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What is CoAct?

Co-designing Citizen Social Science for Collective Action

CoAct is a project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. CoAct is proposing a new understanding of Citizen Social Science as participatory research co-designed and directly driven by citizen groups sharing a social concern, in which they become co-researchers in processes commonly dominated by academic researchers. CoAct aims to bring together and further develop methods to give citizen groups an equal ‘seat at the table’ through active participation in research, from the design to the interpretation of the results and their transformation into concrete actions.

We call this Citizen Social Science!

Citizen Social Science combines equal collaboration between citizen groups (co-researchers) that are sharing a social concern and academic researchers. Such an approach enables to address pressing social issues from the bottom up, embedded in their social contexts, with robust research methods. We aim to co-create socially robust knowledge.

How will we do Citizen Social Science?

The research groups will develop locally embedded strategies to address those issues on a scientific and real political level. On the basis of the respective practical experience in the research field, we further develop Citizen Social Science as a research approach.

1. Thematic and local integration

We will simultaneously work with civil society organisations across a broad geographic scale (Spain, Austria, Germany, Eastern European countries, Pan ­European, and Argentina), addressing four social issues: Mental Health Care, Youth Employment, Environmental Justice, and Gender Equality.

2. Citizens as equal stakeholders

Citizens act as co-researchers throughout the entire Research and Innovation (R&I) Action and are recognized as in-the-field competent experts being equal actors in all phases of the strategy co-design. They have lived experience in relation to the social concerns that motivate the collective R&I Actions (Mental Health Care, Youth Employment and Environmental Justice). Co-Researchers co-create, with academic researchers, the collective research tools (either digital or non-digital) through co-design mechanisms that allow reaching consensus and agreement among participants while including different perspectives and viewpoints. They participate in the research data collection (that may be upscaled to other collectives and individuals) or in some cases do most of the data collection themselves and, whenever possible, in the evaluation of the project process and results. In certain cases, and always with their explicit agreement, they may participate in the research tools launching and promotion and/or the presentation of the results. They analyse and interpret the research results, deliver them to the Knowledge Coalition, and/or autonomously trigger specific collective actions. They are co-owners of the research data and results and they may be listed as co-authors if they express their willingness to have their names disclosed for (scientific) publications

3. Bottom-up collaboration for socially robust knowledge production

These multi-stakeholder collaborations constitute knowledge coalitions, which are formed by representatives of Public Administrations, CSOs, educational organisations and Co-Researchers – to name a few. Although all research projects involve people from different areas of the political and social realm, their involvement and collaboration vary according to the specific R&I Action planned. The participation of the individual parties of the Knowledge Coalition can take place in various forms: creating a structural framework for research, participating in the actual research process, informing on the corresponding problem or implementing and discussing possible solutions. Regardless of the role, each R&I Action creates a network between the different actors and promotes exchange between them.

Such an approach will enable the provision of socially robust scientific knowledge to promote social change. Research design, data collection, and interpretation for evidence­-informed policy and collective action will be based on a constant and open dialogue, both with citizens and in the public sphere.