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6. Joint Research

Purpose
To support the stakeholders in building shared knowledge so as to 1) create or strengthen the evidence base of the dialogue process; 2) promote mutual understanding and progressively overcome ideological divides and 3) start developing a shared understanding of the policy issue, thereby paving the way for a consensual solution.
Rationale
Knowledge in policy-making is neither neutral nor objective. It is embedded in a process driven by interests, values and normative views about how things should be. Therefore, depending on personal viewpoints, first-hand life experiences and interests, every stakeholder involved in the INSPIRED dialogue process will have different preferences with regards to the forms of knowledge that they would like to use as a basis for dialogue.
Moreover, the balance of power between those stakeholders might be significantly altered depending on the access to information and certain types of knowledge, or even the capacity to fund research that is steered towards endorsing their political views. Ideally, different types of knowledge should be combined to provide a fair account of a given public problem and the available policy solutions. They can complement each other by shedding light on a situation from different angles and bringing to the surface underlying assumptions, preconceptions and value judgements.
At the end of the day, dialogue is precisely about remaining open to what the others have to say and learning why other relevant stakeholders favour certain outcomes over others. This mutual understanding will, in turn, make it easier to find common positions and widely accepted solutions. However, allowing this diversity of views and preconceptions to emerge can easily get the dialogue stuck into a blaming and shaming exercise, with the participants locking themselves into their initial positions. To overcome this situation, the first phase of the INSPIRED method invites the participants to overcome their first preconceptions and misjudgements of each other by means of research. Indeed, through the collective assessment of a shared problem, participants focus on the identification of potential solutions and therefore engage in a constructive debate that looks forward and does its best to leave past differences behind.
The key differences among stakeholders will certainly remain, but instead of blocking the dialogue, they can be turned into one of the most valuable assets of the process. Indeed, building on difference is crucial to promoting trust dynamics. The main challenge for the dialogue facilitator, supported by the policy experts, would then be to structure the knowledge generated by the participants and to incite them to explore new sources of knowledge if needed. In order to feed their discussions with reliable information and to develop a shared understanding of the policy issue, stakeholders can decide collectively what further research is needed as well as the type of knowledge that they want to take into consideration for their debates.
Outcomes
  • Policy knowledge jointly built.
  • Access to sources facilitated, especially to those “weaker” stakeholders, so that they are in terms of discussing policy reform on a more equal footing.
  • Increased capacities of all the stakeholders engaged in the joint research efforts.
  • Trust built or nurtured through regular interactions and better mutual understanding.
  • Cooperation dynamics fostered.