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Why every single stakeholder matters – The MARINA Project

by - Viktoria Brunner


MARINA morning session © Visuality Norma NARDY

MARINA morning session © Visuality Norma NARDY


On the 11th of May 2017, 17 people gathered in a seminar room at a French aquarium, committed to working in an international workshop for nine hours on a subject that each of them had a unique and incomparable relationship with. These personal relationships with the workshop’s hot topic are exactly the reason why on that day, all the participants taught one another an important lesson.

About the project

Nausicaa (Centre National de la Mer) is not just an aquarium but an active partner in international projects and therefore hosts events, meetings and workshops. The MARINA project is one of the on-going projects of the aquarium.

MARINA is a H2020 project and based on the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). RRI demands that the whole project and its outcomes are covered by the following five key dimensions: Gender Equality, Open Access, Science Education, Public Engagement and Ethics. Please look up the RRI tools if you want to know more about it (“RRI tools” is a former H2020 project). 


Working in workshops and influencing policies

The MARINA project has created a platform with the aim of promoting RRI and assembling stakeholders of the marine and maritime domain. In order to fuse virtual and real-life exchange between those stakeholders, workshops are organized on different marine and maritime subjects. In a nutshell: the workshops’ outcomes will be presented to the European Commission and ought to help inform decision-making on policies.

As 2017 is the year of sustainable tourism and the town in which the workshop was held (Boulogne-sur-Mer) is known for its local seafood production, Nausicaa’s workshop’s topic was: Maritime Cuisine Meets Sustainable Tourism. Marine biologists, teachers, translators, workers for environmental organizations as well as concerned citizens found their way to Nausicaa by having learned about it by word of mouth mostly.  


The structuring of ideas 

The workshop was organized by Iwona Gin (Nausicaa) and animated by Yiannis Laouris and Katerina Fotiou (CNTI), using the Structured Dialogic Design Process (SDDP), a methodology encouraging democratic dialogue among a group of stakeholders. A computer software supported the process. The following is a very simplified description of what happened that day:

Ideas: Each participant was asked to present their ideas that could answer the triggering question of the workshop: “What types of Responsible Research and Innovation actions should be put in place so that sustainable seafood production and consumption could contribute to competitive and sustainable coastal and maritime tourism in Europe?

Some of the participants didn't work in the touristic nor in the seafood domain – but regardless of background and profession, each participant perfectly presented their own ideas for the triggering question.

1st Voting: In a next step, the participants voted for the ideas that would best present an answer to the triggering question.

Influences: Looking at the elected ideas, the participants decided by super majority whether an idea would significantly help in achieving another (by comparing two ideas at a time and subsequently voting “Yes” if they saw an influence or “No” if they didn’t).

2nd Voting: Afterwards, in a second round of voting, participants were to vote for those ideas that hadn’t received any votes in the first round of voting.

New Influences: The newly chosen ideas were then compared to the earlier chosen ideas and, again, the participants decided by voting whether they had influences on one another.  




Workshop outcomes

So it happened that one idea that hadn’t received any votes in the first voting process (but was picked out in the second voting process!), showed influences on a handful of other ideas. Relevance was defined by influence and influence is power so why would we have automatically excluded the ideas that no one voted for in the first place and therefore denied them importance? A focus on the ideas that were left out in the first voting process proved to be crucial.

What the participants had produced in the end, was a roadmap of influence patterns of ideas: In order to implement a certain idea (or action, as they were called by then), other actions have to be implemented first, and so on.

The last step was to define S.M.A.R.T. actions (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound) for each of the actions in the road map.

The workshop took a whole day of reflecting, discussing and voting. If you’re looking for a real time killer, please feel free to watch the whole workshop or parts of it here!:

What difficulties did the MARINA project encounter on the way?

First of all: a workshop like this requires a lot of organization and foresight. Moreover, recruitment for workshops is difficult. The title of the workshop might have potential to attract a dozen of different professions and connoisseurs, but doesn’t necessarily do so. Especially citizens who represent themselves might feel discouraged from participating when the topic seems complex (indeed, two persons felt they wouldn’t be able to contribute and annulled their participation). In hindsight, maybe communication tools lacked incentives for those citizens.

But what the MARINA “workshoppers” could take home with them from that day was exactly this: By voting for certain entities you also dismiss other potentially influential parts. And this workshop was not only about ideas, it was about the ideas coming from individuals that had made individual experiences with the topic of the day. So why would we exclude stakeholders that might not seem significantly relevant for a decision-making process and deny them competence without considering their "hidden" influence?

A lesson you can learn from this project

MARINA doesn’t just target experts, but all those that may be interested in marine and maritime subjects. So if you feel concerned, get involved in subjects that attract you and don’t underestimate the influence that may be coming from you. Of course, complete equality among stakeholders is rare but we all have a potential power to influence decision-making outcomes, no matter the subject. Stakeholders are not just external parts of a system – it’s literally them who hold in their hands everything that is at stake.

Original version