Engaging stakeholders represents a key task for regions and nations in the process of smart specialisation (S3) for (re)designing and implementing research and innovation strategies (RIS). Furthermore, facilitating discussions, debates and idea generation online among stakeholders show vital potential to facilitate the entrepreneurial discovery process within a region. Because of different voices with more diverse point of views, the regions’ aims for involvement with questions related to how and with whom is characterized by a dynamic process (Coffano and Foray, 2014). Thus, knowledge-based policy advice can take advantage of web-based debating platforms, such as DebateGraph (http://debategraph.org/), to enhance not only the stakeholder involvement in RIS3 but also boost entrepreneurial ideas to strengthen potential areas for S3. The main goal of this method is to increase transparency and legitimacy of an RIS3 debate at a glance, characterised by the intensive engagement of a diverse set of stakeholders.
RIS3 faces challenges, such as increasing understanding and knowledge of how regions should approach the RIS3 design, identify key patterns as well as emphasis strengths and weaknesses in the RIS3 processes. Since brainstorming and debating represent vital methods to collect information and (entrepreneurial) ideas on a predefined topic, DebateGraph represents a supportive way of viewing the “brainstormed” information while debating. This method and application is utilized in a group. It is accessible from everywhere by everyone – open to all relevant stakeholders for a region or nation. The method and application of DebateGraph is cloud-based – so accessibility is given at any time. In addition, it is user-friendly and goal oriented, since everybody can easily access and use it. If someone wants to contribute an idea to the debate, for example after a meeting, he or she can do so very easily with this web-based tool (DebateGraph, 2016).
In addition, if every aspect and idea is noted in this tool, the result presents a full information source regarding the region and its potential for specialisation. It all appears in one place, and not across various pieces of paper. Stakeholders can share their ideas regarding the future directions of the region. Additionally, by viewing the graphs and different maps, everyone can see what the other participants want. For instance, the stakeholders know what the authorities need and suggest, as well as vice versa. Thus, in line with the latest report by The World Bank (2016) this crowdsourcing method via debating can be used to collect data within RIS’s entrepreneurial discovery process. The method and application’s main idea facilitates the idea behind crowdsourcing referring to be quick, efficient and simple. As recommended by The World Bank (2016) the method encourages a culture of public–private dialogue, expands public administration’s online presence, including on social media and facilitates collaboration among stakeholders.
The main goal of this method is to visualize the ideas and opinions of different stakeholders while debating and brainstorming for sharing a RIS3 debate at a glance. It provides the users with a powerful way to learn about, deliberate and decide on complex challenges to overcome within a region (DebateGraph, 2016).
To start out, a stakeholder represents an individual who impacts or is impacting actions that can be in or outside of an organisation (Yamak and Süer, 2005). The cloud-based debating method can be applied to RIS3 since everyone can be involved in the debate. The debate maps benefit from the engaged community (Gatautis, 2010). The outcome of this method shows a better overview of the specific region’s potential for specialisation at an early stage of designing RIS. Moreover, because of the permanent communication the stakeholders will feel more involved in the development and thus more committed toward the implementation.
The brainstorming and debating method applied by DebateGraph offers a way to design, discover, and understand maps of (entrepreneurial) thoughts, dialogues, and debates by using complementary and cognitively enhanced visualizations. There are different types of visualizations with different strengths and weaknesses. The views can be altered to receive different debate maps (DebateGraph, 2016). This is beneficial for different point of views.
The debating method via the tool DebateGraph regarding RIS3
This method and tool can be used for argument mapping to support policy makers and stakeholders to visualize and share networks of thoughts, making their reasoning clear and open to collaborative and iterative reflection. All in all, its usage will be best for brainstorming and debating ideas for the region’s potential to specialise. The visualization of all the issues, problems and ideas result up to an adequate overview of the challenges to overcome. Because of the collaborative editing features, the collective knowledge and views can be shared among the stakeholders (Gatautis, 2010). Additionally, if someone finds a gap in the graph and wants to add a new idea, that person can add this idea at any time into the map so that then everybody else can see this also (Gatautis, 2010). As a result of the various different opinions, everyone can see what the other “teams” (stakeholders, authorities, …) want and suggest. Lastly, this argument visualisation platform is free of charge (Gatautis, 2010).
To conclude this debating method and tool entitled DebateGraph can be used to (Gatautis, 2010):
- create a debate map to identify challenges to overcome,
- create positions and sub-positions of the challenges,
- write arguments – supportive and opposing,
- include other scenarios and manage the graphs,
- rank the arguments and ideas,
- label the arguments and ideas by different people/stakeholders,
- rate the significance and merits of the problems, positions and arguments,
- pick out the arguments that are seen as weak and strong,
- analyse, seek and relocate arguments around the map, and
- direct arguments to external locations.
All in all, this debating method via DebateGraph facilitates stakeholder engagement and the entrepreneurial discovery process at an early stage within S3 processes.
