1999 Conference Proceedings

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EMPOWERMENT OF USERS' ORGANISATIONS IN R&D FORTUNE

Prof. Dr. Ing. Christian Bühler, FTB,
Grundschöttelerstr.40, 58300 Wetter, Germany

Abstract

In European R&D programmes a new emphasis on user participation is formulated. During the Technology Initiative for Disabled and Elderly user involvement and user participation is recognised as a basic principle for all projects. The programme evaluation realised, that "the most successful projects had the enthusiastic and active involvement of established, formal user organisations". Therefore it recommended, to make skilled resources available to the projects, by future actions. The FORTUNE project corresponds exactly to this issue. FORTUNE is a support action organised as a training and networking for end-users who have a backing form their organisation. After the initial training the FORTUNE graduates will offer support to R&D projects.

FORTUNE background

FORTUNE concentrates on the growing group of customers and with disabilities and high age. Although the R&D community is in principle prepared to interact with these users, not enough skilled users from user organisations are available to act in the R&D context in a professional way. For many user groups a barrier for participation in European R&D is their voluntary character and internal structure, which is not prepared for the procedures in European R&D. FORTUNE takes up these problems and bridges the gap between R&D and users' organisations. The main objectives of FORTUNE are: to facilitate participation of user organisations in R&D, to improve European exchange of experiences by user information networking; to disseminate information and encourage the uptake of new Telematics applications.

General Approach

FORTUNE supports the participation of well trained users (representatives of user groups) for full participation in R&D. The exchange of experience between R&D teams and user organisations and creation of an information network of users is facilitated. FORTUNE provides a resource book, and an expert user forum for R&D, to support R&D teams and the assessment of the achievements of the European Telematics programme and its sector TIDE. Guidelines and evaluation criteria for full participation of end-users will support user oriented R&D.

The core of the project is the users' qualification for full participation in R&D programmes and projects, with the help of peer user experts and assistive technology and project management specialists. The methods and contents for the training courses are taken up and refined from available methods and experiences. A European exchange is implemented by networking of user organisations and participation in the Telematics programme. An experimental environment that permits interaction between users and creators is set up. Pilot assessments support to projects and enable the refinement of the training.

Training

The training aims at the empowered participation of end-users (backed on organisations) in R&D. The participants for the training are nominated by the organisations of end-users and finally selected of the umbrella organisations, who are partners in FORTUNE. Thus user organisations have full control about the nominations. They also support the trainees throughout the training in a tutorial concept.

Empowerment is mostly connected to competence in knowledge and communication. Basically we consider the end-users to be experts (user experts) in their experience of living with a disability in a environment full of obstacles. And also being experts in finding practical solutions technology for activities of daily living e.g. by usage of assistive technology. So the user experts have knowledge and competence in this domain.

However, usually they are not involved in R&D and have no knowledge about how work in this field is performed. Therefore, the end-users should gain understanding about their role in R&D, of the R&D process, of assistive technology and of methodology through the training. The restricted training time concentrates in this respect on the most relevant knowledge domains, as

The FORTUNE training is mainly based on appropriate use of existing methods, and experiences of good practice. Methods are identified form literature and experiences are collected by the partners and national contacts. The training is performed in two presence training phases prepared and followed up by written information and materials.

It is obvious that the level and kind of organisation of end-users is varying in the different countries Hence, the first training phase is carried out on national level and mainly in mother tongues. This enables to deal with country-specific issues. The second training phase is international and the training language is English. Here participants will already be confronted with the situation of working on European level with peers from foreign countries.

Practice

For a success of the training it is very important to implement interaction with real projects during the training. This will allow a support to projects, and also give feedback about the success of the training. Therefore projects have been and are still invited to liaise with the FORTUNE support action. The level of interaction is agreed on a case by case base where confidentiality is guaranteed. As well national as European projects can apply for the service. TIDE / TAP projects are particularly encouraged to make use of the offer. However, only a restricted number of projects can receive the services. They will be selected case by case, where the main selection criteria consider a good match between FORTUNE graduates and project area. Projects who make use of the FORTUNE services will have the opportunity to provide an evaluation of the support from their point of view.

Organisation and Networking

In FORTUNE important self-help organisations co-operate as partners with knowledgeable institutions skilled in European R&D. The concept of national contacts in the European countries and the involvement of the European Disability Forum (EDF) and AAATE (Association for the Advancement of Assistive Technology in Europe) ensure a European dimension and provide potential for information dissemination. National contacts are installed in 17 European countries installed today.

This FORTUNE network is an attempt to exchange information and experiences about empowered user involvement in research and development and related issues. It is intended to expand the network based on email and Internet communications during the course of the project. The network is set up between the project partners and national contacts first. More interested parties such as TAP projects already joined the network. We expect the network to grow further and everyone interested is invited to join.

More information is presented to the public in the FORTUNE homepage: http://www.fernuni-hagen.de/FTB/fortune

During the AAATE 99 conference (November 1-4, 1999) in Düsseldorf, Germany which will be held in conjunction with REHA-international (November 3-6, 1999), world leading fair on rehabilitation technology, partners of the FORTUNE will present and discuss results and experiences of the programme.

Acknowledgement

The work done in FORTUNE, TAP DE 9231 "Forum of user Organisations Training for Usability and Networking in Europe" is granted by CEU, DG XIIID under the Telematics Application Programme, Sector Disabled and Elderly.

FORTUNE Partners are: BAGH, FTB (Germany ); COCEMFE, CEAPAT(Spain); NGR, IRV (Netherlands); FFO, REHAB-NOR (Norway).


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