Grounding Actions are on track despite challenges
Creating sustainable change is not an easy task. It requires time, dedication, and hard work, especially when facing challenges. The implementing organisations (IOs) in the GRACE project have indeed worked hard to implement initiatives for strengthening responsible practices in their organisations and are well on their way in doing so despite encountering skepticism, difficulties in planning, and of course facing a global pandemic that no one could have foreseen. Here, we summarise the main issues encountered in the implementation processes in the GRACE project, as they were unfolded in the process evaluation finalized in November 2020.
The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged co-creation processes
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit Europe in March 2020, most of the implementing organisations were just beginning the implementation of their grounding actions. The approach of GRACE is highly based on co-creation and dialogue between the core team members, staff, management, students, and other stakeholders, a process significantly challenged by restrictions on physical meetings. Many implementing organisations initially chose to postpone workshops and discussion-based events and meetings, as they preferred to meet face-to-face, but had to reschedule ther plans for online formats as the lockdown extended. While the whole situation was a shock to everyone, working from home online was new to some, and the large degree of uncertainty made planning difficult and required a great degree of flexibility, all organisations managed to implement their co-creation activities in one form or the other and to collect stakeholder input e.g. via online meetings and staff surveys.
Resistance or scepticism towards new initiatives is common
Support from management and staff members is very important to the success of new initiatives. In the GRACE project, most organisations experienced support from interested and engaged leaders and colleagues but unfortunately, some also met skepticism. Management resistance is perhaps the most disadvantageous to creating change as management ultimately decides the course of action and can change, postpone, or cancel activities. Securing management support, or at least acceptance, is very important. One approach could be to articulate RRI Governance as an overarching strategy early in the project in an attempt to get management on board the vision from the beginning. Another approach is to accept that only smaller initiatives are possible.
A few implementing organisations have also experienced skepticism among the staff. A common obstacle is that staff tend to see RRI initiatives as an extra burden of work or as a challenge to their professional and academic identity or expertise. This is especially so when working with Public Engagement. The implementing organisations have sought to address this by,
- Primarily targeting young researchers, who are perceived as more interested in and positive toward the RRI agenda and more flexible and willing to change their practices,
- Change the internal distributions of tasks and workload,
- Find ways to create incentives for RRI initiatives.
- Create awareness and knowledge about good practice, which ZRC SAZU did with success, read more about that here.
The implementing organisations are well on their way implementing RRI initiatives, despite challenges, and their efforts will be documented in the final impact assessment due in October.
Malene Vinther Christensen, Aarhus University