- HOW TO SET UP A PARTICIPATORY RESEARCH AGENDA
- HOW TO ADVOCATE YOUR IDEA AND SET UP A PROJECT PROPOSAL: CAPACITY BUILDING FOR CSOS
- HOW TO CO-CREATE COMMUNITY-BASED PARTICIPATORY RESEARCH
- HOW TO EMBED RRI IN CITIZEN SCIENCE
- HOW TO INCORPORATE RRI IN SCIENCE ENGAGEMENT ORGANISATIONS
How to advocate your idea and set up a project proposal: Capacity building for CSOs
This short section is not a general recipe or a use-only-as-directed manual for advocating an idea or setting up a project proposal, but it offers ideas and inspirations for people who are engaging with this topic for the first time. The number of relevant resources in the RRI Toolkit and beyond is much larger than the few listed below, and many more resources and experiences will be uploaded as the Community of Practice continues to grow.
Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is the dynamic process by which all stakeholders share responsibility for both the outcomes and process requirements, building on engagement, communication, fairness, transparency and openness, and mutual acknowledgement of knowledge and experience. Promoters of RRI discuss ways for civil society organisations (CSOs) and citizens to become empowered and to interact with knowledge-based institutions, such as universities and private and public research institutions. Most of that discussion revolves around areas such as programming or internal management. However, empowerment comes not only by enhancing skills and capacities, but also through active listening, learning and training. Only by working together can engaged publics, skilled and responsible actors, and responsible institutions develop ethically acceptable, sustainable and socially desirable outputs and outcomes.
Advocacy and campaigns: Creative ideas and engagement beat big budgets
Advocacy is an area that often feels a bit beyond innovation activities. But new players promoting an idea or new themes are already the first endorsers of an innovation process. Once an idea is born it needs much of the typical business to create awareness and understanding or to win support: the cycle of policy papers or recommendations, the organisation of lobby meetings and media work, and the treadmill of routine consultations.
Before starting to campaign for your ideas, you should familiarise yourself with background and policy papers. These are basic literature, articles and reports written by stakeholders and network partners about their work and experiences. They include findings from previous cooperation projects and recommendations for improvements. Good examples of CSO research-related background and policy papers are STACS’s report on CSO participation in research, Making a Difference to Research Strategies, Science in Society: Caring for our Futures in Turbulent Times, and Optimising Civil Society Participation in Research. Another resource is the Responsibility Observatory, which provides access to literature, projects and initiatives that already exist or are newly produced and published by stakeholders from science, industry, politics and other interested members of civil society.
Also helpful are guides and information that draw lessons from practitioners’ experiences over the years. They contain valuable information that can contribute to policy and strategy development in your own work. Reading about others’ experiences can help you think outside the box and see what is probably a bigger picture. For examples, check out Science Shops’ Sustainability for Science Shops document; explore the European Citizens’ Initiative Campaign, a tool of participatory, transnational and digital democracy; or follow Science Citoyennes’ Why and How to Participate in H2020: Manual for CSOs, which introduces the European context regarding R&I politics and funding, and offers suggestions for wider reflections on research policies, CSOs and societal developments. It also explains the procedure for submitting a project to European calls. Lastly, take a look at the CONSIDER project, which explored CSOs participation in research, contrasting theoretical views on benefits and limitations with empirical findings on the practice of CSO participation.
You should also consider your available networks. Networks and well-built relations multiply and strengthen a CSO’s impact in research and innovation processes, build resilience and mutual support, and enhance knowledge sharing. They are hubs for creative ideas and can be built on a community of practice, social networks or interrelated groups of several independent institutions or organisations established for a specific need. Project consortia provide increased access to and application of resources through international networks and consortia of RRI practitioners, such as Responsible-Industry (RRI in ICT), HEIRRI (higher education), EnRRICH (curriculum development), Res-AGorA (governance), SATORI (ethical impacts), or PACITA (technology assessment), to mention a few. Network and Relationship Building for CSOs is another resource to consider, especially when thinking about networks, network characteristics and relationships in general.
In addition to networks, engaging with the media and social media is important for promoting your ideas. Good information policies and dissemination strategies can be unique selling propositions and can generate competitive advantages when it comes to the assessment of project proposals. A good media strategy can even beat big budgets. It is therefore important for civil society to acquire the skills necessary for working with the media, packaging advocacy materials in a manner that is attractive to and understandable and usable by the media. You can start by checking out Strengthening CSOs through Social Media, Tweeting Science and Ethics, and Integrating Science in Society Issues in Scientific Research.
Setting up a project proposal: Of proactive planning and anticipating future problems
Diverse and inclusive RRI processes call for early CSO involvement in phrasing research questions. Public engagement activities, which are designed to give citizens opportunities to add their specific knowledge to the research process, make early involvement possible. Through these activities researchers and citizens can cooperate to define a specific research question or to discuss research results and their validity regarding the problems perceived by the public, the solutions needed and the risks involved. Considerations and resources for writing a project proposal are listed below.
Writing the proposal: The basics of proposal writing can be found in several locations, such as How to Write a Proposal, The Project Proposal Toolkit, which helps simplify the process of writing a proposal, or Project Proposal Writing for NGOs. The section How to Design an RRI-oriented Project Proposal in this Toolkit may also help.
Initiating research: A growing number of research initiatives stem from CSOs and citizens (e.g., SoScience). Examples in the field of medical research, where patient organisations are taking an active role in defining research, are Changing Diabetes and Xplore Health. Another method for initiating research is the Science Shop model, in which researchers offer support to local communities, CSOs or citizen groups to help define and set up research that serves citizens’ specific needs (more Science Shop resources can be found in the RRI Toolkit).
Finding a partner: The EU’s National Contact Points (NCPs) provide guidance, practical information and assistance with Horizon 2020 as well as brokerage events and conferences for sharing ideas and inspiration. In particular, the SiS.net network includes most of the NCPs from the Science with and for Society programme (plus a number of other programmes) and can offer valuable advice on how to find partners for your proposal.
Learning from organisations: Some institutions and think tanks that explicitly reflect on and anticipate science and innovation have sound experience and can offer consultancy on public engagement and research development. A few examples are the Danish Board of Technology Foundation, Involve, Living Knowledge–The International Science Shop Network, Ecsite – the European Network of Science Centres and Museums and NCCPE (the UK-based National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement).
Considering project evaluation: The RRI Toolkit provides tools dedicated to quantifying and evaluating performance in RRI–factors that should be considered when setting up a proposal. Examples are Evaluation of Public Participation in Government by Involve, Doing Foresight by the Danish Board of Technology Foundation, PERARES’ guide on evaluating CSO-involving projects from proposal to post-project, and Learning Outcomes from Citizen Science.
Projects and their reports show promising practices on how citizens can bring their specific knowledge or questions into a research process. PERARES addresses research agenda setting through CSOs; Sparks explores how science exhibitions can be linked with participatory activities for local proactive planning; VOICES helps identify citizens’ ideas, preferences, values, needs and expectations regarding research priorities for the theme ‘Urban Waste and Innovation’ and also helps to set the research agenda for Europe’s RRI framework. Finally, the Engage2020 project has developed two very useful tools: an Action Catalogue of public engagement methods and an overview of the current praxis of policies and activities supporting societal engagement in R&I in Europe.
What else can be done to strengthen CSOs in general and in research cooperation specifically? Keywords for further research for ideas, knowledge and resources might be: resource mobilisation and fundraising, internal governance and management, capacity analysis and capacity building, or civil society accountability. Monitoring and evaluation, and gender and youth mainstreaming should also be considered by CSOs when advocating their ideas and putting up them into practice.