E1. Emphasise the public relevance of the project
In contrast to regular proposals and projects, research work involving CSOs should have a specific public relevance. The proposals should not only entail a vague connection to societal overwhelming topics like ageing or sustainability but should make clear why, how and to what extend the results will inform and support the work of CSOs or will contribute to solving explicit public problems.
When evaluating proposals or projects including CSOs, evaluators and reviewers could ask:
Is it clear how the project relates to broader public interests?
How do the CSOs relate to the public relevance of the project?
Are the CSOs involved well positioned to represent or communicate with social groups affected by the research?
Example: Sustainable indigenous economies
One of the projects we studied aimed at spreading knowledge on how to organize the economies of indigenous communities in an ecological and sustainable way. It involved several different CSOs who have been engaged in activities around environmental safety and ecological education before. Through the project, the personnel of the CSOs learned how to apply various research methods, to analyse data and draw scientific as well as practical recommendations. The interviewed CSO leader ensured that these activities will support the CSOs’ future work as they can work with the methods and the results on a daily basis. The results will inform the education programmes. Besides, the cooperation between the CSOs and the researchers attracted the attention of national politicians which led to regular press conferences and thus made the CSOs’ activities public through various media channels.
The researcher we interviewed pointed out that in order to emphasize the public relevance of a project it might be necessary to involve the CSOs from the very beginning:
'For me, the inclusion of CSOs into research projects is important for being connected to current societal problems and needs. Pure science is missing this part. You need to adapt science to the needs of those who are the end-users, for instance in the case of technologies, or where the actual problem has emerged from. You need to make the connection which might be missing in the realm of pure science. Taking this aim seriously, we involve CSOs in different stages of the project – not only in the end for dissemination, but also in the beginning for agenda setting'. (Researcher)