Dialogue workshops bring together researchers, policy makers, NGOs and concerned citizens to share and debate results of research, and assess implications for policy making.
These pioneering workshops have gradually replaced the ‘topdown’ approach, where experts disseminated information after consulting the citizens. The workshops involve people who have practical knowledge and can provide useful feedback as well as influence policy processes. To date, workshops have been held on a range of topics including: employment funding, family and welfare, European citizenship, migration and social cohesion of migrants, racism and xenophobia.
The workshop "Global trade and globalising society: Challenges for governance, economic development and sustainability" (December 2000) was organised to provide scientific input into international trade policy and to the debate on the relationship between trade and social issues, such as labour rights, health, and environment protection. Workshop sessions discussed ways of combining economic growth with sustainability and social acceptability, examined problems and prospects for increasing the accountability of international institutions, and debated the effect of EU plans for regional development on its strategy for global development.
The aim of these conferences, which fall under the auspices of the EU Presidencies, is to link research results with policy priorities of particular relevance to the Presidencies. Thus the Portuguese conference was entitled "Towards the learning society: Innovation and competence building with social cohesion for Europe", the French one was entitled "Les sciences de l’homme et de la société dans l’Europe de la recherche, rencontres internationales", while the Swedish Presidency conference dealt with "Europe with a human face: Towards a European public sphere – a challenge for the humanities and social sciences", and Belgium’s was on "Unity and diversity: The contribution of social sciences and the humanities to the European Research Area".
Portuguese Presidency conference
The conference "Towards the learning society" (May 2000) reflected the Portuguese Presidency’s priority for innovation and social cohesion. The conference looked at socio-economic trends and strategies to promote learning societies, competence building and social cohesion. By helping to establish interaction between academics and policy makers, it set the agenda for future social-economic research. Its sessions covered new skills and competence building, institutional innovation and social structure, and changing working patterns.