Q: How can I use the ‘Societal and Ethical Impact Canvas’?

A: The ‘Societal and Ethical Impact Canvas’ is used very similarly to, e.g., the Business Model Generation Canvas, that is: to facilitate a discussion and generate practical results.

The Canvas was developed in the JERRI project; it is meant to support business development and project management, and it consists of 4 steps–see Figure below:


Step 1: Impact in society: Clarify the project’s ultimate goal to create positive impact in society, e.g., to promote safety, health, cohesion, justice, wellbeing, etc. in specific group(s). You can also explore unwanted or negative effects of the project, and to develop measures to minimize these.

Step 2: Outputs/outcomes of the project: Define which outputs (= results) or outcomes (= effects of these results) are needed to realize the desired impact in society, e.g., which interventions, activities, products or services the project will aim to deliver.

Step 3: Create an innovation eco-system: Identify key clients, key partners, and relevant stakeholders, and discuss how each might contribute to the project, and how each aims to benefit from it.

Step 4: Project mission: Articulate the project’s mission, by reasoning ‘outside-in’: “The project brings together <clients / partners>, so they can create <outputs / outcomes>, that enables <specific people > <to flourish>”. This mission can help to steer project scoping and day-to-day management.

This is the practical side of the Canvas.

But there is also a philosophical side … which concerns the relationship between engineers’ inner lives and motives on the one hand, and their projects and the projects’ effects on society on the other hand. That will be the topic of the next post.


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