How is Societal Engagement organised?

In order to develop a societal engagement plan, three essential aspects have to be addressed:

  1. The company’s conditions and resources
    These are the available skills, knowledge, time, space and budget that can be used for organising societal engagement. It also involves an awareness of underlying expectations and interests, and values in regards to technological innovation. It can also include individual and collective learning for future impact.
  2. The facilitation
    When engaging with citizens, you need a skilled facilitator to lead the activities. This is someone who knows how to design a participatory process, by choosing the relevant methods and being able to communicate appropriately with he audience.
  3. The method, activities, tools and materials.
    Choosing the appropriate method, with the corresponding activities, tools and materials is crucial in order to
    get the desired outcomes.

Considering these three aspects of societal engagement is important to set up the process for success. In this section, we will go into more detail for each of the aspects, giving you insights, recommendations and practical tips.

Which resources are required?

It is often underestimated which resources are needed for societal engagement, so we offer here an overview of the practical requirements of undertaking and organising a societal engagement process.

    First of all, there has to be a strong intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to undertake societal engagement. We have
    addressed some possible motivational factors in the previous section, and hope that you can find further reasons
    when defining your goal why it might be beneficial for you and for society.
  • TIME
    Societal engagement is time intensive as there are several steps that need to be undertaken to make the actual
    event a success
    You will need a dedicated person, either i n house or external facilitator, to engage with the citizens in the right way,
    using appropriate methods.
    Having a network, encompassing both partners for collaboration on societal engagement and connections to
    associations or organisations that work directly with citizens, will help in recruiting participants. You will also benefit
    from social media channels to reach a wider audience.
    A budget might be necessary if you wish to outsource facilitation, rent a space, provide catering and travel
    reimbursement and purchase appropriate tools and materials.
    The location, type of space, and room arrangement are all important to consider when engaging with people.

How do you facilitate activities?

Facilitation of societal engagement activities requires certain skills There are two options to engage citizens: through in house facilitation or by outsourcing the facilitation to professional facilitators. Facilitation skills combine a set of techniques that need to be deployed in particular contexts, but it also demands significant experience in facilitating these encounters. This experience is of utmost importance for dealing with a diversity of participants and in situations where things don’t go as planned. Facilitation requires being both able to plan to use relevant methods and activities, and have the flexibility to know when and how how to steer unexpected situations into the right direction when new opportunities arise at an event. Facilitation profiles and experiences are critical for deploying successfully societal engagement activities around innovative technology. Facilitators develop a significant number of activities oriented to establish a climate of trust, empathy and collaboration.

The role of the facilitator is to:

  • Create speculative exercises that allow participants to brainstorm about tangible, potential day
    to day scenarios involving innovative technologies in order to stimulate active engagement and brings about new insights. It is not about dissemination of specialised technology to inform participants, because this makes engagement more difficult.
  • Ensure that a diverse range of perspectives is heard, allowing space for all participants to actively engage, and to focus on nurturing long term relationships and initiatives. It is important to remember that facilitators are not completely neutral, and therefore need to be open to reflect on their own assumptions and expectations, and to be challenged by the participants’ points of view.
  • Ensure not only individual, but also collective learning in order to challenge underlying conflicts of interests and redirect these towards a common, long term goal.

Which methods can be used to engage people using in-house facilitation?

Here, we would like to provide insight into the process of designing societal engagement events and offer specific methods, activities, tools and materials for you to employ. There are no right methods for particular technologies, innovations or fields of knowledge, but the choice of method to engage people depends on the goal, the desired outcome(s) and the type of participants. Methods are related to different social dynamics and are needed for establishing connection with people and exploring synergies between participants. Methods have to be chosen according to the various stages of the event that build up the process of engagement, for example starting with an ice-breaker, creating space for sharing perspectives and active listening, providing an inclusive platform for brainstorming and providing adequate tools to find consensus and make the necessary decisions to achieve a clear outcome.

We recommend that you start with simple methods and tools, as this is the best way to familiarise yourself with them. Be aware not to overburden participants with complex dynamics and exercises. Methods and tools are intrinsically intertwined with facilitation skills and experience, and this should be stressed when implementing methods and techniques into the process of societal engagement.

Facilitating a Process of Engagement

Before starting the event

  • Define a clear goal and outcome for your workshop.
  • Decide on the type of participants that you need to achieve this goal.
  • Based on the goal and participants, choose the most relevant method, tools and materials. On the right, we offer relevant methods for you, specially designed for your context and requiring few facilitation skills.
  • Decide on the number of facilitators, depending on the number of participants. It is good to have one facilitator per group of up to 7 participants.
  • Consider having a note taker and a photographer present at the workshop.
  • Prepare a clear introduction for the workshop including personal introduction(s), larger mission, goal of workshop.
  • Always bring the following materials with you: a notepad, paper, pens and markers (enough for all participants),
    post its.

During the event

  • Start every workshop with an icebreaker for the participants to feel at ease.
  • Invite discussions through stimulating questions, rather than by educating or informing people.
  • Do things actively rather than taking a philosophical approach.
  • Clarify how the insights will lead to tangible outcomes.
  • At the end of the workshop, summarise or conclude the meeting and tell the participants what the next steps will be.

After the event

  • Follow up with the participants with a ‘thank you’ and further information, and ask for feedback.
  • Evaluate the event and analyse the feedback in order to improve future events.
  • Analyse the outcomes and decide how to use the outcomes further.





The Tech Industry’s Guide has been created as part of the EU-funded SocKETs project, which aims to align innovative technologies with citizens’ needs and values through societal engagement. This 3-year project is coordinated by the Danish Board of Technology with partners from six countries.

This guide and its contents reflect only their authors’ view. The Research Executive Agency and the European Commission are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.

The SocKETs project (Societal Engagement with Key Enabling Technologies) has received funding from the European Union´s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation under grant agreement no.958277.