Study shows a pressing need for pressing need for training intermediaries and SMEs on deliberative engagement approaches.
More training needed in Deliberative Engagement for intermediaries in order for them to effectively engage SMEs in reacting to climate change issues. This is one of the findings from the case study report from University of Udine on their second case study on Udine Greenways. Read more about the study and download the full case study report below.
The second case study developed by the University of Udine team looked at engaging local SMEs in proposing how to implement Udine Greenways (UDG) in more rural municipalities. Udine Greenways is a project run by the 9 municipalities in the Udine Urban System (SistemaUrbanoUdinese, SUU) which aims at creating a network of sustainable itineraries to nurture the environmental, cultural and social heritage as well as promote local businesses. This case study was to offer some ideas on how to transform UDG from a "good practice" to a strategic policy for land management, which could be then used to shape regional, if not national, policies.
The municipalities of Martignacco and Moruzzo were the intermediaries: the former is a founding member of the SUU and the UDG project, while the latter had just joined the network. They both wished to focus the development of UDG on promoting environmentally friendly and sustainable activities while supporting business networks. Fifteen SME leaders took part in the event organised on 26th May 2015, in order to discuss how businesses themselves can contribute to the sustainable promotion of their area and how they can network together. On this occasion, however, both intermediaries and business people were not at all used to participatory approaches and initially kept focusing only on narrow problems. Some of them did not actively participate in the workshop, possibly because they lacked knowledge about sustainability related issues and found deliberative techniques too confrontational. Eventually the facilitators from Udine University managed to get most participants involved in a meaningful discussion and to focus on big picture issues and key objectives of the event. The results were positive for both the intermediaries and the SME-DE project: sufficient entrepreneurs were effectively engaged and some concrete suggestions for both sustainable promotion and SMEs networks were made. Moreover, entrepreneurs asked local authorities to involve them in all future decisions and activities regarding UDG and similar projects.
This case study showed that there is a pressing need for training intermediaries and SMEs on deliberative engagement approaches, if these practices are to be successfully implemented. The presence of engagement specialists from Udine University facilitated the uptake of an active role by the intermediaries in involving SMEs. When engaging SMEs, organizational arrangements such as communications and confidence building measures have to be adapted from standard techniques designed originally for the engagement of citizens. Moreover, entrepreneurs often need to be better informed about climate change and sustainability issues. At the same time, the historic rapport with the intermediary influences the effectiveness of SMEs engagement: when the issues at stake were important or sensitive, deliberative engagement lead to a perceived loss of decision-making control by the intermediary who attempted to go back to their customary top-down practices, thus creating a non-ideal environment for engaging SMEs. SMEs themselves reacted more favourably when prodded by intermediaries perceived to be able and willing to deploy the assets (e.g. reputation, expertise, access to funding, network of contacts) that could help them achieve their objectives.
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