Who to recruit as participants?
Citizens and Societal Actors
Until now, we have been talking about engaging with citizens . It is, however, not straight forward to recruit citizens, because it requires sparking people’s interest and asking for their time to be involved in something that citizens might not see the direct benefit of. This is why we make a distinction between ‘citizens’ and ‘societal actors’, because it is easier to reach societal actors. Citizens are individuals that make up the general public, whereas societal actors are individuals who act within a collective towards a societal goal. If you find relevant societal actors, it will be easier to invite them to participate.
Define your Audience
Once you have defined a clear goal for engaging citizens, you need to define who your ideal target group is. Anyone can be considered a citizen, but what kind of citizens or societal actors would inform your tech development and your company’s innovation plan? If, for example, you are working in sustainable housing, you can invite a diverse group of residents from a specific building, but you can also look further into other relevant societal actors whose input could be valuable, such as neighbourhood representatives, municipality stakeholders or activist groups.
Below is a sketch of an innovation eco system, which you can use to map out the stakeholders who are relevant to your tech innovation.
Focus in particular on the societal actors and citizens who are the contextual actors. Which network contacts do you already have, that could be used, and which new ones could be made?
To reach a competitive innovation system all societal actors should be involved
Research and Development Coordinator, ISEA, Innovation Center of the Mondragón Corporation
Choose ways to reach out
The next step is to think of practical ways to reach out to your target audience. If you have connections through your network, you can send out personal invitations which often results in a higher number of registrations. For targeting citizens, you can use social media (marketing features) in connection with a registration page. For societal actors, you can directly contact the organisation or community representatives to enquire how best to invite people.
It is important to formulate a clear message to prospective participants. Why should they care to participate in your event? How can they benefit from participating, and how will their contribution be used? It is important to emphasise that no specialized technological knowledge is required – showing up and sharing their own experiences, thoughts and concerns is all that is needed. Ultimately, the point of societal engagement is to improve people’s lives by aligning their needs and values to your services/products. Therefore, the message should be that you hope to empower people through their participation.
How important is the involvement of civil society organisations and citizens?
Italian Association of Private Construction Contractors (ANCE)
In order to get participants, it is important to:
- Describe the event in a way that stimulates people’s curiosity and triggers their interest to participate.
- Explain clearly why people should participate and what they can gain from it.
- Use normal language rather than technical or research jargon.
- Introduce your activity with stimulating questions and an active vocabulary.
- Explain which tangible outcomes can be expected and, if possible, how they will be acted upon.
- Schedule the event in the after-hours or weekends so that it is not during working hours.
When contacting people and receiving personal data, it is important to have a GDPR strategy in place. Consult with your in house GDPR representative on this process. If there is a registration form, it might be necessary to ask the registrant for permission to collect their data and store it for a limited amount of time.
The benefits of collaborating with various stakeholders
Some further tips:
- When recruiting citizens, find alliances or collaboration with local community groups interested in the topic (for instance, social housing organisations, pensioners’ groups, schools).
- When promoting societal engagement activities it is useful to have a connection with associations or organisations that work directly with citizens.
- Reflect upon and define the type of participants that are relevant according to the objectives and goal of the societal engagement. Particularly, when engaging with citizens, an early definition of the type of citizens to be involved in the process is needed.
- Citizens should be involved early in the process to incorporate their voices into technological development, to call into question potential implications of technology and innovation, as well as for advancing future technologies with great societal transformation power.
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.
Map out your target participants
Use the image to map out the stakeholders who are relevant to your field of development. Focus in particular on the contextual actors and whether you have any other relevant connections that fall under ‘others’.
Case example: recruitment is difficult
In the project case of our Danish partners, healthcare professionals were recruited through a diversity of methods such as direct phone calls, contact with trade unions, through nursing homes, and through postings on diverse social media forums dedicated to healthcare professionals. This last method was particularly effective, resulting in the enrolment of two healthcare professionals.
Citizens were recruited through social media forums, with Facebook advertisements, and directly by
contacting the union of Danish patients through phone calls. The recruitment process for the
second workshop was long and arduous, but the lab managed to recruit 27 participants.
Case example: collaborating with organisations
Inviting citizens to a workshop can be challenging and it can make sense to collaborate with civil society organisations to reach citizens. A good example of this is the project case from our partners in Italy. They planned two workshops for citizens. The workshops were both hosted in collaboration with a housing association that helped recruit participants and provided a space for the workshops , which had a friendly, familiar environment so that citizens felt comfortable. To enable citizens to take part in the discussion, the workshops’ duration was 2 hours and was held in the late afternoon at 17:00 19:00. The workshop was well organised and the facilitators gained many insights from the engagement with citizens.
Questions to consider
To answer the following questions about your company’s current practice on engaging with citizens, use the direct link below for the relevant page in the PDF Guidebook..
- Which groups of citizens would you like to get to know better, and why?
- How will you reach out to citizens and/or societal actors?
- Who is your target user, and who is not? Would it be relevant to engage with the latter?
- Which obstacles do you have to engage citizens, and how can you overcome them?
- What expectations do you have about prospective participants?
- Which assumptions do you have about your participants’ perspectives and values?
- What kind of outcomes do you expect the participants to contribute to?