Storytelling workshop ECSA 2018 ©Science et Cite EvaZornio-6

Empowering civil society through participatory investigation?

1-2 February 2019
LISIS, Université Paris Est Marne-la-Vallée (RER Noisy-Champs), France

This 2-day workshop is dedicated to exploring new types of interactions between science and society, which we call participatory investigation, and how such interactions can contribute to the empowerment of civil society. We want to discuss such interactions from the perspective of civil society organisations (NGOs), a point of view that has so far been largely neglected.

The workshop is organised in collaboration by European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) within the H2020 project Doing it Together Science (DITOs), Pour une alliance sciences en société (ALLISS), Institut francilien recherche, innovation, société (IFRIS), Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire Sciences Innovations Sociétés (LISIS) and the Living Knowledge Network (LKN).

You can find powerpoint presentations of our keynotes under "Documentation" below.



Objectives of the workshop

We will share experiences about empowerment* of civil society among actors from the field of participatory investigation* in Europe (e.g. Citizen Science*, Community-based Research*, Sciences Participatives*, etc.). We are especially interested in a better understanding of the perspective of NGOs. Therefore we seek contributions that address participatory investigation projects that are realized by NGOs or organized in cooperation with them. We invite individuals and organisations with experience in running participatory investigation projects, European networks of such projects as well as social science researchers analyzing such projects. We want to start a joint conversation to identify shared concerns and to develop ideas for joint actions in order to support diverse forms of participatory investigation across Europe.

* For more details on the concepts used please see the background document.

Main themes

In order to both share experiences and construct a common vision of how participatory investigation can contribute to empowering civil society and what we need to strengthen this, the focus of this first two-day seminar should meet the expectations of the members of the organising networks ECSA, ALLISS, and LKN.

We have identified the following 6 questions as common points of interest for starting the conversation:

  1. What experiences of empowering civil society do we find among different networks concerned with participatory investigation?
  2. How can we organise spaces for cooperation between civil society and higher education & research institutions? With a particular attention to the programmatic and institutional frameworks which favour them (or not) (for example post-H2020).
  3. How can we create new research topics and research approaches based on cooperation between civil society and researchers based at an academic institution, e.g. a university?
  4. How can we change higher education curricula to be able to integrate cooperation between civil society and students?
  5. How can we involve members of civil society directly in research?
  6. What are potentials and challenges for empowerment of civil society through cooperation with researchers, students as well as education and research institutions?

Links with ALLISS working groups are for instance: ALLISS started a working group on chronic risks to figure out how to experiment with plural orientations of research, i.e. incorporating various aims and knowledges. The group is dedicated to formulating questions about “environmental degradation” and “health” through participatory research. Also, the working group on “intermediations between sciences and society”, aims at equipping the actors for successful interactions. So far, they have shared experiences of intermediations in the fields of agronomy, health, public engagement in sciences and digital communities. Website:

Links to the LKN, the international network of science shops and Community-based research, exist in relation to empowerment of civil society through cooperation with university researchers and students, and the shaping of such initiatives and their impact in interaction with the socio-material context. Website of the network:

Links to the work of ECSA are emerging especially with the working group on "Empowerment, inclusiveness and equity" that ECSA has launched in mid 2018. The aim of the working group is to support a discussion on these three topics in the Citizen Science community in Europe and collect experiences. For this reason we explore connections between the approaches of Citizen Science and Community-based research and work with the Living Knowledge network to do joint method development. We're continuously updating our activites on this website:

How to take part

We aim to have about 30 participants from NGOs and academia with experience in empowering civil society through participatory investigation projects from across Europe, including ca. 10 from France.

Expression of interest

For the registration (see below), we kindly ask you to submit a short expression of interest (max. 2 pages) which includes a description of who you are and your potential contribution to the workshop. In the description please address the following points:

  • The experience of participatory investigation related to empowerment of civil society that you are/have been involved in. We seek examples of successful initiatives as well as challeging or failed ones. The descriptions of experiences might be shared with the selected workshop participants beforehand for preparation.
  • Which one(s) of the six questions above do you want to address primarily?
  • Are you working at an NGO or have collaborated with one?
  • Does your experience concern running participatory investigation projects, European networks of such projects or social science research analyzing such projects?
  • Are you a member of any of the networks organising the workshop?
  • If this makes sense to you, what field of participatory investigation would you say is your experience mostly part of: Citizen Science, Community-based Research, Sciences Participatives, etc.?

You can find more details on the concepts used in this background document.

General criteria for selection

  • Quality and relevance of the submitted expressions of interest
  • Spectrum of perspectives, backgrounds and case studies
  • Geographical and thematic spread
  • Gender balance

Travel cost support

We have a limited amount of money to give support for travel and accomodation expenses. If you would like to request this compensation, please indicate how much money you would need in your expression of interest. We will gather requests and try to pay the required amounts; however if the requests exceed the total available amount, we will have to pay a lump sum for everybody. This support is intended first and foremost to support the participation of people who do not have other funding to attend this workshop – so if you have other possibilities, please go for those. Generally, you will need to pay the travel first and then get reimbursed after the event. If your participation depends on getting an advance before the event, please note this in the expression of interest.


If you would like to attend the workshop please register through this page until Sunday 9th December 2018.


