The monitoring and evaluation of the experiences of the 20 SHERPA Multi-Actor Platforms (MAPs) resulted in valuable insights on how to effectively establish and run MAPs to engage science, society and policy actors in a meaningful way in the formulation of policy and the research agenda on rural development?
The balanced composition of the MAP requires ongoing attention of the MAP teams. For the second MAP cycle, some MAPs have targeted specific underrepresented groups like youth, elderly or more remote populations. While running the MAPs, teams have achieved a better understanding of the specific interest and intentions of each MAP member and gained experience how to design the dialogue in a way that will facilitate the accomplishment of their goals. This is an important basis for establishing a meaningful dialogue. Meeting the diverse needs and interests of civil society actors seems most challenging and this is a focus in the further operation of the MAPs.
The experiences show that working on the same topic across MAPs provides possibility to exchange with other MAPs and join forces on this topic. However, MAPs also need flexibility and room to adapt to changing circumstances, to select topics that are of interest to the actors. It is worth mentioning that the SHERPA Discussion Paper succeeded in providing a basis for the MAP dialogue and broadened the horizon of the MAPs. Translating general research findings to enrich the local or national MAPs, is challenging and requires further experimentation and learning.
A MAP dialogue is a continuous process of building relations and trust, stimulating participation in activities, ensuring equal space to express, making all feel heard, inviting dialogue and debate, and monitoring the level of satisfaction.
Overall, the MAP teams did an excellent job within the challenging COVID crisis. MAP members were satisfied with the process and expressed an interest to continue to participate in the MAP dialogue.
Members from all three actor groups are generally satisfied with the MAP Position Paper and SHERPA Position Paper and recognise their input. Some MAPs have promising experiences with strengthening MAP dynamics by organising follow-up activities at local, regional and/or national levels. For the added value and, thus, the longevity of the actor engagement, it is important to further explore and develop ways to connect with existing structures and institutions, and strengthen the delivery of messages to different levels of policy-making.
The current MAP cycle heavily depends on written material. This unwantedly favours science and research actors over the engagement of civil society actors, and especially of marginalised or less connected groups in rural areas. It is important to develop more diverse oral and visual ways of information exchange, and better connect to the preferred means of communication of these specific groups. Furthermore, SHERPA could support the movement of rural engagement in policy-making, by provide a forum for finding allies on specific topics and join forces to voice the rural perspective in policy processes. It is valuable to capitalise on the experiences of the first phase and experiment with emerging alternative ideas.
The current SHERPA process and MAP cycle seem to work as mechanisms for engaging actors in the formulation of policy and research agendas. The contribution of the MAPs to the ‘Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas’ has been substantial and has been evaluated positively by MAPs and policy-makers. Ensuring added value of the SHERPA process and the MAP cycle for each of the actor groups is crucial for MAP longevity. The main added value of SHERPA is influencing policy and research agendas to better reflect and address the needs and ambitions of rural areas.
The monitoring and evaluation of the first phase resulted in a learning agenda on Science, Civil society, Policy interfaces which summarises the encountered challenges and ideas for improvement as learning questions to foster curiosity and support ongoing learning on the creation of effective and sustainable Science-Society-Policy interfaces during the second phase.
We invite you all to read the report of these findings available online and let us know your thoughts on these lessons learned.