2020. 12. 01.

A brief talk with Mika Nieminen

Mika Nieminen

  • Docent, PhD, Team leader, VTT, Technical Research Centre of Finland
  • Research interest: development of research and innovation organisations, responsible research and innovation, systemic transitions and sustainability & resilience in organisations
  • Co-Change WP1 leader on the systemic understanding of RRI implementation and fostering a common understanding and language among project partners
  • Visit on LinkedIn, on Twitter

Co-Change started in February 2020. How do you perceive the Co-Change partnership’s potentialities and troubles from your point of view?

Co-Change wants to build up transformative capacity and leadership for RRI through systemic change coalitions around seven Co-Change Labs in research funding and performing organisations. COVID-19 and lockdown came exactly into the very beginning of our project, and this meant immediate reorganization of activities. Creating a devotion to the project remains a challenge in an online-only space. Getting to know each other and build trust becomes a serious challenge. Virtually recreating the physical socialising is tough-going. All in all, the teamwork went quite well in this dedicated, active partnership, luckily, we all rapidly felt togetherness in the same soup. This shared position under COVID pushed our collaboration into a new common experience. Good for our environment that travelling abroad is not necessary. Still, now we need to avoid superficial understanding and distracted interpretations which easily become more prevalent in the online setting.

The Co-Change WP1 has created a stock-taking report on RRI implementation trends. What is your main insight from this study so far?

Altogether the stock-taking extended to 23 previous RRI projects, a systematic literature review of 29 top-notch journal articles and re-connecting with experts of RRI in the field via three virtual workshops. Issues which came out strengthened our preliminary understanding. They contributed to further shape the main points and find the priorities for Co-Change Labs. In Co-Change, one of the most important features of RRI implementation is contextualisation. Contextualising the implementation of RRI requires clarification of organizational self-understanding and reflexivity. It also emphasises a need to take into account the structures, rules, and values of the target organisation and institutional field. The differences in operational contexts need to be acknowledged when identifying what is relevant from the perspective of RRI. Still, many RRI approaches and frameworks offer  general guidelines whereas, organisational factors and the institutional embeddedness of implementation processes are not in focus. Any general guidelines or normative lists, such as RRI keys are not necessarily functioning locally. Still, these can act as starting points in the dialogue. So in my view, the most important lesson from the stock-taking report is contextualisation. Furthermore, any change in the RI system is activated via conversations: we need to change those narratives we tell each other about ourselves and our organizations, their rationalities and goals. It triggers a new way of seeing ourselves wherein worldviews and values come into the discussion. This is also the take-off point for the dialogue on responsibility and sustainability in innovation ecosystems. We need these kind of “campfire conversations” which might help us to see how interdependent we are with each other and how we need other people if we want to change something like implement RRI in an organization.

You recently published a book chapter that describes a special method, the future-oriented evaluation approach for RRI implementation. What would be the most exciting lessons for the Co-Change labs? 

The book chapter (downloadable here) is about a future-oriented model of co-creation, which is helpful for Co-Change Labs especially to start defining their value propositions, operational goals, shared visions in the research and innovation activity. The chapter describes the lessons of a double-loop learning process that facilitates learning during a systemic, dialogic, stepwise, multi-actor process emphasising continuous development. The main challenge is that organisations and their stakeholder environment are not demarcated, and their borders often become blurred. Our Co-Change Labs also need to face such ‘boundary work’ to see how their innovation ecosystem borders are blurred and, at the same time, actively co-constructed.