The workshop will consist of a mix of formats:

  • keynotes to get some inspiring examples and reflections from practice and research - we're aspiring to have co-presentations by NGOs/practitioners and academics;
  • workshops on the "how-to" questions outlined above; there should be 3-4 workshops in parallel;
  • panels to discuss with a group a stakeholders on a particular topic.


Please find a preliminary agenda here - we will continuously update it in the next weeks. 


The main language of this workshop will be English. We cannot provide formal translation during the event but we will ask if people are willing to form informal whisper groups for on-the-spot translations for anybody who wishes some support.


For questions & comments please get in touch with any member of the organising team:

Claudia Göbel (ECSA), Pierre-Benoit Joly (LISIS), Evelyne Lhoste (LISIS), Lucile Ottolini (LISIS), Michael Søgaard Jørgensen (Living Knowledge)



Friday, 01.02.2019
10:00     Welcome by organisers & round of introductions

10:45     Keynote 1 - "Long-term collaboration of NGOs and Agencies for environmental health" by Régine Boutrais (ANSES) & Élisabeth Ruffinengo (WECF France)

11:30     Parallel workshops I
    Workshop 1: Governance of spaces and places?
    Workshop 2: Trajectories of participatory investigation
    Workshop 3: Empowerment of civil society through research cooperation

14:00     Keynote 2: "Plural Configurations of Participatory Investigation : The experience of ATD Quart Monde France" by Cyril Fiorini (HT2S, CNAM, IFRIS ).

14:45     Parallel workshops II : Workshop 1 / Workshop 2 /  Workshop 3

16:30     Panel "How to finance participatory investigation collaborations, especially involvement of civil society?" with Alexandra Albert (UCL), Rémi Barré

17:30     Fishbowl discussion "Participatory Investigation & Empowerment. What are roles of European and national networks?" with Lionel Larqué (ALLISS), Claudia Göbel (ECSA), Michael Søgaard Jørgensen (Living Knowledge Network)

18:30     Finish for today


Saturday, 02.02.2019
10:00     Keynote 3 "Empowerment" by Andrea Vargiu (Università di Sassari, Italy)

10:45     Parallel workshops III : Workshop 1 / Workshop 2 / Workshop 3

13:30     Synthesis

15:30     Wrap-up & next steps

16:00     End of the workshop


Parallel workshops

Workshop 1 “Governance of spaces and places?”
Facilitator: Evelyne Lhoste


The workshop is aimed at clarifying the governance of spaces and places such as digital platforms and open labs (living labs, makerspaces and so on) where NGO and other civil society organisations hybridize to public organisations and private firms to produce and circulate knowledge.  

Governance states for the processes of governing the community and the ruling of the space involved in participatory investigation (decision-making process). It relies to the way rules, norms and actions are structured, regulated and held accountable.

The governance of spaces and places may materialize or perform power asymmetry and (in)dependency among the stakeholders involved in a participatory project. It may therefore favor the reproduction of pre-existing rules, social norms and institutions or transition to others.

What shall participants prepare?

  1. Please prepare a 2-3 minutes presentation of your organisation (aims, type of participatory investigation).

  2. During the workshop, you will have to answer the following questions :

  • what are the stakeholders involved in the participatory investigation ?

  • how has the problem been defined ? by who ?

  • what are the forms of representation within the decision-making processes ?

These questions aim at comparing and discussing the governance of participatory investigation projects.

Workshop 2 “Trajectories of participatory investigation”
Facilitators: Claudia Göbel, Lucile Ottolini


Aims of workshop are to reconstruct short descriptions of participatory investigation activities and how they evolved over time in order to better understand common elements of these trajectories. Such elements could be, for instance conditions of success of collaborations between civil society and higher education & research institutions, networks involved, material and economic conditions, etc. Based on exposing these trajectories, we hope to create fertile discussions on common questions regarding conditions, challenges and important moments of participatory investigation initiatives and empowerment of civil society.

What questions will we approach in the workshop?

  • 5 minutes presentation of your organisation (aims, type of participatory investigation) including:

  • What are the partners/stakeholders involved in the participatory investigation ?

  • What have been key moments in the history of your participatory investigation ?

  • Discussion of the presented experiences


Workshop 3 “Empowerment of civil society through research cooperation”
Facilitator: Michael Søgaard Jørgensen


Cooperation between research institutions and civil society can empower civil society and its concerns and needs in different ways. Civil society can be directly empowered through cooperation which develops

  • documentation of problems civil society experiences but have not been able to get government and business to address,

  • knowledge about emerging concepts, strategies etc. and their possible societal impacts

  • alternative strategies and systems addressing civil society needs

Besides this, civil society can be indirectly empowered, if universities develop new research and education areas based on concerns and ideas expressed by civil society through research cooperation.

The aim of the workshop is to exchange and discuss our experiences with such mechanisms of empowerment of civil society.

What questions will we approach in the workshop?

  • 5 minutes presentation of your organisation (aims, type of participatory investigation) and your experiences with direct and indirect empowerment of civil society through research cooperation

  • Discussion of the presented experiences:

    • How was empowerment of civil society possible?

    • What can others learn from these different experiences?

    • How can the experiences “travel” from one context to another: How to de-contextualise the experiences and afterwards re-contextualise them in a new place?

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