Responsible Innovation and Civil Society Organisations
Civil Society Organisations - from campaigners to unions, consumer groups to charities - all play a vital role in shaping the future. They develop new thinking, deliver vital services, represent public views & hold organisations to account. Responsible Innovation empowers them to make a difference, but asks that they too reflect on playing their part responsibly.
Civil Society Organisations are so diverse and play so many different roles in different contexts that it is not easy, or perhaps helpful, to see them as a homogeneous group. Their role in representing societal interests and holding powerful organisations to account make them vital but unpopular in many quarters and increasingly they are having to step to provide often essential services or respond to crises where governments and businesses are failing to act. Despite, or perhaps because of this, they are under threat like never before, with the risk of physical harm to individuals and groups on the rise and funding sources squeezed in many areas.
But they are also still the most trusted group in society, according to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, though businesses are catching up and in terms of confidence in the expertise of individuals they are losing ground to technical, academic and business experts.
Responsible Innovation points to Civil Society Organisations as key stakeholders and partners for organisations to collaborate with to build trustworthiness and trust, and also to engage with to assess and respond to potential negative impacts. But it also expects those groups themselves to demonstrate the trustworthiness of their approach through increased openness and accountability and improving the veracity of the evidence they use to support their approach.
But as with other stakeholders there are diverse views about their legitimacy, their role and their work. A union bringing a strike to support workers being displaced by automation generates mixed feelings even in many supporters. Charities delivering services need to be as responsible and accountable as those in the commercial sector and activists advocating for certain perspectives on the environment or human rights, for example, face difficulties in generating funding or communicating challenge both effectively to draw attention to their concerns and in the nuanced way that many issues of technology innovation require.
Responsible Innovation empowers CSOs, both as collaborators and as a vital component of holding others to account.