Yes SMEs are willing to be engaged to tackle “wicked problems” but… Read more about the case study about Udine Greenways done by Udine University here.
The first case study developed by the University of Udine team aimed at engaging SMEs to improve the covenant for Udine Greenways (UDG), a project run by the 9 municipalities in the Udine Urban System (Sistema Urbano Udinese, SUU). UDG aims at creating a local network of sustainable itineraries to connect and enhance the landscape, as well as the natural, cultural and economic realities of the SUU with an increasing involvement of all stakeholders. The main intermediary was the Agenda 21 Office within the municipality of Udine,whocoordinates UDG activities.
A participatory event was organised for 28th April 2015 with the purpose of introducing the UDG project and updating its original covenant which was aimed at businesses from the agricultural and hospitality sectors. Engaging SMEs from all business sectors would help make the covenant more relevant to a wider business spectrum and increase the incentives for any business to sign it. Over 20 entrepreneurs took part in the event, which turned out to be successful both for the UDG project,since the covenant was updated and improved upon, and for the purposes of the SME-DE project, as it demonstrated that SMEs can be effectively engaged on sustainability issues by intermediaries using deliberative engagementtechniques. Not everything,however,worked according to plan: not all stakeholders had been informed or fully shared UDG’s objectives, some stakeholders and trade associations were not very successful or interested inengaging their members and most SME leaders were neither familiar with participatory practices nor had they readthe information sent to them before the event. However, all participants during the eventexpressed their ideas, offered feedback and eventually reached consensus. At the end participantswere positive and satisfied because the event had reached a shared outcome and offered them an opportunity to build new networks. The SME leaders interviewed after the event wished for the relationships established on 28thApril to be fostered, for the UDG project to be developedfurther through a participatory approach and for extending the use ofdeliberative techniquesto other projects and policies.
Therefore, this case study showed that intermediaries can engage SMEs in discussing issues related to “wicked problems” such as climate change and that engagement processes can also be successful at triggering the creation of new SME collaborations. However, the case study also demonstratedthat for this to be true participative approaches need to be properly designed and implemented. Moreover, political will and inclusion of all stakeholders are key becausean intermediary depends on inputs and support from other institutions whose engagement is key for subsequently engaging SMEs.Lastly, membership-based intermediaries, such as trade associations,provedto be less effective at engaging SMEs than “arms’ length” intermediaries such as local authorities. Membership-based organizations rely primarily on membership fees and cannot afford to devote their efforts to “global commons” issues with unclear returns such as climate change, while “arms’ length” intermediaries are seen as able to facilitate the availability of additional assets.
The SME-DE project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web-site reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use, which may be made of the information contained therein.