Monday 05

A new model for RRI and CSO participation?

Posted by RRI Tools on 05 Sep 2016

What do we want the future of Responsible Research and Innovation to be?

That is the question Claudia Neubauer posed to participants at the second RRI Tools’ Train the Trainers workshop that took place in July at CosmoCaixa Barcelona. Neubauer, a molecular biologist, is currently program officer for the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation for the Progress of Humankind, which supports communities transitioning toward sustainability.

As the RRI Tools project enters its final months, Neubauer encouraged participants to think about what RRI currently is and what it can become, particularly regarding participation of civil society organizations (CSOs). “What is difficult,” she said, “is the bigger frame of RRI.” Should we accept the current status quo or should we push for something different? Are we going for growth, competitiveness, and innovation, without worrying about who benefits and how they benefit? “I think we can be more ambitious and say, ‘No’”.

“Somehow there is another societal model we are going for with CSO participation and RRI,” Neubauer said. “Maybe it’s not so much about growth, it’s rather about prosperity. And maybe it’s not so much about competitiveness, it’s about cooperation, and so on and so on.” But this new model is not easy to describe, and it is not easy for others to understand, she cautioned, because the widespread “master narrative” is about growth and competition.

RRI and CSO participation are about science, technology, and innovations, which “are deeply political things in our modern world”. This cannot be forgotten, she warned. They are about “social transformation” and “trying to do better for the people” living in difficult circumstances. These are political issues that require people’s active support.

Participation is a big part of the transformation Neubauer is encouraging. As she described in an interview for RRI Tools, CSO participation has a “transformative power”. Participation gives power and confidence to people to transform their lives. CSOs bring “different points of view, different experiences, and different objectives, and different ways of analysing”. These perspectives change research focus and analysis, helping direct research towards topics important to the CSOs instead of just those important to researchers.

“One political opportunity right now is the sustainable development movement.” Neubauer encouraged workshop participants to integrate what they have learned about participation and about the social purpose of research and innovation during the RRI Tools project with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

The old slogan “Act local, think global,” is still true, Neubauer said. We should link with other RRI projects to say, “We are a strong community”. When you do participatory research, you can link to local initiatives, and they can link to global initiatives. In Neubauer’s view, not only can doing so transform how citizens feel about their countries and their roles as citizens, it can transform global society.

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