White Paper on Citizen Social Science applied to Civic Organisation Projects.
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White Paper on Citizen Social Science applied to Civic Organisation Projects.

The CoAct project aims to support the United Nations’ fifth Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality by supporting civic organisations using Citizen Social Science (CSS) methods for gender-based projects. CoAct defines CSS as participatory research co-designed and directly driven by citizen groups sharing a social concern. In this document, we report on the process for the Open Call “Gender Equality”, whose application process opened in July 2021 and concluded in September of the same year. The promised grant was attributed to three European organisations supporting 10-month-long civic projects experimenting with CSS methods.

Research-centric CSS projects are typically led by a research team which builds around itself a ‘Knowledge Coalition’ whose members include the various stakeholders relevant to the research project. This means that although a close collaboration is established between the researchers and the society members as part of the coalition, the project is still an academic initiative. The CoAct project devoted a portion of its resources to exploring the possibility of putting civic organisations in the driver’s seat of a CSS project. This model raises new challenges related to the fact that:

• Most civic organisations do not have experience in making use of research methods in a rigorous manner, and

• The resources and focus of an academic research team are very different from an advocacy-focused organisation.

Yet CSS methods, applied to civic projects, can potentially increase the value of those projects for society. Faulty evidence-gathering processes, disconnect from target communities, lack of replicability, the limited reach of dissemination activities and low adoption of data-driven advocacy best practices: many of those challenges, familiar to most civic organisations, can be partially addressed through the adoption of CSS methods. The work done by the CoAct consortium in partnership with three gender-focused European civic organisations allowed us to confirm that civic organisations working with marginalised or at-risk communities were a good starting point to explore the impact of CSS methods on the civic sector. But any meaningful progress on disseminating research best practices in the civic sector will have to rely on commitments by funding organisations to understand and encourage those best practices through guidelines, proposal selection design, and grantee mentoring.

Download it from https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7253650