Community x-change is the name given to a series of workshops where members of the public, scientists and policy makers meet to discuss issues involving science and discuss their thoughts, feelings and ideas for possible actions. 
Problems and Purpose
The community x-change workshops took place in the UK with the aim of strengthening "links between the public, scientists and decision makers and to create opportunities for discussion that would help to inform and influence the direction of policy."
In order to achieve the stated aim, "the following objectives were set:
- To provide opportunities for people to discuss issues involving science and other issues about which they have strong views
- Pilot processes that build mutual respect between scientists and under- represented publics, acknowledging that each bring their own expertise
- To develop processes to effectively include marginalised groups in policy debates
- To build capacity locally to enable further interaction between participants beyond the lifespan of the project
- To create an involvement process in which policy-makers play a meaningful role" 
Background History and Context
The community x-change was initially "conceived in 2004, partly as a response to the government’s 10-year Science and Innovation Investment Framework and the formation of Sciencewise, a government programme to bring scientists, government and the public together to explore the impact of science and technology on our lives.
The project also emerged from a desire within the British Science Association to further explore the concept of public dialogue. The Association’s Delivering Inclusion in Science Communication (DISC) project in 2004/5 looked at the barriers between black and minority ethnic communities and science communicators. Some work had resulted from collaborations as part of this project and the community x-change offered the chance to build on this learning. The lack of diversity in audiences for traditional science communication events is often talked about by practitioners but long-lasting impact has yet to be seen from these discussions.
The British Science Festival moves to a different location each year and is one of Europe’s longest established science festivals with a greater media impact than any other event of its kind. It was originally planned for the community x-changes to be based over three years (2006-2008) in three subsequent Festival venues – Norwich, York and Liverpool." 
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Cost of project: £188, 325
This project was funded through open competition, not commissioned to provide input into a live policy area.
The main funders for the project were:
- Sciencewise-ERC: £128,325
- Wellcome Trust: £30,000
- Defra Climate Challenge Fund: £30,000
Project delivery organisations were as follows:
Operating Theatre produces thought-provoking plays on health themes using professional writers, directors and actors.
The Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences (PEALS) Research Centre:
PEALS is a university Research Centre within Newcastle University which aims to research, inform and improve policy, professional practice and public participation in the life sciences.
The British Science Association:
A registered charity that exists to advance the public understanding, accessibility and accountability of the sciences and engineering in the UK 
Sciencewise-ERC is a Department for Business, Innovation and Skills funded programme to bring scientists, government and the public together to explore the impact of science and technology in our lives. It helps Government departments and agencies commission and use public dialogue to inform policy making, involving science and technology issues. Its core aim is to develop the capacity of Government to carry out good dialogue, to gather and disseminate good practice, have successful two-way communications with the public and other stakeholders, and to embed the principles of good dialogue into internal Government processes.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Number of Participants: 39 (directly) plus 800 in roll out events
Throughout "two series of workshops, in Norwich and Liverpool, local residents from diverse communities met to talk about climate change, the use of animals in research and functional foods. They shared their thoughts and views with scientists, policy-makers and one another.
The community x-change project tackled some of the inequalities regularly found in discussions about topical science issues. It was particularly concerned with engaging marginalised communities, paying attention to their needs and concerns in relation to the subject matter. Significant resource was allocated to ensure involvement of marginalised groups in the workshops. Those normally under- represented in public engagement projects were consciously over-represented." 
To ensure accessibility to the workshops
- Workshops were held in locations with good transport links
- Costs for childcare provision, translation and travel, including taxis for the infirm were covered
- Organisers also made a contribution towards loss of earnings
- All participants were also paid £35 for each day they attended, as a thank you for giving up their time during a weekend.
Methods and Tools Used
The community x-change project aimed to empower communities as meaningful participants in the process as opposed to passive recipients. To do so, the following steps were taken:
- "Scientists were invited from the same locations as the community members, to be participants in the process as citizens rather than ‘expert’ information providers
- The science issues were carefully framed to allow the community to shape and develop the direction of the discussions
- The project team committed to reflect on the process and embed their learning within future activities. This report, primarily aimed at science communicators, is a part of that commitment." 
