Introduction to the Dialogue Space

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Introduction to the Dialogue Space

1. What is the MAGIC-NEXUS Dialogue Space?

The Dialogue Space is a hybrid space in which science’s input to policy will take place within a richer spectrum of actors and competences relevant for the MAGIC-NEXUS project activities. It offers a set of tools for online engagement, allowing the implementation of both asynchronous and synchronous dialogues.

The main objectives of the online space are: 

  1. to create an online space for dialogue between MAGIC team members, scientific experts and European staff working in different offices (DGs, Eurostat, Offices of the European Parliament); 
  2. to extend the number and the type of social actors involved in the knowledge sharing and in the quality check the social robustness of the narratives behind the framing of the nexus;
  3. to provide relevant information of the activities taking place around the MAGIC-NEXUS Project in a format that is both more accessible and more understandable to the target audience of the online dialogues in order to allow a more informed participation.

 

2. What are the main features of the Dialogue Space?

Below is present the main features of the Dialogue Space. Click on each item to know more.

Virtual Engagement Room »

Web application that enables a pre-selected group of people to have a remote and distributed discussion on a specific issue. For this purpose, several tools are available to help the participants express their opinions and ideas such as live video conference (ideally maximum of 10 participants), group chat, shared file viewer, online surveys, collaborative whiteboard/Mind Map tool, and share your screen functionality.

  • Synchronous (real time) discussions: Sessions are characterised for being time specific (all participants must join the session at a specific time) and time limited (usually lasting one hour at most).
  • Private discussions: Participants are specifically invited to contribute to the discussions thus access to each session is restricted to invited/authenticated users.
  • Moderated discussions: Requires at least one moderator that conducts the session, assists the participants and controls any disruptive behaviour.
Discussion Forum »

Users can exchange open messages around specific issues. It usually comprises a list of topics people are concerned about, and users can pick a topic, see a “thread” of messages, reply and/or post their own messages.

  • Asynchronous discussions: Participants do not need to be online simultaneously to receive or send messages and the discussion is usually extended over longer periods, such as of days or weeks rather than hours.
  • Public and Private discussions: Discussion forums are normally open and anyone can read the comments although it is also possible to have private discussions. In any case, users have to be registered in order to post and reply to comments.
  • Moderated discussions: Requires at least one moderator (ideally a team of moderators) dedicated to the forum. Hence, staff time needs to be allocated to moderate, support and facilitate the discussions as well as to control any disruptive behaviour, analyse the contributions and produce a report of the discussion.
Ask a Question »

Feature that allows a question to be posted and answered by others in a Q&A system style. Includes the selection of the best/correct answer by question author, voting on best answers by the participants, email notifications, question tags and question status labels (open, close, duplicate), and comments on answers.

  • Asynchronous: Participants can access and answer to the main question as they desire as long as the question is still in open status.
  • Public: Questions can be answer by anyone as long as they are registered in the platform. Responses are visible to other participants / users.
  • Self-moderation: Moderation is minimal from staff. System relies of self-moderation based on the contribution of the participants and the use of comments on answers.
Online Surveys »

Self-administered questionnaires implemented around a mix number of pre-identified close-ended and open-ended questions. Can be designed to allow elaborate skip patterns through questions, instructions per question, and drop down boxes providing list of alternative answers.

  • Asynchronous: Participants can access and answer to the surveys as they desire as long as it is during the surveys pre-determined time period of response (usually a few days or weeks).
  • Public and Private consultations: Surveys can be open to anyone or close to invitation. Also, participants can be requested to register in order to respond to the survey or be allowed to respond anonymously. Responses are not revealed to other participants.
  • No moderation: Minimum staff time and skills required (mainly to analyse the contributions and produce a report of the outcomes).

 

3. Why use the Dialogue Space?

The dialogue space has the potential to offer new and innovative opportunities for dialogue in relevant matters of concern and of care that can inform policy making. It also raises new challenges. It is important to select the right model of participation for the right situation and outcomes. Furthermore, the choice of the online technology should also account the support and enhancement of the normal offline policy making process. The use of the dialogue space should desirably be done in parallel with traditional (offline) participatory processes and both should complement and support each other.

Overall, the dialogue space has the potential to:

  • Transcend time: The use of online technologies in public participation makes it possible for participants to discuss over extended periods of time (hours, days weeks or months), lengthening the potential window during which the debate can occur. This gives time for a reflective deliberation and space to develop evidence and argumentation.
  • Transcend place: Through the use of online technologies, public participation can be open to all citizens, regardless of their geographical location. They can also allow the organisation of venues that otherwise would not take place due to budget constrain or people availability. Localised issues can also be given an international exposure, while international stories can be given a local angle.
  • Provide new forms of interaction: Web-based technologies allow the combination of different types of information in different media forms. Policies and issues can be presented in a more attractive and engaging way using various media, such as audio or video, instead of just written material. Information can also be easily linked and supported by other materials allowing more interactivity.
  • Organise information: Digital technologies have the capacity to handle contributions from large number of people by allowing the effective and user-friendly organisation of information in different ways at same time. For instance, it is possible to use simultaneously support hierarchies, such as site maps, and associative structures, such as indexes and cross-links, even with low level of information.
  • Lower participation costs: By allowing remote and distributed e-participation sessions to take place, online technologies can lower the associate costs of public participation, such as (i) accommodations and travel costs; (ii) fees and stipends; (iii) cost of renting the event site; and (iv) cost of provisions during the event (e.g. coffee breaks and meals).

 

Reaching and engaging with a wide and diverse audience highlights the importance of designing systems that provide the widest possible accessibility and ease of use:

  • Balancing the need for straightforward, anonymous access to systems, with the need to collect personal data for various reasons such as authentication and evaluation;
  • Deciding how much information should be provided to assist individuals to be adequately informed on issues and so have the competences to contribute;
  • Supporting easy and flexible navigation through complex policy issues;
  • Balancing rights of access, privacy protection and security with issues of transparency, accountability and trust.