Wageningen Dialogues: science in dialogue with society
How will we feed ten billion mouths in the future, looking out for nature and animal welfare? How do we accelerate the energy transition? Scientists from Wageningen University & Research work on complex social challenges. The Wageningen Dialogues program stimulates dialogue with society. Perspectivity has been supporting the development of the program since 2017.
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Wageningen University & Research (WUR)


Can you help us with the design and implementation of the Wageningen Dialogues programme, so that scientists working on major social issues are more often in dialogue with society?


Advising and coaching of the program manager, giving workshops and training, designing and facilitating dozens of multi-stakeholder dialogue processes, and co-creating the WUR Dialogue Navigator and the WUR Dialogue Community.


  • Increased visibility and understanding of the role of dialogue for scientific research.
  • Gained knowledge and experience with various methodologies and working methods for conducting multi-stakeholder dialogues.
  • Guided many dozens of dialogue processes on pressing issues with various stakeholders.
  • Launched the WUR Dialogue Community.
  • Published the online WUR Dialogue Navigator.

WUR scientists work on complex global issues in the fields of health, energy, food and sustainability. Issues on which interests and opinions differ widely. Moreover, no expert can solve these challenges alone. That is why WUR wants to proactively engage in a dialogue with society to arrive at new insights together and increase the impact of its work. The Wageningen Dialogues program was launched for this purpose.

“So yes, this whole story about dialogues is not going to be plain sailing. But if you think dialogue is expensive and time-consuming, trust me, try polarization instead.”
Louise Fresco, president of the executive board WUR

Since the end of 2017, Petra has been involved in the program as a strategic advisor and coach, trainer, facilitator, interim program manager, co-author of the Dialogue Navigator and backbone of the community. Various Perspectivity colleagues have provided training workshops and facilitated dialogue processes.


Workshops and training

To offer the working group of the program a shared framework, we started with a workshop on how to design dialogue processes. Next, employees from various departments followed the two-day training course ‘The art of facilitation’. Board members participated in the workshop ‘Academic leadership in complexity’. The corporate communication team explored and prioritized communication themes during a dialogue workshop.


Dialogue Processes

Since the end of 2017, the program has designed and facilitated dozens of dialogue processes together with WUR employees. Sometimes with Wageningen Dialogues as initiator, usually upon a specific request from within the WUR institute.

Some examples of issues that have arisen in recent years:

  • Agroforestry Meet-up – Two dialogue sessions on the future of Agroforestry in the Netherlands.
  • Cutting across the silos: Shaping sustainable food-systems together – A World Café with approximately 80 students from all faculties to experience how diversity can contribute to solving complex issues.
  • Nature-inclusive agriculture and Biodiversity & circular agriculture – Two large group dialogues with WUR scientists, farmers, policymakers, nature managers and other stakeholders about the balance between nature and society.
  • Accelerating the energy transition – Scientists, governments and companies are studying the social, technological and spatial dimensions of the energy transition and are taking the first steps towards a joint research and project agenda.
  • Protein transition – Identification of themes that need further research to accelerate the transition to more sustainable protein consumption.
  • Digital Twins – An exploration by WUR researchers into the broadest possible applications of ‘digital twin technology’ that can lead to valuable breakthroughs in the WUR domains.
  • Sandpit: The Future Hospital – Online exploration with approximately 50 scientists from four universities to identify research opportunities that provide answers to hospital circular issues.
  • Sandpit: Circular & Inclusive Cities – Online work session with more than 50 scientists on promising interdisciplinary research ideas for the transition to circular and inclusive cities.

“We organised our sandpit moments together with the [Wageningen] dialogue team: they are really a great support and I would recommend anybody to work with them if you are looking into a sandpit type approach.” – Wageningen professor

Method: To design a dialogue process, a core team is formed that reflects the stakeholder field related to the question at hand. Together we refine the central question, identify the stakeholder field, create an agenda and design appropriate and inspiring dialogue formats. As facilitators, we facilitate the meetings of the core team and one or several large group dialogues. We also provide advice and support regarding communication and reporting.


WUR Dialogue Community

In 2020, an action plan has been developed for the WUR Dialogue Community together with WUR staff. The community reinforces the collective philosophy and principles for dialogue processes, offers peer-to-peer support and (self) reflection and creates a safe environment for experimentation so that dialogue and deliberative skills can develop and spread within WUR.

The Community was launched in early 2021 with a series of online meetups around a methodology or theme. The community is supported by a backbone of three experienced facilitators, including Petra. Meetings are organized together with community members.


WUR Dialogue Navigator

To help academic researchers explore the potential of dialogue for their work, the Dialogue Navigator has been developed. The Navigator describes the goals that dialogue can serve, provides insight into the difference between dialogue and debate and offers practical methods and tools to organize or participate in effective dialogue. Petra has co-developed the Navigator concept and is one of the co-authors.


Advice and coaching

Since 2017, Petra has been advising the program manager in shaping the program strategy. In 2019, she fulfilled this role herself for three months. During that period, she elaborated the profile for the new program manager, among other things. Wageningen Dialogue has now become a widely supported program with involved scientists and staff members from many disciplines. Petra is still involved as a sparring partner for the program manager, a backbone for the community and a facilitator for specific dialogue processes.



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