The primary methodology for this research involves establishing and running an online Net-Zero Beef Farming Forum. Our online Farming Forum is an innovative and hybrid form of demographic engagement taking elements of the Citizens’ Jury approach and other deliberative methodologies to establish a unique and bespoke method for engaging underrepresented farming communities in the Ruby Country and for facilitating the development and delivery of its Net-Zero Beef Roadmap.
The Forum Process
The Farming Forum process will be entirely online. There will be no requirement for any of the Forum members, the expert witnesses, the project partners and Forum facilitators to, at any point, meet in person face-to-face. The process will likely use the Zoom online meeting app although other platforms will be considered. There will also be no requirement for Forum members to have any prior experience of using Zoom as training will be given in advance of the first forum session.
The Forum will convene for 6 sessions over an 8-week period beginning the week commencing the 15th March 2021. The precise date and time of the Forum sessions has yet to be determined and will be dependent on the stated availability of the Forum members. Every effort will be made to accommodate the availability of the Forum members and as such both weekends and evening options will be considered.
Session 1 (1+2 hrs) – Introduction
In advance of Session 1 Forum members will be asked to familiarise themselves with the contents of the Information Sheet (noting any questions they might have), to have read and signed the participation agreements.
The synchronous part of the first session will last 2 hrs (including a 10 min break). The first half of the session will start with a welcome and introduction and a brief outline of net-zero beef, the Forum process, and the aims of the project, its limitations and expected outcomes, and be followed with a ‘screening’ of the Ruby Country film produced by Tom Law. The second half of the session will be an opportunity for participants to ask any questions and, inspired by the film, to discuss and reflect on their own experiences of the RC and initial thoughts about the beef sector’s transition to net-zero as well as their motivations and aspirations for taking part in the forum.
Sessions 2-5 (1+2 hrs each) – Evidence Presentation and Interrogation
Sessions 2-5 represent the main body of the Forum process and are principally concerned with evidence presentation by the ‘expert’ witnesses and its subsequent interrogation and discussion by the Forum.
In advance of each Session 2-5 Forum members will be asked to view three short (15 min) online presentations from expert witnesses. These presentations will be posted on the dedicated UoE hosted project website on a password protected page. Forum members will be provided with the website address and necessary password following Session 1 and will be also be provided with any assistance or training should they require it.
The synchronous part of Sessions 2-5 will last 2 hrs (including a 10 min break). The first half of the session provides an opportunity for the Forum to question the 3 presenters (who will also be in attendance) directly. In the second half of the session the Forum will break into 4 groups of 5 for further discussion/deliberation.
Session 6 (2 hrs) – Deliberation, Drawing Together and Final Conclusions
Session 6 in a solely synchronous and wholly deliberative session with facilitation. In this session, participants will be guided through a summary of the main points and conclusions reached by forum members in the previous sessions, and will be asked to generate a series of principles and recommendations which will form a ‘road map’ for critical actions necessary to support the transition to net-zero beef farming in the Ruby Country. This will include actions that farmers can take themselves, support that will be needed from the wider community, public authorities or other external bodies, and needs in terms of knowledge, information and research. The last session will also include a discussion of the forum process as a whole to feed into the project evaluation. A short survey may also be provided with evaluation questions for participants.
Post Deliberation and Dissemination
The Forum will be sent a ‘draft’ of the roadmap generated in the final session and asked to review and provide any comments on this. A final draft will then be sent which the members will be asked to endorse.
The Forum’s recommendations will be used to feed into a wider Citizens Assembly being held in Devon in Summer 2021. This is likely to be via a Forum member, the Forum chair or a member of the research team presenting at the Assembly, or through the written Roadmap output. Findings from the evaluation survey and deliberations/group discussions will also be used for academic outputs, including a peer-reviewed journal article and seminar/conference presentations.