miscanthus (Elephant Grass) – a fast-growing grass that can be used to produce bio-polymers, bio-concrete, paper and cardboard as a basis for a variety of biobased products. By showcasing products, visitors were able to grasp the different steps of the production process much easier.
The exhibition also attracted the attention of local and regional media, especially since the exhibition was targeting local inhabitants in the city center, and not focusing just on scientists.
In order for the bioeconomy to become part of our daily lives, I think it is crucial to find ambassadors among the local inhabitants who can tell others in everyday language about the benefits of a sustainable bioeconomy. The challenge is that even the term bioeconomy itself is not well understood by the majority of people.
Even though it is a pity that nearly all planned events got cancelled, we used the situation as a chance to do a smaller prototype exhibition, which taught us two important lessons:
a) The municipality, local inhabitants and entrepreneurs are enthusiastic and eager to learn more about bioeconomy and they are open and positive towards the subject of bioeconomy.
b) It is crucial to narrow the knowledge gap between the professionals/researchers and the people in the street, and to avoid jargon.”
Interview with Elianne Rookmaaker, municipality of Wageningen