Example: Novartis Forum

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Novartis Forum


ISSUES: Acceptance of GMOs (genetically modified plants for food production) in Germany (1997-1999; in 2000 focus shifted to healthcare issues around aging)


GOALS: Create platform for informed debate, demonstrate company’s willingness to listen to stakeholders


PARTICIPATING STAKEHOLDERS: environmental NGOs, consumer groups, ethical and religious institutions, politicians, administrators, scientists, communication consultants, trade unions, representatives from different industries (all relevant to the issue), media


TIME FRAME: annual event since 1997, 1 ½ days duration


MSP CONTACT DETAILS; PUBLICATIONS; URL: publication available from Novartis Germany, www.de.novartis.com (contact Martina Bauer), or Novartis International, www.novartis.com (contact Andreas Seiter)



Type: Informing

Level of MSP: National


Procedural Aspects:

Designing the MSP

Process was designed by the company Novartis Germany (communications department) together with consultants.


Identifying the issues to be addressed in an MSP

Issues defined by the company (related to Novartis’ technology and products).


Identifying relevant stakeholders

Novartis, in consultation with important stakeholder groups.


Identifying MSP participants

Novartis either knew the relevant people (e.g. GMO expert in trade union) or asked stakeholder group for advice (“who in your institution is the expert on GMOs?”).


Setting the goals of an MSP

No specific goals of the event which would need to be agreed upon. Important is mutual listening and learning. Mix of presentations and discussion (panel, panel and full audience, group discussions). No company presentations, Novartis in listening role.


Setting the agenda

Agenda is being set by Novartis, consultants and speakers / chairpersons of panel discussions.


Setting the time-table

Same as agenda.


Preparatory process

Thorough pre-discussions between consultants, designated speakers and Novartis.


Communication process

See “goals”. Start with presentations (different viewpoints on the issue), discussion, breakout groups. Evening off to allow for informal discussions (very important aspect). No formal meta-communication, but a lot informal; chance to talk to people who are usually not easily accessible.


Decision-making process: procedures of agreement

In discussions, one goal is to identify agreements and disagreements (where do we need more debate?), but no formal agreement sought on anything.


Implementation process

No formal implementation; experience is that participants tend to return the invitation if they organize dialogue events – the debate goes on, proceeds faster and smoother as before.


Closing the MSP

Open process, ongoing but adapting to the current issues (stress lines between company and society).


Structural Aspects:

Structures / institutions of the MSP

Secretariat provided by the company; consultants help to approach speakers or identify important stakeholder representatives, assist in briefing speakers.



Logistics provided by the company, moderation of event shared between senior company executive and outside chairperson. Journalists typically act as facilitators of workshops.



Company puts together a written report and sends it to the participants and to all others who want to be informed.


Relating to not-participating stakeholders

Only by word of mouth, event is not widely announced. Experience is that several people register spontaneously – without being invited.


Relating to the general public

No direct link into the meeting, but there are always journalists present who are encouraged to write about it.


Linkage into official decision-making process

No formal link into decision making process.



Entirely funded by Novartis.


[ information gathered as of 16 February 2001 ]


Contact Minu Hemmati and Felix Dodds for further information.