C1. Dare to take the initiative
CSOs should dare to take a leading role in the design and implementation of a research & innovation project, not underestimating the knowledge and skills they can bring. Being close to a particular social or environmental issue, a CSO has good knowledge about the needs and gaps in its area of work: a CSO can work with researchers to see how research could lead to innovation to help their cause. Therefore, by contributing actively at the development stage of the project, the CSO helps to set the right tone for equal collaboration with research bodies. CSOs should, of course, be open to different levels of engagement in projects (data collection, experience sharing, action-research, interest representation, dissemination, etc.)
The following questions could guide CSO leaders in their decision-making:
Can we take the coordination role of the entire project or should we concentrate on leading certain areas of the project that are relevant to our activities?
What are the research priorities that we want to put forward and how could we involve end-users in the research?
Example: CSO as project coordinator
This project focused on solar energy. Several CSOs were involved, including the project coordinator, an SME representing plumbing and heating professionals. The CSO took on both the coordination and technical aspects of the project, having the necessary technical expertise to do so. The fact that a CSO was at the helm seems to have been a major success, not least because the CSO took on more than their fair share in the project tasks. They were keen to ensure that the project succeeded in the interests of their members, even if this meant a heavy workload.