Citizen engagement though a mission-oriented approach is a key novelty in Horizon Europe, the European Commission’s new framework programme for research and innovation. Missions are the European Union’s (EU) commitment to solve some of the major challenges facing the world today. They can be found within five mission areas identified within the framework programme. This thesis explores the Norwegian experience with citizen engagement in the process of defining Mission Starfish 2030: Restore our Ocean and Waters.
This mission is found within the mission area: Healthy oceans, seas, coastal and inland waters. This thesis relies on document analysis and interviews with key informants to answer the following research questions: 1) What has been done to include the views and opinions of Norwegian citizens in the definition of Mission Starfish and what are the experiences of those involved in organizing these activities? 2) How does those involved in organizing the citizen engagement activities in Norway interpret the purpose of these activities? 3) What does the European Commission want to achieve with citizen engagement in Horizon Europe? 4) What are the areas of improvements in order to make citizen engagement more efficient and influential in the future?
There have been many citizen engagement activities taking place on both national and EU level in relation to the definition of the EU missions. Although the process of defining Mission Starfish was largely affected by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were two citizen engagement events taking place in Norway. There was an online survey followed by an online workshop. The organizers of the event highlight three key reasons for why it is important to have citizen engagement: to legitimate the process, mobilize citizens and create better outcomes. This thesis explores how citizens have gained greater role within the framework programmes throughout the years. Despite this, it is not always clear what the European Commission want to achieve or what role citizen engagement is supposed to serve. This thesis highlights four areas of improvement to make citizen engagement more efficient and influential, these can be summarized as: Use of available expertise, early engagement, better communication and a broader range of participants.