(Introducing) The Impact of Responsibility
Responsible innovation and how to do it is an evolving and growing conversation within the technology sector. Being an early pioneer means being willing to experiment, to learn and grow. Doteveryone have been working with Bristol+Bath Creative R+D to research the impact of responsibility in innovation.
Responsible innovation and how to do it is an evolving and growing conversation within the technology sector. Being an early pioneer means being willing to experiment, to learn and grow. It’s not about getting it right, but about sharing the attempts with others, so together we can change how tech is made to be about the best interest of people, communities, and the planet.
The Creative R&D Cluster in Bath+Bristol is a responsible innovation pioneer. Its mission is to break down doors and connect university research with creative businesses and develop a shared vision for tomorrow’s creative industries.
The Cluster is building an ecosystem for creative technologies using alternative approaches to support the arts and creative industries while stimulating economic growth and trying to build a culture of inclusiveness and responsibility to the community. Watershed and its Pervasive Media Studio are a leading partner in the Cluster and the founding supporter of Doteveryone’s involvement, as they are eager to explore responsible innovation and what it means for diverse community focused on creative technologies that they have established.
Doteveryone is the responsible technology think tank working to change how tech is made and used so that it supports a fair, inclusive and sustainable democratic society. Doteveryone wanted to have a measurable impact on the work of the Cluster and to explore how emergent, creative technologies could be responsible.
Together, we wanted to explore how we might begin to model a culture of responsibility within a defined geographic community and a multi-stakeholder, multi-discipline initiative.
To achieve this, we designed a programme and a cross-cutting Responsible Innovation Fellowship sponsored by Watershed to provoke new thinking across the Cluster on what responsibility looks like for those investing in, supporting, and designing creative technologies.
This report outlines what we did and the insights for modelling a culture of responsibility we gained from the programme. It’s intended to help others who are interested in making responsible innovation the default way to design and create technology products and services.
WHAT WE DID
Our programme was focused on the Cluster’s first Pathfinder Theme - Digital Placemaking. We began by hosting a series of workshops in January 2020 with the following three groups:
- The owners of new product ideas and businesses funded by the Cluster
- The producers and fellows supporting the businesses and the theme
- The executive team overseeing the objectives and activities of the Cluster
In these workshops we explored the consequences of technology, how to make responsible business decisions about a technology investment or product, and what each participant intended for the ‘best interest’ of people in the community.
We asked the businesses to think about the consequences of their product on many stakeholders and to create responsible product principles to guide the design and behaviours of their products. We asked the producers and fellows what collective responsibility looked like. And we asked the executive team about their intent for the Cluster.
We then held coaching sessions with the Cluster over a period of four months to support them in applying the concepts and ideas we’d introduced them to and collect stories to help demonstrate our impact.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Our core insights for modelling a culture of responsibility:
- Language really matters - taking the time to learn what others mean when they use certain words and to create shared understanding will be the foundation that allows you to move faster and respond better to changes.
- Building shared models and frameworks are crucial for collective responsibility - collaborations can fail if there isn't a shared sense of what everyone in the collaboration is trying to accomplish. The process of articulating the purpose and objectives of a programme or product and then working out how to best get there helps everyone to align and better determine what they bring and are responsible for.
- Responsible practices create a safe place to explore blindspots - one of the primary reasons we see unintended consequences emerging from technology is a result of the blindspots of those making the tech. They either don’t know what they don’t know, or don’t have the space to be able to raise their concerns or learn something new. Responsible practices like Consequence Scanning are there to help surface and explore blindspots in a non-judgemental way. They help to normalise and create acceptance around blindspots and consequences, allowing people to explore them in a productive and proactive way.
- Use practices which reinforce the type of culture you are trying to create - it’s the same idea as ‘what you measure is what matters’. The everyday ‘how’ of making decisions is what creates a culture, so it’s worth ensuring those practices are imbued with the values you want. Starting everything with the question of 'intent' and thinking about how that translates into your actions towards all of your stakeholders has created the biggest change.
Overall, creating a culture of responsibility requires making a commitment to creating the time, space, and openness needed to sustain change.
BEGINNING TO MEASURE THE IMPACT OF ADOPTING RESPONSIBLE INNOVATION PRACTICES
Adopting responsible innovation practices in the creation of emerging technologies is a relatively new concept, so there’s not a lot out there on what measurable impact looks like.
Part of the ambition of Doteveryone’s Responsible Innovation Fellowship was to also start to develop ways of measuring the impact of adopting responsible innovation practices within a defined geography and over a long period of time. As Doteveryone closes, we’re sharing this work in partnership with the Cluster and Watershed with the hope of helping others who are interested in making responsible innovation a standard way of creating technology.
With that in mind, we created an impact measurement framework for responsible innovation which we began to explore in the Cluster.
To learn more about our Impact Measurement Framework and specific examples of impact within the Cluster, read the full report: The Impact of Responsibility Report
We finished this partnership with leaders who are now experimenting with new ways of thinking, producers who are better equipped to support businesses, and a critical mass of people at the centre of a community who see the importance of continuing to think about how to be responsible in building a cluster of emergent, creative technologies.
This is what makes the Creative R&D Cluster in Bath+Bristol and Watershed responsible innovation pioneers.
In sharing these attempts with others, we hope that we can start a conversation and help others to show evidence of responsible innovation being the best way to achieve positive impact for both organisations and people, communities, and the planet.
The next step will be to find ways to sustain and build on this initial work in a time that it’s more crucial than ever to recognise our collective and mutual responsibilities to one another.