EXPO-ENGAGE Network Building: Reflecting on Stakeholder Workshops

21 Dec 2023

EXPO-ENGAGE is a UKERC’s Whole Systems Networking Fund project. It aims to develop a network of stakeholders in Cornwall and Wales interested in air quality, and to identify barriers to taking part in citizen science. In this blog, Rachel Hale writes about two workshops run by the project team. 

In October, the EXPO-ENGAGE team went back to Caerphilly, South Wales, and Redruth, Cornwall. This time, instead of surveys, our plan was to conduct workshops with air quality stakeholders to develop a research plan for air quality citizen science in their area. The workshops were held at Heartlands Conference Centre near Redruth and Welsh ICE in Caerphilly town.

Over the past few months, we’ve made a database of potential stakeholders with the aim of building a network in the two study areas. In both locations, the EXPO-ENGAGE team brought local knowledge that was useful in identifying relevant organisations that may be interested in being part of the network.

The workshops included a variety of activities. First, we agreed on common understandings of air quality, air pollution and citizen science. Next, we gave an overview of the EXPO-ENGAGE project, and preceding pilot project, and shared some of results from our surveys in Caerphilly and Cornwall. We also showed examples of other diverse air quality citizen science projects from the UK and Europe. This included online presentations from guest speakers.

The stakeholders were given the opportunity to discuss their goals and questions of interest for an air quality citizen science project. We then moved to practical aspects of these projects, asking them how we could enable residents to take part in such a project. Discussions were noted by the team and by stakeholders using Post-it notes.

Multiple coloured Post-it notes on a white sheet of paper stuck on the wall.

While both workshops were successful in creating lots of ideas around air quality and citizen science, the workshops were different in that we recruited more stakeholders for the Redruth workshop compared to Caerphilly. This may be for a number of reasons. In Cornwall we already knew some stakeholders interested in air quality and were able to use these personal connections in our communications with them. We also became aware of a number of other events around air quality taking place in the Camborne and Redruth area at the same time as the workshop. As such, air quality seems to be more of a ‘live issue’ in Cornwall than in Caerphilly County.

The different number of stakeholders at the two workshops meant that the workshop discussions were run in different ways. In Redruth, we split into three smaller groups to facilitate discussions, whereas, in Caerphilly, we held the discussions as one group.

The smaller number of participants in Caerphilly meant that we were able to hear more from each individual stakeholder and to pin down more clearly a focus for our future research plan there.
We also sent a feedback form to workshop participants and received positive feedback. However, in future, we will ask participants in advance if they have any accessibility issues, as some of our participants struggled to hear the presentations.

Next steps

We’re now working on writing up our thoughts on the workshops and will share this with stakeholders. We’re also writing a summary of the project for the final report of our funder, UKERC; recording a video for them; and helping to plan their end-of-phase conference in spring 2024. A summary of the project findings will be drafted and shared with survey participants (who expressed an interest in receiving this). This will be followed by writing a journal article about the project.

In order to continue the EXPO-ENGAGE programme of research, we’ve recently applied for a small grant to conduct another workshop in Caerphilly County, and we’re also identifying sources of potential grant funding and collaborators for the research plan, with the aim of submitting another funding application in the next few months. Stay tuned for more project news!

This blog was originally published on the EXPO-ENGAGE website on 13 November 2023.

About the author

Dr Rachel Hale is a Research Associate at Cardiff University with a background in Sociology and Science and Technology Studies.