Community X-change is the name given to a series of workshops where members of the public, scientists and policy makers meet to discuss issues involving science and discuss their thoughts, feelings and ideas for possible actions.
Community X-Changes are workshops where members of the public, scientists and policy makers meet to discuss issues involving science. As well as exchanging thoughts and views, the discussions generate ideas for possible actions. This case study covers the pilot phase which took place in Norwich.
Community X-Change explores a new methodology for dialogue. The approach takes elements from a number of different initiatives to provide time and space for citizens to discuss scientific issues of local and national concern. In the pilot phase, the priority policy area was climate change.
The five aims of this project were intended to:
• Provide opportunities for people to discuss issues involving science about which they have strong views.
• Improve interaction between scientists and members of the public, acknowledging that each bring their own expertise.
• Develop effective processes to include marginalised and vulnerable groups in policy debates.
• Build capacity locally to enable interaction between participants beyond the lifespan of the project.
• Create an involvement process in which policy-makers play a meaningful role.
• Issues: Participants met regularly to discuss climate change and other science and technology issues that interested or concerned them. The climate change topic was designed to stimulate a wide-ranging discussion, particularly on issues of more local concern.
• Diversity: Care was taken to ensure the group was diverse so that a range of views were heard. Marginalised groups were engaged through community groups and using data from the electoral roll. Eight participants were research scientists from local institutions.
• Equality: Participants were guided through a structured process to discuss each other’s perspectives and consider evidence from a range of information providers. Scientists and non-scientists took part on an equal footing, each bringing different experiences and knowledge.
• Reaching decision makers: Policy makers involved in decision-making on climate change at a national and local level were involved at an initial ‘shaping’ event, at the final workshop and at the presentation of a video report.
• Dissemination: Participants attended an interactive video report at the 2006 BA Festival of Science in Norwich. Additional project resources were developed for use by the BA’s regional offices, resulting in eight further public discussion events across the country attended by 800 people.
For the vast majority of participants (both non-scientists and scientists) there was a real expectation that something was going to come out of the process and that the information generated would be presented to decision-makers. Many of the participants thoroughly enjoyed the process and its diversity and appreciated having the chance to talk to decision makers, particularly their local MP.
There is increasing pressure on scientists to enter into dialogue with society and the group who took part in Norwich threw themselves wholeheartedly into the dialogue process. By creating a constructive and mutually respectful atmosphere, the project seemed to create a safe environment in which scientists and citizens could discover a common language.
Policymakers were also invited to contribute to the X-Change workshops and were invited to the BA Festival of Science session to view the video report. The final edit of the video is available online and has been widely distributed through communications channels.
This case study has focused on the pilot scheme of the Community X-Change initiative. See the report, “Community X-Change: A Voice for Local Communities” published by the British Science Association here.
The British Science Association page dedicated to Community X-change.
Project Manager, East Anglia:
Tel: 020 7019 4940
Project Manager, Liverpool:
Tel: 020 7019 4938
Associate Project Director:
Tel: 0191 222 3508
Gather individual pre-existing opinions
Number of participants
A Group which broadly reflects the Demographic make up of a certain community or population
Representatives of wider interest groups (stakeholders)
Level of awareness and interest
participants know about some aspects/can roughly articulate some interest
participants are well informed and can articulate their interests
Science and technology
Limit search to...
... face to face processes
Level of involvement
Ethnic minority groups