Overview of guidelines to CSOs
What is a CSO?
Civil society organisation is a term widely used in the European policy context but less widely known elsewhere. The notion is not easy to define as it may vary according to national context and from one policy field to another.
According to the CONSIDER project, the working definition of a civil society organisation is an organisation that is non-governmental, generally not-for-profit, not representing commercial interests, and that pursues a common purpose for the public interest. CSOs are responsible for articulating the opinions of various social spheres, and cover, for example, environmental groups, minority groups, consumer representatives and patient organisations.
Why would CSOs be interested in participating in research projects?
There are various motivations that encourage CSOs to become engaged in research:
To ensure that the interests of the group(s) the CSO represents are central to the research undertaken. This could include the new knowledge created, the methodology chosen and any innovation that may emerge from the research. The CSO is able to act as an intermediary between a given social group, academia and industry.
Because CSOs work on the ground, they are able to contribute field-based knowledge to research, drawing on tangible and relevant sets of feedback, data, studies, etc.
A CSO may want to act as a guardian for ethical issues in terms of methodology and outcomes.
As research findings’ may inform policy-making in a field that affects the interests or causes they represent, CSOs may want to get involved in order to help shape the research and favour a more evidence-based policy-making.
Our results show that in addition to knowledge production and feeding into policy guidelines, CSOs are primarily motivated by a desire to contribute to achieving the agreed goals of their members, or to contribute to solving a pragmatic question. The CSOs contributing to research projects often hire skilled staff who are familiar with research processes, for example they hold PhDs themselves and are experienced in the research topics being considered.