Why include CSOs in research

The following principal areas are crucial for CSO engagement. They point to the main reasons and motivations for including CSOs in research. These are often coupled with specific interests by individual stakeholders which can be found when clicking on the main recommendations for stakeholders, e.g. researchers, CSOs or policymakers.

Shaping research and innovation to societal challenges

The connection to societal challenges might be helpful to get funding, but it often challenges researchers to tell a plausible story about what progress is realistic to be achieved. The connection of research to relevant problems increases the chance to include CSOs as they are interested in a better problem-solving. The inclusion of CSOs offers the chance to get a more realistic picture about the opportunities and limitations of selected approaches of problem-solving.

Example: Even in cases where the CSOs have not been part of the consortium and have been included at the periphery of knowledge production, the focus on societal challenges allowed them to cooperate. Therefore, the focus on societal challenges is the main messenger for integrating civil society in research. Against this background, the connection to societal challenges should be as specific and concrete as possible while formulating the research agenda.

Involvement in participatory research (‘action research’)

Involvement in participatory research offers a specific chance for getting relevant innovation actors altogether in the innovation process. By such a process, the sharing of knowledge is easier and the inclusion of context relevant knowledge is facilitated.

Example: There were a couple of cases in our sample in which the research agenda was fulfilled by both researchers and CSOs. This course of research was fruitful not only for researchers by defining a more appropriate research agenda or getting more data, but also for CSOs by increasing their knowledge base for problem-solving and social mobilisation activities.

Translation of research results back into society (i.e. application and scale-up)

In many cases the link between research and societal problem-solving is not entirely obvious. Therefore, CSOs might contribute to communicating the relevance of the findings in relation to the societal problems to be solved. Their integrative view is a strong communication resource in such cases.

Example: In different cases, we observed that the CSOs offered strong opportunities for translating the research results back into society, This was done by workshops or through typical communication activities of the CSOs.

Functional benefits: knowledge, economic benefits

CSO participation is in many cases seen as a profound resource of gaining legitimacy for scientific research. This is in some cases true and in many cases important. But, nevertheless, this is only one part of the story, and not the most important one. Against the background of our empirical findings, it is clear that in many cases CSOs offer expert knowledge resources that are highly relevant for the whole research process. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind the other functional benefits provided by the inclusion of CSOs, namely the practical knowledge and economic benefits achieved through better defining and progressing the type of innovation, leading to it being useful for many more people.