Preparing a new ECG
In order to be productive an ECG must be carefully planned and organised. We have found that six sessions, held every six to eight weeks, suffice to achieve the main objectives. Each of the six sessions need to be planned in advance so that participants know who is responsible for what and how long time they can spend on different activities.
It is important to do things other than talk in each meeting. Working in break-out groups with maps and models are examples of activities that can serve to anchor discussions in something practical.
Anybody can participate in ECGs, you don’t need any particular background, education or profession. But in order to create new knowledge it is critical to get people with different knowledge and skills involved. An ECG works best if it has between six and ten regular participants.
Participants come to ECGs as individuals ready to contribute and learn, to change their views and to invent new ways of thinking. To participate in an ECG people need to feel that they know something about the problem that they are ready to share with a group and that they want to learn about other people’s understanding of the issue.
ECGs also need somebody with a background that enables them to set up and run computer models. Sometimes local residents will have such skills (scientists and engineers also live somewhere) and the models you can access via this web resource are user friendly and come with instructions aimed at wider user groups. However, in case you would need further scientific skill it is often possible to approach a nearby university, through their outreach or community engagement programmes.
ECGs also need to decide on what they aim to produce as output. Participants need to agree on some objectives in the beginning because it is critical for the research process to have an explicit endpoint. It is useful to make something together that can be presented to decision makers and the public when the ECG has finished. Such ‘co-produced’ items can range from written reports, to public exhibitions, to computer models.