Learnings from PRO-Ethics 2nd Cross-Learning Workshop

On the mornings of the 20 and 21 April 2022, the PRO-Ethics RFO partners gathered to discuss their initial work with participatory pilots. The main goals were to promote mutual exchange among the RFOs, by sharing each other’s challenges and lessons learned, to draw inspiration and new ideas for next steps, and to discuss practical and ethical dimensions of participation.

PRO-Ethics' second Cross-Learning Workshop was organised and hosted by partner DBT, with assistance by ZSI, the project coordinator.

Pilots challenges – how to recruit and involve in the right way?
On the first day, the cross-learning process started by sharing the current state of affairs at each pilot, after which we moved on to explore the different challenges identified, and finally jointly planned steps for possible solutions. Although the shared challenges were unique to each pilot’s current implementation stage, the main identified issues were common to all pilots and revolved around recruitment and engagement. Some questions raised were: “how to recruit a heterogenous group in terms of number, experiences and perspectives for the relevant topics”, “how to ensure that everyone participates on equal terms”, or even “how to deal with vulnerable groups”. RFOs had opportunity to discuss these issues both in plenary and one-on-one sessions, so they could learn from each other’s experiences in different settings.

“Breaking down ethical principles into practical tools”
On the second day, a few pre-determined themes were the starting point for discussion, based on previous input collected from interviews done to the RFOs. The goal was to reflect and expand on the ethical responsibilities and practical issues that RFO’s must deal with when they open their processes to participation. Based on this, RFOs were tasked to elaborate on a mind-map and to pick freely one topic to discuss. Two tracks were then created on the Ethics Framework and Guidelines and Participatory Methods. In the first one, suggestions were made on how the draft version of the Ethics Framework might be improved, by reflecting the funding agencies in a more detailed way. Specifically, “[breaking] down ethical principles into practical tools”, so the Framework becomes easier to handle and put into practice.

“Learning by doing” – some tentative recommendations
Despite the early stage of the pilot implementation, RFOs have already collected valuable insights and experience throughout the course of their operations. As such, one commonly agreed idea was to create an “inventory or bank of RFOs experiences” accessible to all. This way, the knowledge being produced by the RFOs in this empirical phase would not get lost and could be revisited. Another common takeaway was that RFOs are “learning by doing”. Because it is a pilot undertaking and most RFOs have not carried out participatory activities before, the general feeling is that they are learning through each step, and they need to be flexible during the process. Due to this, some RFOs also pointed out the need for continued interaction and exchange among the pilots.

Photo: Screenshot of the workshop “takeaways” on the interactive board from day 2.
Published: 05.05.2022