Stakeholders and how they can engage with Kaleidoscope
We interview Claudio Dondi, Director of Scienter and leader for Kaleidoscope's Stakeholders Club
The interview was conducted at the Eden annual conference where Beate Kleessen, Kaleidoscope's Press Manager, talked to Dr Dondi.
Beate Kleessen: We are here at the annual EDEN conference in Naples. I have met Claudio Dondi, director of Scienter and member of EDEN , and we would like to talk about a new Kaleidoscope activity, the Stakeholders Club. The club seeks to optimise the impact of research in technology-enhanced learning by initiating dialogue between research and industry.
What are the most challenging tasks for researchers in technology-enhanced learning when it comes to cooperation with the industry?
Claudio Dondi: We realised that there are severe communication problems between the research community and their stakeholders, who include industry, policy makers, as well as end-users. A dialogue is needed to come to an understanding about what research can contribute to the evolving world of learning; how policy makers can support this process with sound, reasonable science policies, and finally, how research can impact our – the end-users’ – daily lives.
Finding information about what both sides are doing isn’t the problem – information search is relatively easy nowadays – but what is really difficult is to kick-off a dialogue. Why? Because these two communities often tend to speak different languages; there is no immediate communication between them. Maybe there is one researcher within the team who is interested in establishing contacts to the outside, and there may be one person in the company interested in research and who is able to establish a dialogue.
You are leading a new Kaleidoscope activity, which is the stakeholders club. Could you please give us an idea what this is about?
Claudio Dondi: The stakeholders club wants to establish a place for dialogue between the research community and the stakeholders of the researchers, not only the users, but also the partners of the researchers. This needs to be done in a way that is not limited to an individual seminar or an individual interview but a place that is open to participation for all stakeholders.
The stakeholders club serves to stimulate interaction between members of Kaleidoscope and industry, practitioners, and end-users. It will establish itself as a natural entry-point for the public, in particular those involved in e-Learning, as well as those looking for research results that can be transferred and applied to their organisation’s learning purposes.
How does this work practically? How is this communication managed between the stakeholders and the Kaleidoscope community?
Claudio Dondi: This is mainly organised through the stakeholders club blog (http://gateway.noe-kaleidoscope.org/Stakeholders/blog/). The blog utilises an approach that tries to match people with similar interests by establishing communication at an informal level. We have people who are dedicated to following the dialogue and to stimulating it in regard to the Kaleidoscope scientific vision as well as other functions such as using the Kaleidoscope results, extracting concerns and expectations from stakeholders on what researchers should provide to them, or simply expressing satisfaction or dissatisfaction, etc. This follows the principle of a free but not unstructured communication approach.
In addition to the blog, by what other means are you facilitating dialogue between researchers and external stakeholders?
Claudio Dondi: We have opened the European Awards on Technology transfer to all stakeholders. A collection of case studies is expected to continue in view of improving understanding of users’ and stakeholders’ needs. Stakeholders are also involved in this initiative.
Moreover, a matchmaking area is under construction in the website to provide a meeting point for collaborative ventures on specific issues.
Why should one get involved, and how can one join the stakeholders club?
Claudio Dondi: For Kaleidoscope researchers, the stakeholders club provides a way to get in touch with users, practitioners, vendors, and others, enabling researchers take into account the needs of these external stakeholders in the early stages of research, thereby maximising research efforts. This kind of interaction will foster the co-design of innovative outcomes that can have far-reaching impact in our technology-driven society.
For end-users, industry, and other stakeholders in policy and practice, the club provides access to the competencies of Kaleidoscope, a high profile research network that has more than 1000 members across Europe. By joining the Kaleidoscope Stakeholders’ Club, you can interact with leading researchers in TEL, participate in key research, or use outcomes generated by the research teams, such as methods, applications, training, etc.
Becoming a member is very easy indeed. You just need to register yourself in the blog. It is free of charge, and you can immediately take part in one of the suggested activities. These range from using TeLearn by downloading or proposing papers, to trying to find some organisation in the research field that matches your concerns as a user, or if you are a researcher, finding a user who would be interested in your research results.
How many members does the Stakeholders Club have so far?
Claudio Dondi: We have already been able to get about 130 members involved. They are business and education strategists and practitioners, teachers, policy makers, and PhD students. They come from Kaleidoscope, from the research community, and some are from the suppliers and service industry.
What would you say the members from the industry are mostly interested in with regard to what Kaleidoscope is doing and what research in technology-enhanced learning is doing at the moment?
Claudio Dondi: I think we need to distinguish what is meant by industry. Industry in that sector is divided into the industry of content and the industry of service, of supporting learning. And these industries are interested in different things. What they have in common s probably that they are all exposed to a demand of quality of the learning experience that is generated through the use of technology. So what they are searching for when they approach a research network is some good ideas, some prototypes, or some methodological approaches that can help them to pick up this element of invention of research development and transform it into a product or a service innovation in their specific market.
Of course they would want to do it in the most comfortable possible ways, so having a place where they can see a lot of results collected in a single place and an environment in which a dialogue is already organised is attractive to them. It is easier than going and individually contacting each member of the Kaleidoscope network who seems to have something to do with their business and trying to find the right person and trying to establish communication.
Here we have a sort of communication or mediation system that we have established with the support of professionals in this domain that facilitates the task.
The stakeholders club was introduced at the EDEN conference to a wider audience. The next key event will be the Kaleidoscope Symposium 2007 in November this year, where researchers and stakeholders will have the opportunity to meet and discuss current issues. How will you engage these different bodies through the Symposium?
Claudio Dondi: First of all, stakeholders will be able to participate in dedicated parallel sessions according to their background and areas of interest. There will be sessions on school, lifelong learning, university, and business. Working groups will formulate a written statement on the relevance of the research priority or on finding the follow-up pathways of each research priority that suits their needs and their current activity. It will also deal with ways to improve communication, other possible research priorities, as well as suggestions for enhancing the impact of TEL research.