co-production Facilitation

Conversatorio sobre conflictos ambientales con María Mancilla y Juanma Zaragoza

El Laboratorio Filosófico sobre Pandemia y Antropoceno, con la coordinación de mi admirado Juan M. Zaragoza, ha organizado una serie de debates sobre participación ciudadana y conflictos, mis topics favoritos :). A lo largo de varias sesiones de 20 min han conversado con personas de México, Chile y España sobre distintos mecanismos de participación social que se están poniendo en marcha en estos lugares y su relación con los conflictos ambientales. Las Asambleas Ciudadanas para el Clima ocupan un lugar especial en los conversatorios al ser un formato que está cobrando protagonismo (ahora mismo está ocurriendo una estatal impulsada por MITECO, y hay otras dos regionales en camino), y que tampoco está exento de conflicto.

Comparto mi pequeña aportación, una charla sobre conflictos ambientales con Juanma y María Mancilla, amiga y compañera en estos devenires. Discutimos algunas ideas y conceptos desde dos perspectivas, la ecología política y la facilitación/mediación de conflictos, que a veces pueden parecer un poco contrapuestas. De esto tendré que escribir más otro día.

aqua co-production Facilitation

Ways of Feeling Floods

The EbroResilience Strategy is a collaborative governance framework for improving flood risk management in the Ebro River Basin. It is a rare case in Spain, not only because of the active involvement of 5 public administrations, but also for the innovative approach to flood risk management beyond grey solutions. Moreover, it is a highly participatory process with docens of workshops held to engage with those who live by the Ebro shore.

On January 12th, I co-facilitated a workshop on Emotions and Floods with Alba Ballester, the person responsible for the participatory program of the strategy. The goal the workshop is very powerful in my view: to generate information about the psycological impact of floods that can be taken into account in the models used by public authorities in EbroResilience to make decisions. We worked with Nonviolent Communication trying to connect facts – concrete flood episodes experienced by participants – to emotions they felt in those events and to potential needs underlying those emotions.

Alba skillfully conducted the session in three excercises: An individual reaction to a series of pictures with floods, gathered in wordclouds in Mentimeter; a b/o group excercise to share a personal experience of a flood, and a plenary sharing of group work. The outcomes in Spanish can be seen in the beautiful graphic narrative in the head pic and read in this summary from EbroResilience.

The majority of voices aligned in expressing anger, frustration, and impotence. These feelings were related with a perceived lack of effective action by public authorities. For most participants, it was difficult to connect with one particular flood experience. They tended to used blame narratives against who, in their views, is responsible for their suffering. They shared a feeling of abandonment, expressed complaints about administrations not listening to them and demanded action and take control over the situation.

A different note was brought by one participant who spoke about the joy felt for the positive impacts of floods (such as aquifer recharge) and the magnanimity of these events in the Ebro. She spoke of co-responsability and adaptation, of understanding and empathy with the river. Another participant spoke about solidarity and union in his village, where neighbours have organised a system for collective response to flood episodes that helped him keep calm.

For me, the workshop was trully inspiring. I do not get the opportunity to talk about how people feel such an intense natural event as a flood in their homes and fields. Yet, I missed a bit more diversity in the voices expressed, for instance those working within public authorities, how do they feel when they see the river growing?


Effective groups

I recently used the effective groups model (Escorihuela, 2015) for the first time in a facilitation. The goal was to diagnose the situation of a collective of artists regarding their internal organization.

This framework helps visualizing the different pillars in an organization (Results, People, Processes) and highlighting the importance of balance between them. I especially like its grounding in complexity theory which provides useful analytical lens.

As for our session, maybe not surprising result: the group was very focused on the need for a better structure to achieve their goals, but less attention was given to people and their needs. We therefore did some extra work on that!

Escorihuela, José Luis ‘Ulises’. 2015. Modelo de Efectividad Grupal. Available at:

co-production Facilitation Research Talks

Conversatorio: experts and expertise in citizen engagement and deliberative democracy: what is good practice?

On December 10th, I participated in a conversatorio within the 3rd Citizen Engagement and Deliberative Democracy Festival of the European Commission. Chaired by Elisa Vecchione, we had a lively discussion on different questions regarding the role of experts in deliberative and citizen engagement processes.

We discussed what’s different about engaging with an audience that is neither that of your academic peers, nor a policymaker in seek of advice, nor a general public. We also talked about the importance of complexity and how to ensure it is not lost in citizen engagement processes. Finally, we reflected on our personal transformation while participating in citizen engagement processes and on what do we consider good quality scientific evidence.

My contribution to these points mostly stem from a citizen engagement experience in a case study from the H2020 project MAGIC . We explored the role of desalination and wastewater reclamation technologies to supply water for irrigation in the Canary Islands (Spain). The research focused on assessing the pertinence of this innovation from a water-energy-food nexus perspective. That is, by considering information and perspectives from different intertwined resource management domains, namely water, energy, food and climate. We mobilized knowledge from actors working on those different domains first in interviews and second in two participatory workshops. The am of the workshops was to co-create narratives on desirable futures to which these innovations could contribute to.

The first methodological paper of this research process can be downloaded at my publications site. Further information on the case study can be found here.

co-production Facilitation Research Talks

Ambiguities in participatory processes

During the V Post-Normal Science Symposium I participated in a session chaired by Marcela Brugnach and Caroline van Bers entitled ‘Addressing ambiguity in participatory processes for sustainable resources management to support Integrated Assessment‘.

Ambiguity is a type of uncertainty that refers to the confusion or discrepancy in understanding that exist among actors in a group over the issues of concern and their solutions. Ambiguity reflects the many meanings and preferences in responding to change. It speaks for diversity and the unavoidable differences that exist in any social system. Ambiguity is increasingly recognised as an issue in the coproduction of knowledge, transdisciplinarity but is not yet fully recognised as such. Approaches to identify and address ambiguity are in their infancy. The issue of ambiguity is particularly important in the context of participatory processes and promoting the (re)democratization of science.

In this session we explored how ambiguity has been and could be more effectively addressed in the context of Integrated Assessment and co-production of knowledge on environmental issues. For this purpose, Marcela introduced the concept of ambiguity and its relevance for the democratization of knowledge. Caroline shared several experiences on addressing ambiguities and seeking for shared understanding in Integrated Assessment processes. Finally, I discussed the potential of narratives as epistemic tools to work with ambiguities in extended peer communities.

My talk and all others at the digital conference are available on the PNS5 Youtube channel

co-production Facilitation Research

Get involved in the EU Missions

Last summer I had the honor and the great pleasure to participate in the first European level experiment of citizen engagement for public policy making: the EU missions contributing to the design of the next Horizon Europe framework.

On July 28th, 50 participants from Spain took part in a digital citizen engagement event on the EU Mission on “Adaptation to climate change including societal transformation.” Following the mini-publics format, participants were selected randomly from different gender, age and employment situation groups to ensure a variety of views. I was part of the facilitation team together with members of Altekio and the leadership of

The engagement event took over 6 hours divided in 5 sessions. In each session, one ore more experts delivered a short presentation with key inputs to spark deliberation in groups of 10 people. After the event, participants had 48 hours to upload proposals in a set up and another day to vote for the 20 recommendations to the mission board.

Here you can find a summary of the outcomes of the process.

Hope to see a more socially engaged research programme 2021-2025!