This method and tool is rather simple to use and does not really need an instruction manual as it is mostly self-explanatory. Since DebateGraph is an online tool, which is managed in a web browser, the user does not have to download anything or follow any installation process. Anyone, at any given time can use the method and tool.
Since there are stakeholders who are likely “silent”, it would be easier for them to write down the ideas rather than speaking in front of an audience. As a result, the ideas of the quieter and louder participants are equal. Also, there will be more options, due to the fact that everyone gets a chance to “speak” – in this writing and debating process.
As part of the WAVE project (Gatautis, 2010), this debating method and tool seeks to impact the debate for understanding the chosen topic, and assessing challenges and potential ideas to overcome these challenges. Especially for policy makers and stakeholders this tool will impact the relationships among involved groups. The WAVE project (Gatautis, 2010) highlights that by collecting all this information the implementation will be enhanced. In addition, by implementing the different maps of thoughts on different sites, many stakeholders will be invited to participate the debate. This possibility of stakeholder engagement at an early stage represents a high potential for impact on anticipated results. Finally, it provides a better overview of the RIS’s development process.
The implementation on onlines3.eu should be straighforward, since many websites have done so before (DebateGraph, 2016). To conclude, the impact of this method and tool is expected to be high as RIS3 at a glance can been facilitated via more intensive stakeholder engagement activities taking also entrepreneurial aspects into account.
Furthermore, the more users are engaged in the brainstorming and debating method at an early stage of the RIS development, the more ideas and opinions will be recorded, improved and shared, which appears to be a vital component of the entire process.
The method and tool takes advantage of links to several social media platforms. The user can share information and maps via Twitter, Facebook, GooglePlus, LinkedIn, Reddit, and StumbleUpon. Additionally, for people who do not have such accounts the maps can simple be send via email. The map can also be embedded into other website with a so-called “iframe”.
The most important data source regarding DebateGraph is the “Help” tab on the DebateGraph website (http://debategraph.org/). There one can find all the information how to write an idea and how to make a poster (DebateGraph, 2016).
Also the first page of the DebateGraph website (http://debategraph.org/) is very helpful. All in all, the core information source regarding DebateGraph is its website, since it is an easy method and tool to use.
Before the user can create a map, he or she must create a user account. The data which has to be provided consists of the first name, last name, email, and a password. The user can also add optional information such as a website URL, the city, the country, and other background information. The user will receive an email with a registration verification link. By clicking on the link the email address is verified. The registration is therefore completed.
After logging in with the user data, the user can create a new map (“Map > Start a new map”). The map’s data and information can be added via the button in the bottom left corner “Add idea”. The user can write the ideas, arguments etc. regarding RIS and its region. After adding more and more ideas, the maps will grow. The arrows connecting the ideas and arguments can be rated between 1 and 9 – the lower the number, the thinner the line gets and vice versa for a higher number and thicker line.
For different kinds of views, the user can press on the view menu and receives a list of formats the map can be displayed in. For more information regarding the various views, please visit DebateGraph’s website (http://debategraph.org/.
To share maps with stakeholders etc. there are different options (in “Share”). Firstly, the user can share the data via a link (“Share > Link”) which means, that the user can, for example, send out an email with this link to colleagues. The colleagues need to have an account to view and alter the map. Secondly, the ideas can be bookmarked (“Share > Bookmark”). Thirdly, the user can embed (“Share > Embed”) the map into a Compact format (“Share > Embed > Compact format”) and in a full format (“Share > Embed > Full format”). The compact format is an iframe (html tag) with a smaller format than the full format. This so-called iframe can be implemented into a website. Lastly, the map can be shared via social media (“Share > Social media”), such as Facebook, Twitter, GooglePlus, Reddit, LinkedIn, and StumbleUpon. Additionally, in “Share > Social media” there is also a link to send the map via email.
Another notable feature can be found in “Views > Send email digest” which will send the user an email with the latest changes on the map. This is a supportive feature to see if something new has been written on the map.
To implement the map on the onlines3.eu platform, the iframe is necessary via the share link the code offered.
- Coffano, M. and Foray, D. (2014). The Centrality of Entrepreneurial Discovery in Building and Implementing a Smart Specialisation Strategy. Scienze Regionali 13 (1), 33-50.
- DebateGraph, (2016): „Debategraph“. Debategraph.org. Accessed on 08.11.2016 http://debategraph.org/.
- Gatautis, R. (2010). Creating public value through eparticipation: Wave project. Economic and Management 15, 483–490.
- The World Bank (2016). Toward an innovative Poland: The entrepreneurial discovery process and business needs analysis. Poland: Ministry of Economic Development. Accessed on 08.11.2016 http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/801221468186841613/pdf/106148-REPLACEMENT-v2-English-REPORT-Web.pdf.
- Yamak, S. and Süer, Ö. (2005). State as a Stakeholder. Corporate Governance. The International Journal of Business in Society 5 (2), 111-120.