Convincing participants ...
Potential participants, and especially key players in the field, will need to be convinced of the value of the undertaking. You need to bear in mind that key actors may give an activity just one chance. If they are not convinced of the value of the project at the first meeting, workshop or interview they will not come a second time. In this case the exercise may end up only involving less charismatic actors who have time to spare.
To convince them to participate, the practitioners need to be aware of the kind of reasons key participants may have to take part:
- being involved in the preparation of specific programmes during the early stages, including submission for various types of funding;
- influencing policies at a very early stage of the vision building process;
- networking with other participants, strengthening or improving their relations with other actors;
- being seen and gaining visibility;
- getting information ahead of others;
- getting a better understanding of the stakes and the positions of the other actors;
- getting input for their own work;
- contributing to the long-term improvement of the system at stake;
- travelling to an attractive location and enjoying themselves, even if nobody would acknowledge this as a reason for participating... (importance of the sightseeing programme for the partners in the case of a conference...)!
The level of commitment expected, in terms of the amount of time and effort, has to be assessed from the start, so that the participants know what is expected of them and by when. This requires careful planning. The amount of effort involved is frequently underestimated, although participants' enthusiasm may make up for this (although this should not be taken for granted).
... keeping them on board
After having convinced people to participate in the exercise it is vital to keep them on board throughout. Some points to be considered here are:
Regular consultation is important, since it gives participants a sense of ownership of the process and its outputs. The results of events have to be fed back to them. Collecting and taking into account feedback on the process and on the outcomes is a core element of Foresight; Participants should be consulted frequently throughout the exercise, which should be designed so as to offer as many 'natural' opportunities for doing this as possible.
Dissemination of preliminary and final results to participants is also vital.
Another thing to be kept in mind is the time committed by participants. From the point of view of Foresight participants they contribute their time to the exercise. As time is an extremely scarce resource, especially for high ranking stakeholders, this should always be kept in mind. It should continuously be monitored whether the amount of time participants are asked to spend is justified, both in terms of the value it adds to the exercise and the useful outcomes for the participants themselves.
There is more information on engaging and motivating participants in some of the example cases: