Behind the Scenes – Interview with Katja Firus, LOCALISED project communication manager
What is LOCALISED?
The LOCALISED project is designed to close the information gap between national-level decarbonization plans and local needs for planning and implementing energy transition and climate adaptation. To do so, it will like RethinkAction create user-friendly tools that enable local authorities, citizens, and businesses to accelerates their planning actions. Different to RethinkAction, which focus is mainly on land-use, the focus of LOCALISED is on cities.
Katja Firus from T6 Ecosystems srl, a consulting and research SME based in Italy, is the communication and dissemination manager of the LOCALISED project and of many previous EU funded projects. We asked her about her role as communication manager in LOCALISED and communication for research projects generally.
Katja, you have long lasting experiences in Communication and Dissemination for Research projects funded by the European Commission like under the FP7 framework or Horizon2020. What is special regarding communication and dissemination for research projects like LOCALISED?
LOCALISED is a research project, but with the aim to bring decarbonisation knowledge to local policy makers and local businesses by web applications. The applications will offer an initial data-driven assessment to enable the end users to ask the right questions when they start to plan EU and Member State decarbonisation pathways and/or their own. This means that our communication and dissemination efforts had to be planned in a way that reaches the two main target groups, in addition to a scientific audience and the EU policy level. Reaching the local level means that we have to tailor communication strategies in ways that are relevant and effective at different geographical scales—local, regional, and national. We also communicate in local languages to ensure that our messages are easily understood and connect with the targeted audience at the local level. Therefore, one of the tools will be made available in all EU languages, and our local public partners from Austria, Poland and Spain will present these tools in local and regional events in networks which they are part of.
Like in RethinkAction, the LOCALISED consortium consists of many high-level research institutions from different disciplines and a main part of the work is research. As a communication specialist, do you need to understand the science behind in the project? How do you deal with the complexity of the research? What are particular challenges of communicating scientific content?
Partly. Our communication team needs to understand the research questions, and know about the methodologies that are used so that we are able to reply to questions that may be raised. However, we do not need to grasp the complexity of the modelling exercises in detail. What we need to do is to keep up with all research activities, and be up to date with what is going on. For example, we need to participate in meetings on research aspects as well as read the research reports. Both tasks are time intensive. In LOCALISED we have a motivated and supportive consortium that contributes to the creation of news and social media post to communicate project activities and results, which helps a lot.
One of the expected results of LOCALISED is the web-based information and decision support tool “Decarbonisation Profiler” for municipalities. Likewise, one of RethinkActions main results will be a web-based Integrated Assessment Platform (IAP). From your point of view: Is there anything special in regard of communication and dissemination when a project is focusing on platforms as outcomes?
When a project focuses on platforms as outcomes, it is important to emphasize the user-friendly aspects and highlight how they are designed to engage and benefit the target audience. Interactivity, integration, data security, and long-term sustainability are also elements that will contribute to the successful adoption and utilization of the platforms. In terms of promotion, leveraging specific events or dedicated sessions during conferences can be instrumental. This approach allows for resource optimization, showcasing the platforms’ interoperability and compatibility with other tools. In LOCALISED this is covered by the Climate Media Factory.
What are the highlights and successes in a project for you as a communication and dissemination manager?
In LOCALISED we are developing two tools: one for local policy makers and another one for businesses. Both tools are meant to support identifying local solutions for decarbonization and wherever necessary, highlight possibilities to adapt to climate change impacts. When the end users show interest in our tools and participate in designing them together with us, it suggests that our idea is useful and that we are able to contribute to finding solutions.
Communication for a project like LOCALISED is not the easiest task: You have to build channels and audiences from scratch, communicate very special and complex content and so on? Despite the effort, what makes communication worthwhile?
All our projects are funded by the European Commission, which is 100% public money. Therefore, I see it as an obligation that projects communicate about their activities and results. Projects like ours hopefully contribute to find solutions to current societal challenges regarding climate change. The contribution might be little, but people working in projects like LOCALISED are committed to finding solutions which we want to communicate to the target audiences (in our case, these are local decision-makers), but also to the general public in order to show what we do and our impact on society.
What do you think about the RethinkAction communication and dissemination? Do you have any recommendations for us?
I like your visual approach in the project communication a lot and I admire that you are active on three social media channels simultaneously, since I assume that this requires considerable creative effort. The educational focus of the content, providing both inspiration and information, is noteworthy. One suggestion from my side on how you could make the content more engaging would be to consider customizing the social media posts based on the characteristics of each channel.
Given the many similarities between out projects, do you see any potential for creating synergies between our communication efforts? If so, what would recommend?
Towards the end of the project, it would be good to look at the scientific results and policy messages that both projects produced and see if a common policy brief would be useful. I would even broaden this task to other projects which were funded under the same call. A common message from a large group of scientists on how to tangibly decarbonise and adapt to climate change at local and regional level would give the messages more reach.
Thanks a lot, Katja!