When should societal engagement take place?

Societal engagement is profitable anytime in the research and innovation process. If done early in the process, when potential applications and uses are less evident, engaging citizens can inspire innovation by discussing societal needs, brainstorming on technology’s potential, considering ethical implications and anticipating negative impacts. If done at a more advanced stage, closer to commercialization, engaging citizens can bring forward a more concrete discussion on ethical and societal implications of the product once it will be on the market. The risk is, however, that such discussions focus too much on the user and the product’s functionality, rather than working on a pre-emptive stage. We recommend, therefore, to bring in societal engagement as early as possible in the innovation process, when the larger perspective can be discussed and subsequently the appropriate decisions and measures can be taken.

Planning the event
Societal engagement requires a generous amount of time to plan and to organise. In particular, the recruitment process can be challenging and time intensive. Participatory processes demand a high degree of anticipation and flexibility to react to unexpected issues that can occur at any time. We therefore recommend starting several months in advance and making sure to take time for all the steps outlined in this guide. Understanding the rationale and setting clear goals will prove beneficial to a successful outcome from the event itself. It is furthermore crucial to put time aside after the event, to analyse the outcome(s) and implement them within the innovation plan.

The event day and time should consider your target audience’s availability. If you are inviting citizens, it is best to organise the event in the after-hours or the weekend. If you are targeting societal actors who are actively engaged in an organisation, the event could fall within their standard meeting time, if agreed with the representatives


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.