Recommendations for NGOs and association bodies
Based on the empirical insight gained through the survey and case studies, recommendations for different stakeholders about how to develop RRI-like practices while deriving a competitive advantage are provided below. First, recommendations for industry, which is the principal actor of competitive advantage at the micro level, are provided. These are followed by recommendations for the main actors of competitive advantage at the macro level: policymakers. Then, recommendations for supporting stakeholders that help to create the context in which RRI-like practices are developed are provided, with the aim of supporting their role in accompanying the principal actors in competitive advantage concerns, allowing for sustainable socio-economic development. These are recommendations for research performing organisations, research funding organisations, investors, civil society, and NGOs and association bodies.
Recommendations for NGOs and Associations
In the following part of this article, we are presenting you the set of recommendations made by the RRING project team, and they are;
- Engage in Standard Setting
NGOs and association bodies might drive the direction of research and innovation processes in two ways; first, they are essential in shaping and mobilising the public opinion through communication and lobbying practices – as observed, from instance, in the bio-economy case –, and second, they can also collaborate and engage with other actors to guide research and innovation processes. Standard setting and certifications have been indicated as drivers of competitive advantage through RRI-like practices, since they concentrate the efforts of reflective processes that might lengthen the research and innovation timelines at the precompetitive stage and pool the resources of companies who might otherwise be unable to engage (mostly SMEs). For these standards to gain legitimation and incorporate diverse visions and societal concerns, NGOs can play an essential role, through the setting of ethical baselines and the incorporation of social and environmental concerns in the development of the standards. Such type of engagement can be very effective, and such processes may even be initiated by NGOs themselves, as noted in the ICT case.
- Understand multiplicity of motives in other organizations
When engaging with other organizations, particularly those that need to develop a competitive advantage for their survival, understanding the multiple drives that might guide negotiation processes is necessary. Particularly, in the case of NGOs that are very focused on the achievement of one particular goal (for instance, environmental NGOs) or one-topic association bodies (such as mitigating climate change) it might be complicated to sit at the table with a business organisation that claims to have environmental and social motives objectives, while also having an underlying economic motive. However, different logics are present in this type of organisations, with the co-existence of moral and instrumental motives. This is especially relevant when NGOs are engaging in collaborative process for standard setting or to steer research and innovation processes. Although it is important to voice and table the issues that are relevant for the NGO, the trades-off and balances with economic considerations also need to be considered in the negotiations to support competitive advantage, while also achieving the inclusion of socio-ethical concerns In the process and outcomes of research and innovation.
- Voice and dialogue
Beyond collaboration of NGOs in standard setting and certification processes, NGOs have a very relevant role is lobbying and communicating. To this extent, it is important to raise relevant issues and inform civil society about any issues that should be tabled and debated in a public forum. In addition, this also means coming into the debate, even in the case of opposing points of departure with organisations and stakeholders involved in research and innovation. An example of this is the case of GMOs, in which it was noted how certain NGOs had decided not to participate in dialogue processes because of the other stakeholders invited to the conversation. However, this meant that their voice was not heard in this context and not taken into consideration in the debate, hence reducing the possibilities of finding common ground, and resulting in unanticipated economic consequences (such as hurting the competitive advantage of SMEs, rather than the one of larger enterprises, by pushing for the regulation of CRISPR techniques as GMOs). This suggests that two way communication could be beneficial for the objectives of both NGOs and other actors with economic motives.