Call to Action: From 2021

Responsible Research Roundtable to Action


This is a call to action.


The 2021 Responsible Research Roundtable (2021 RRR) focused on “Knowledge co-creation in Business Research for Societal Progress” and was virtually co-hosted by Imperial College Business School and Responsible Research in Business and Management (RRBM). Eighty-four academics and 64 leaders in business, government, and NGOs came together to develop a shared understanding and a joint commitment for a systemic move toward business knowledge co-production by academia and its stakeholders for the betterment of society. The wide-ranging dialogue addressed three objectives:

  • Identifying the benefits and challenges of engaged research (Why?)
  • Generating demand-led research (What?)
  • Solving wicked problems through knowledge co-creation (How?)


The discussions of ‘Why’ helped to clarify and align motivations as we moved into the action oriented ‘What’ and ‘How’ sessions. During the Roundtable, more than 200 action-oriented ideas focusing on the ‘What’ and ‘How’ of demand-driven research were captured. We are now reaching back to all participants and the broader RRBM community to move these ideas into action. This requires answering the critical ‘Who’ question and we hope that ‘Who’ will include you and your colleagues. This is a call to individual and collective action. Please read and follow the links below.



Ideas for Knowledge Co-Creation


The Roundtable ideas clustered into the most urgent strategic themes for interventions related to two questions (1) What are the most relevant research questions to be addressed (5 themes) and (2) How can RRBM stakeholders collaborate to address them (9 themes). The results are shown in Table 1 below.


Table 1

What N% HowN%
1. Digitalisation1110% Process 51%
2. Education76% 1. Build long term collaboration44%
3. Sustainability6256% 2. Cultural development1110%
4. Trust44% 3. Demand driven research questions88%
5. Work1211% 4. Incentives1111%
Other1413% 5. Innovation44%
Total110100% 6. Translation improvement1514%
    Structure 47%
    7. Stakeholder – Academia Centres1312%
    8. Stakeholder – Academia Committee1211%
    9. Stakeholder – Academia Community2423%


What themes

Priorities for high societal impact, demand-driven research are articulated in the 5 clusters of ‘What’ ideas. These ideas and many more topics in need of knowledge co-production by academia and its stakeholders include research on:


  • Digitalization:
    • Using technology to solve problems in inequality.
    • Solving social media trolling/bullying.
  • Education:
    • Access to education, particularly in in underdeveloped countries.
  • Sustainability:
    • Role of business in managing social sustainability (vaccine distribution, inequality, D&I), climate sustainability, and digital sustainability.
    • Climate change, (forced) migration, human supply chains, diversity/inclusion, migrant remittances.
    • CO2 emissions, vaccine distribution, the digital divide (inequality of income, access to healthcare and technology), changing consumer behaviour through understanding of social issues.
    • How to make sustainable investment decisions.
    • What is the appropriate role of brands in shaping social responsibility?
    • Transforming organisations to be more inclusive.
    • How will the electric vehicle transformation of the auto industry impact employees, manufacturers, repair shops and customers?
    • Supply chain vulnerability.
  • Trust:
    • How has trust been built in platforms and social media and can we learn from it?
    • Figuring out the best ways to build social trust in institutions, e.g. East vs. West, or the rise of populism/nationalism.
  • Work:
    • How to create/develop sustainable productive jobs.
    • Service innovations that simultaneously consider the impact on customers, employees and profitability.


Based on the energy in the Roundtable, we are confident that many research projects in these domains are very worthwhile and in process. We also believe that some of the ‘What’ ideas could inspire additional engaged research with stakeholders. We encourage you to continue these pursuits and to follow the links below to see the variety of specific ideas. Scholars should post information about their projects to connect with others, to find potential collaborators, and to share their progress with other researchers and potential stakeholders.


How themes

Solving wicked problems through knowledge co-creation is incredibly difficult, but the RRBM community and our stakeholders have many excellent ideas that fall into broad categories of process (51%) and structure (47%). Some ideas that are likely to be immediately actionable and have high impact include:


  • Process
    • Build long term collaboration
    • Generate projects structured as consulting interventions.
    • Cultural development
    • Devise new ways to create meaningful inclusion in academia and the workplace that addresses inequalities and engages those left behind?
    • Demand-driven research questions
    • Distinguish role of academics at different phases of research. Be clear in advance which applies, and which type of business partner is needed and will benefit
    • Incentives
    • Integrate existing incentive systems with indicators on societal impact (real diffusion of knowledge on key stakeholders and behavioural change).
    • Innovation
    • Utilize platforms like The Open Science Framework of the Center for Open Science that are already available for large scale engagement
    • Translation improvement
    • Develop new ways to summarise best existing thinking, bring in practitioners from the start and describe ways to operationalise insights.


  • Structure
    • Stakeholder – Academia Centres
    • Develop a prototype of a centre/institute for inclusive growth and flourishing societies that includes academics, business, civil society, funders, investors, etc. to solve the “economic and social inequality” problem by this group
    • Partner with RRBM, business schools and corporations to create the first form of a “Business Science Institute” modelled after the Marketing Science Institute to jointly select research questions and fund projects on the transition to stakeholder centred models in business and schools.
    • Stakeholder – Academia Committee
    • Invite a diverse group of academics and business members to contribute on an on-going basis, possibly quarterly.
    • Explore ways to have academic groups engage with stakeholders in the UN, governments, industry groups to understand and share ideas
    • Stakeholder – Academia Community
    • Build relationships in like-minded (maybe focused on specific topics?) “teams” or “insight communities” that can work together over time
    • Create some kind of regular “stakeholder summit” that includes representatives of business, labour, government, civil society, and academics with a common commitment to science-informed approaches would be the most appropriate.


The 6 clusters of process ideas can be implemented by research teams, schools, businesses, and other organizations in collaborative research teams. We encourage everyone to review the full list of process suggestions to improve their knowledge of possible co-creation projects. (see below)


The 3 clusters of structure ideas will require coordinated development of collaborative structures involving both researchers and stakeholders organized around Centres, Committees, and the Community.


The time to act is now


To move forward, we need volunteers (you) to step forward to help shape these ideas into concrete actions.


We encourage everyone to review the full list of suggestions to improve their knowledge co-creation projects (see yyyy link to spreadsheet).


To move forward, please indicate your interest in pursuing any or all of these ideas, share your progress, find additional collaborators, learn from others, and/or get input from a broader set of stakeholders. Please go to yyyy website to tell our community. This is an open forum for sharing, a meeting space for potential collaborators, and hopefully, a place for learning and creating positive societal impact.  We encourage contributors to reach out to each other directly. All contributions are visible to the community.


Projects related to the What Themes and the adoption of Process ideas are most likely to be driven by individuals and small groups taking the initiative. We will ask you to post progress notes quarterly and the RRBM community looks forward to a broader sharing of this progress annually. We want to showcase positive societal impact of collaborative research projects and to ensure we all learn from each other.


To move forward, we also need projects focused on structural solutions that support knowledge co-creation by means of greater coordination. Individuals and organizations who are interested and capable of helping and/or leading structural initiatives are most welcome. How would you improve on the framing of the structural ideas? How can you make these ideas more actionable with more societal impact? What resources could you bring to the table (experience, position, networks, ideas, passion, …)? Based on contributions on the yyyy website mentioned above, we will reach out and try to organize promising initiatives focused on structural solutions.