Thus, "aspects of the project were driven from the ‘top down’. The three topics for discussion were selected at the project’s initiation. Space was also given for participants to propose other topics for discussion. In this way, a ‘bottom up’ element was introduced. For example, participants chose to investigate issues of public health service provision alongside discussions about the use of animals in research." 
Initially, the project was meant to consist of the following component parts:
- "planning and involvement of citizens as participants in the workshops and of stakeholders and policymakers as informants and advisers to the process. It was intended that stakeholders (other than citizens) and policymakers would also respond to participant views on the issues discussed
- a series of deliberative workshops where research scientists and non- specialist citizens would meet to discuss local and national issues of concern and propose possible courses of action
- scaling up activities, to take place at British Science Festivals and through the British Science Association’s regional network" 
"Following the first phase of the project in East Anglia and prior to the main workshops in York, [organizers] decided to have an externally-mediated review process. It became apparent towards the end of the East Anglia phase that for subsequent phases of the project to build effectively on learning from the first phase, a review would be extremely valuable. This resulted in the York phase of the project being merged with the Liverpool phase to produce a deeper, longer engagement in Liverpool." 
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The community x-changes' main focus was a series of deliberative workshops which took place in both East Anglia and Liverpool.
In either region, "the citizens met for four full days spread over 3 weekends within a period of around 6 weeks. The workshops were all held in community venues. The workshops were facilitated by members of the project team with other invited contributors."
The first series of workshops took place over four days on 10, 11 June and 1 and 29 July 2006, and were regarding environmental issues as well as other relevant regional concerns.
"Initial discussions focused on people's local environment, in particular issues the group deemed important to them, such as transport and crime. This enabled the group to feel they had ownership of the discussions and that no question or comment was out of bounds. The group also began to bond following a day of activities aimed at getting everyone to meet each other. These extended ice breakers ensured the right atmosphere was created so participants felt relaxed and open to discuss issues, in some cases close to their hearts. Building trust among the group was important as was making a friendly space for participants to meet.
At the second workshop (Sunday 11 June), a local environmental campaigner, Maxine Narburgh from Suffolk Connect, helped to facilitate the sessions. Since one of the aims of the meetings was to empower those attending and to enable them to feel they could contribute to action on the issues being discussed, Maxine had also invited six environmental volunteers to attend. These volunteers enabled the group to begin thinking about issues around the environment and climate change. In particular, this helped the participants to relate the issues they had raised to climate change.
On the third day, Saturday 1 July, the participants delved deeper into the issues they had begun to discuss over the first weekend. Part of the process involved the group looking at various scenarios, which were written to present some of the tensions there are in responding to a subject like climate change.
Participants talked about the issues in small groups, two of which decided to present their thoughts in the form of a drama. One drama addressed flooding in Norfolk and the other issues of exclusion and isolation. In both cases, the dramas brought a real depth and richness to the process.
The last day of the workshops was Saturday 29 July. Participants were given the opportunity to discuss issues that had been raised during the process and that they were passionate about, with information providers." 
This series of workshops occurred over three days on 22 June and 5 and 26 July 2008 in Toxteth, Liverpool, and was centred on health and related science issues.
"Unlike in East Anglia, individuals were not paid to take part but instead the community group was given £200 to be spent by their members on what they wanted.
Six scientists were recruited through universities within Liverpool to take part in the workshops as citizens, rather than as experts.
The workshops were held in a community centre belonging to the Pakistan Association Liverpool in the centre of Toxteth.
The workshops had quite a different feel to those in East Anglia. This was primarily due to many participants already knowing other people attending and the venue being a community centre. There was a family feel to the sessions with a number of people choosing to bring their children with them rather than accept a donation towards child care.
Friendships appeared to develop quickly within the group. The Chair of the Pakistan Association commented, with delight, on seeing the Pakistani and Somali committees meeting and speaking to each other.
