P1. Clarify objectives when encouraging CSO participation
Much of the involvement of CSOs in research is driven by research policy. Policymakers are the people who provide the resources and instruct funders to devise mechanisms that encourage CSOs to participate in research. There are numerous possible reasons why CSO involvement might be desired (see section (why would a policymaker be interested in CSOs in research) but these are not always consistent and require different mechanisms of promotion, implementation and evaluation. Policymakers should therefore specify what they hope to achieve, in order for funders and participants in research to shape research agenda and implementation accordingly.
Unless the policy aims behind CSO involvement are clearly spelled out it will be difficult to devise research in a way that it meets the aims and to develop evaluation mechanisms to promote them.
Policymakers devising research policy of relevance to CSO involvement should ask themselves:
What is the purpose that CSO involvement is supposed to achieve?
Example: Choose CSOs that can deliver results
In one case CSOs were involved in a technical development project for disabled users. One of the CSOs involved felt that there was an overdependence on organisations that were included because of their proven ability to secure European funding. The CSO representative felt that the best people should be involved based on their capability to deliver results. The actual needs of people did not inform research as much as the strategic manipulation of some key players who get funding. This was seen as detrimental to the overall research objectives. Being clear on the objectives to be pursued when including CSOs could counteract this emphasis on funding track record.
One CSO representative put it as follows: 'There are people who know how to do it and how to get it. They have their offices in Brussels and in the end I don’t think that’s beneficial. So, maybe Brussels should leave Brussels for a bit and go out and look for research needs'.