Project deliverable Open Access

Report on the Assessment of Transdisciplinary Tools and Methods

Smyrniotopoulou, Alexandra; Vlahos, George

The UNISECO H2020 project employed a Multi-Actor Approach (MAA) within a transdisciplinary framework in order to strengthen the sustainability of agro-ecological European farming systems. Throughout the operation of the UNISECO project there were several opportunities for knowledge exchange and co-learning which had the potential to build capacity for collaborative working through participatory processes with key actors. This ongoing involvement was mainly performed through the Multi-Actor Platforms (MAPs) which are the pools of relevant actors who were engaged in the activities of UNISECO at European and case study levels.

This Deliverable D7.3 aims to present the design and application of the monitoring and evaluation framework for assessing the process and impact of interactions with the MAPs and relevant actors involved in the various participatory activities held during the course of the project at the EU and case study levels. The evaluation criteria used are grouped into three sets, applying to the different phases of the project activities: preparation, implementation, post-implementation.

The participatory events were evaluated throughout the project, including feedback from project partners and the external actors involved in activities carried out at European and case study level.

The lessons learnt from the on-going evaluation highlighted the importance of:

  • Sharing information among participants;
  • Fair representation of key actors including diversity of interests and knowledge;
  • Balancing power and building trust within a group;
  • Careful design of the project activities and effective facilitation;
  • Providing adequate time and resources to support participatory processes.

In the final stages of the UNISECO project, a final evaluation was carried out which aimed to explore the influence of participatory processes on the policy-science dialogue, and on the capacities of the case study actors. Findings from five interviews with members of EU-level MAP revealed that the UNISECO project provided conditions for free and open discussions, but some of the knowledge generated was not perceived as applicable and relevant for policy development.

At the case study level, local actors and case study MAP members from 13 partner countries provided feedback on aspects related to the networks and capacity building. Feedback received indicated that involvement in the UNISECO project had the potential to improve network building and capacities for collaboration and information exchange with various actors at the local level. Nevertheless, care should be taken in order to meet the expectations and needs of case study actors.

The monitoring and evaluation framework developed in the UNISECO project provided a form of validating the approaches taken and the challenges faced in designing and undertaking research activities that aimed at supporting co-learning and knowledge sharing amongst the actors involved.

The on-going evaluation provided valuable information about the design and implementation of participatory processes that enabled the identification of weaknesses, and the types of improvements required, throughout the project duration. The findings and experience show that effective participatory processes require time and energy of organisers and participants. The outcomes of such processes are improved by the on-going evaluation, which requires commensurate resources to be allocated for the purpose.

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