Participants were invited to come and share their views and opinions on health issues.
The first workshop started with space for the participants to raise health issues of concern to them.
Participants also knew they would be discussing some health-related science issues of interest to the government. The first workshop included performances of two specially-commissioned dramas. The two 20 minute plays explored two science issues: the use of animals in research and the development of genetically-modified GM) foods. The plays were written by award-winning playwright, Carol Clewlow and directed and produced by Operating Theatre" 
Plot summaries are available in the final report .
The final report claims that "the plays were an extremely effective way of introducing the two science issues. They were fun and enthusiastically received by the participants, making the issues accessible to the broad age range present in the room. They also enabled some of the basic science to be presented but more importantly contextualised the social issues around the science. For an audience predominantly with English as a second language, the plays were invaluable in quickly getting the participants to a place where they understood some of the issues and heard some of the conflicting viewpoints without the need for copious information provision." 
"The final workshop was held on 26 July 2008. Participants discussed a range of science, health and local issues with information providers from the list generated in the second workshop. The group believed these people to be trusted sources of information and people who the group wanted to feed back their thoughts to."
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
According to Taylor-Gee and Bansal, "by bringing together members of the local community with local scientists, trust was built up between both parties. The participants realised that although they may not have much science education, they were more aware of science issues than they realised and were empowered to offer their thoughts about certain issues. As one of the aims was to improve involvement processes between scientists and publics, acknowledging that each bring their own expertise, the project really allowed a mutual respect to develop between the scientists and publics. Many participants commented on how they valued meeting a real scientist as well as the scientists commented on getting to speak to the public." 
"Another aim of the project was to provide opportunities for publics to discuss issues involving science and other issues they felt strongly about. As the process was top down and bottom up, the value of personal concerns was recognised. It became clear that for many participants local concerns were of far more importance than global and national issues. Providing a safe space for participants to discuss local issues of concern gave depth to the process. Many of the local issues, for example public transport, could be discussed within the broad framework of the environment, allowing climate change to be introduced more naturally to the discussions. However, deep-felt personal feelings were also uncovered which impinged on the global science issue, one participant commenting, “I can’t even influence my local community so how can I influence climate change.” [It was] also observed that willingness to value and promises to act on the views of the community quickly removed perceived barriers. Many participants greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet with other local people outside of their normal acquaintance."
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The final report observes the following points, organised around four themes.
It was "found that recruiting participants was made easier by working with existing community groups rather than contacting individuals. Word of mouth was very effective. Having a community engagement worker talking to his/her contacts, who then spoke to their contacts, created a snowball effect in terms of recruitment."
Scientists as Citizens
"Involving scientists in the dialogue process as participants as opposed to experts worked well. Having scientists on an equal footing meant that other participants did not feel that the views of scientists were necessarily more valuable than their own. The scientists also valued meeting other people local to where they live, who they might not normally spend time with. Scientists and non-scientists shared issues of local concern due to living in the same area, bringing both parties together.
There were however challenges in recruiting scientists to the process in that scientists sometimes were not sure what public engagement entailed and why they should take part." 
Top Down Bottom Up
"The issues discussed during the community x-changes were a mix of top down and bottom up. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) was one of the funders for the first phase and was interested in finding out public views about climate change, providing the top down element for these x-changes. The pre-defined topics in the second phase of the project were animals in research and functional foods, as the Wellcome Trust was a funder that year."
"This project was not specifically linked to any particular policy area or government department so the project team found it difficult to get many policy makers involved in the process. Rather than getting the participants of the project to agree on a set of recommendations regarding climate change for example, the project focussed on community development."
 Sciencewise (2008) “Case Study: Community X-Change Pilot”, May 2008
 Taylor-Gee, A and Bansal, J (2010) “Community X-Change Final Report”, British Science Association, 2010
 Sciencewise (2017) “Community X-Change” [ONLINE] Available at: https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20170110120831/http://www.sciencewise-erc.org.uk/cms/community-x-change-2/