Social impact assessment : "when research becomes action"
On Thursday, November 23rd, you were almost 150 to come from France and Belgium, and from various from various backgrounds (researchers, actors of the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE), testing enterprises and funders) to participate to our 2nd Meetings on Social Impact, held at Espace Jacqmotte in Brussels.
Thank you !
Thank you for listening attentively to the presentations from our different speakers, who were very complementary to each other.
As a reminder, the question of "RESEARCH-ACTION" was central during the day.
Our aim was :
- to spell out the notion of "research-action" and put into perspective the contributions of such a dynamic for the VISES project ;
- to identify the contributions (positive and negative) of such an approach for both researchers and companies ;
- to address the question of timing : a project of " research-action", which requires many exchanges and is highly thought-provoking, it necessarily is time-consuming ;
- to re-evaluate oneself and to apprehend things differently.
This day was really edifying, thanks to the diversity and complementarity of the presentations, the relevance of your questions and the quality of the exchanges.
The findings have been divided in 3 categories, based on the themes of the workshops. Of course, the 3 themes (co-creation, research-action and stakeholders) are closely linked, and the conclusions derived can often apply to one another.
Lessons learned at the level of the notion of "co-creation"
• running a European co-creation project is highlighted as an extremely positive element ;
• co-creation is performed on many levels. In the VISES project, the co-creation is conducted :
o at the cross-border level : this pushes us to simplify, to aim at the essential while keeping the transversal elements in the different regions and countries ;
o at the level of choice of the evaluative question ;
o at the level of outputs/results : both for the research and for the development of the VISES’ tool and its stages ;
o at the level of mutual trust between actors, researchers and VISES’ project leaders. Bridging networks between different levels are a key element. Overcoming disagreements, unavoidable in a partnership like VISES, creates a community that can collectively send strong and important messages that go beyond the project.
>> Beyond the tool, the VISES project is leading the SSE on both sides of the border to speak with one voice about the issues of social impact assessment and to formulate a coherent political message.
• The following elements, discussed in workshop B - can serve as recommendations for a successful co-creation process :
o thoroughly preparing the process ;
o using a methodology (even if it evolves) ;
o defining a framework (even if it evolves) ;
o getting help from a neutral facilitator ;
o having a facilitator who can reframe the work of the group ;
o basing the work on observations and establish a goal (while reviewing it regularly to ensure that it always sticks to the expectations of participants) ;
o being transparent about process and results ;
o taking the appropriate amount of time ;
o having the appropriate amount of space ;
o not exceeding, ideally, a group size of 12 people.
Lessons learned at the level of the notion of "research-action"
• to carry out a European project in the form of "research-action" entails a "win-win" situation, and thus allows to combine :
o Results adapted to the needs of the actors on the ground. In the framework of VISES, the enterprise is centre-stage ;
o Research whose resonance is increased exponentially. The result of VISES will be more than the sum of each evaluation process, of each application within the enterprise. What will emerge is :
trends, common elements, comparisons ;
tester enterprises invested in a collective quest, going beyond their own stakes. This distinguishes this research from other research-actions ;
a common and shared ownership of the social impact to facilitate the dialogue of the actors of the SSE with funding partners, in a context in constant evolution.
• Research-action transforms both business and research :
o at the level of enterprise :
research-action puts into question basic elements of its structure from the get-go. This reflection on its social impact makes it possible to return to the core of the organisation’s business. The process of reflection is often more important than the obtained result ;
research-action formulates questions about how values are translated into practice ;
research-action can be seen as a challenge : it allows one to question oneself and have a wider perspective ;
research-action improves business skills.
o at the level of research :
being on the ground allows to test one’s theories and ideas in the everyday reality of enterprises ;
a researcher moves from a position that is a priori more objective than a consultant’s, and this gives the chance to ask sometimes "dangerous" questions to the enterprise ;
what is experienced on the ground moulds the research.
• a number of conditions - discussed in Workshop A - favour good research-action :
o involving the widest number of stakeholders and allowing them to have their say (all people around the table are at the same level, the hierarchical level should not come into play) ;
o properly informing participants about the process they are entering ;
o ensuring that everyone has a common understanding of the project and of the used
vocabulary (even if the concepts evolve) ;
o creating a sense of ownership ;
o co-evolving ;
o agreeing to play the game and to question oneself ;
o making allowance for failures and lack of results during the process ;
o making use of collective-intelligence methodologies to gather information ;
o giving oneself the appropriate amount of time.
Lessons learned at the level of the stakeholders
• Integrating stakeholders into a research-action project is rewarding for everyone. Collaborating with the stakeholders allows to put into words the work done, its structure and its main mission. This allows the transmission of the values of the organisation between old and new workers ;
• integrating all the stakeholders of the organisation will always lead to an incomplete result, as it will never be possible to
highlight all the different impacts. And so, the expectations in terms of "communication of results" will be totally different if we look internally and/or externally ;
• In a social impact analysis, there will always be differences in interests depending on who is around the table. But this reflection makes it possible to co-create and to bring out common elements.
In order to get to a result, it is very important to know/be able :
• who is around the table ;
• at which point in time is this stakeholder involved and why ;
• which stakeholder this person represents (beneficiary, funder, client, etc.) ;
• why it is part of this process and what expectations it is pursuing ;
• to take a step back and ask questions about oneself and the work that is being done. By taking this step back, one can more easily realise - without value judgment - the expectations of other stakeholders. It also helps to secure oneself in the process, to go beyond its assumptions and to fully participate in the process ;
• to be accompanied by a third party in this social impact assessment process.
it therefore seems that, for the process to be successful, it is important to ensure the establishment of a framework conducive to
reflection, where each participant is able to explain its motivations and expectations.
For those who wish, you can dive back into the presentations from the various speakers :
- Exposé on Social Impact (Sybille Mertens)
- Update on the VISES project (Laurence Duflou and Salomé Lenglet)
- Experience of the enterprise Andage (Thomas Breyer)
- Presentation on the notion of "research-action" (Tom Dedeurwaerdere)
- Experience of the Boutique des Sciences (Bertrand Bocquet)
Here are some pictures of our event
Looking forward to meeting again soon.
The VISES project team
c’est susciter l’engouement pour agir et entreprendre différemment et :