What effects did the engagement exercise have?
In the course of five large workshops and eight rounds of written consultations, the project received more than 1,100 questions and suggestions in writing including critical remarks. Each comment and question was considered and responded to in writing by GRACE team members. All stakeholder comments and GRACE team responses are available.
In the course of the reflexive task, we reviewed the material from the stakeholder consultations and collected feed-back from participants via questionnaires and interviews. From this task a more comprehensive picture emerged how stakeholder comments effectively shaped the project.
We can illustrate this by drawing on the example of the planning consultation on draft study plans for the 90-day animal feeding trials with GM maize MON810. We received a total of 146 comments and questions in writing, 63 of which were adopted or clarified in the final study plan or elsewhere. Some comments were beyond the scope of the GRACE project, a number of comments could not be accommodated because the requirements of the funding contract with the European Commission and the inflexibility in the budget and timeframe did not allow us to do so.
GRACE team member’s feedback also highlighted that stakeholder contributions and their systematic considerations was very helpful to be more reflective of their own work. It helped in prioritising review questions (in the context of the evidence synthesis works stream), pointing to knowledge gaps, improving the presentation of outcomes, and clarifying the conclusions and recommendations. However, the impact of stakeholder comments in the research process seem to differ considerably between topics and research teams in GRACE with some claiming very little impacts of stakeholder comments.
With respect to mutual learning and trust we are still in the process to analyse the feedback from team members and stakeholders but can make a few observations: in the questionnaires many team members and stakeholders indicated that GRACE contributed to building trust. (Mutual) learning particularly referred to productive ways of interaction. Some team members felt that they learned about stakeholder concerns, that the project was able to capture additional viewpoints, and that it contributed to reducing misunderstandings.