Ethics for Activities
Challenges for planning and implementing an ethically robust project are compounded when ethical consensus is taken for granted by established teams, for example, about how to proceed, and what is acceptable or permissible. These baseline understandings may be unavailable because of differences in cultural beliefs or unique nature of the context, and because of the circumstances caused by the humanitarian crisis.
This process will support teams to design innovation projects that are ethically robust in each activity and as a whole. It can also help identify risks, and minimise or mitigate them through preparation and well-considered choices.
This kind of exercise can also help manage unforeseen issues, because it provides preparation and clarity about values and aspirations. If an ethical problem persists, then this tool can also be useful to help revisit reflections, rethink your approach, and review other options. It will also contribute to inclusive deliberation as partnerships are being formed. It is important to note that no tool is ‘an algorithm for getting things right’, but they can be an important guide for planning innovation processes that are responsive to ideals and values, and that can provide guidance or be usefully revised in light of new evidence.
How to use the Ethics For Activities Tool
This tool identifies key questions that address ethical concerns at each stage of the innovation process – and a number of general questions that apply throughout any project. These will help you and your organisation to articulate responses. The responses can be informed by other ethics-based reflections in this toolkit. Most especially, articulated organisational values and visions (see the Values Clarification Tool) will be useful for drawing attention to ways in which they align with or conflict with local values, goals, culture, context and customs.
These responses need not be fixed and unalterable. Some questions are there to instigate discussion and shared decision-making. Others will be revised based on new knowledge. They are meant to raise significant issues, and can act as a reminder to ensure vital issues are not overlooked.
A detailed set of questions are suggested below, and these are included within the tool itself. We recommend that innovation teams consider adding their own questions to the list as well – questions more specifically tailored to your own organisation, context or situation.
Table 4: Questions to address ethical concerns at each stage of the innovation process – and the process as a whole
Questions to address ethical concerns at each stage of the innovation process – and the process as a whole
Some ethical considerations are cross-cutting, while others are best addressed before beginning an innovation project.
- Who stands to benefit?
- Who is being heard and who is not being heard?
- Who is accountable and to whom?
- Who is owed a duty of care?
- What is at stake and for whom?
- What permissions or consent is needed for a given activity?
- What are the costs and benefits of acting now?
- What risks are being created and for whom?
- What are the expressed needs and goals of the affected community?
- What is the best way to invest the resources you have available?
- How are power dynamics considered and accounted for?
- How can you ensure meaningful collaboration with the community you seek to serve and other stakeholders?
- How will you learn from what goes wrong or doesn’t work?
- How will you monitor, mitigate and respond to ethical issues and risks?
- How will you ensure equity and fairness in the distribution of benefits, costs and risks?
- How will you monitor progress against objectives?
- How will you ensure inclusive practices?
- How will you ensure responsiveness to the needs and demands of the community you seek to serve?
- How will you work to support and maitain equitable partnerships?
- How will you communicate your decisions with others?
- How will you manage expectations of the the community you seek to serve and other stakeholders?
- How will you consider issues of fairness in participation?
- How will you ensure you always respect the dignity of people affected by crises?
Questions of who gets to define the problem and how that decision is made have relevance for issues of knowledge framing and power dynamics, among others.
- Who will be included in the identification of problems?
- What is your plan for identifying priority problems to respond to?
- What are your criteria for prioritising and selecting problems to respond to?
- How will you manage expectations around your prioritisation and selection process?
- How will you ensure your problem identification process is inclusive of underserved groups?
- How will you ensure your strategy or process is appropriately robust and responsive to the community you are working with?
- How will you manage any conflicts of interest in prioritising and selecting problems?
Questions of whether or not to pursue your own ideas or to engage with others have relevance for issues of power dynamics and most effective use of resources.
- Who will you engage in your search for solutions or ideas?
- What is your plan for identifying existing solutions or ideas?
- How will you identify others who may already have pursued this path and developed a solution?
- How will you involve the community affected by the problem in the search for solutions or ideas?
- How will you assess whether a solution is a good fit for the problem at hand?
- How will you assess whether an identified solution can or should be sourced locally?
Questions of how to adapt a solution to a given context have relevance for issues including responsiveness to needs, and the distribution of opportunities, benefits and risks.
- Who do you need to involve in adapting the solution to the context?
- What aspects of the proposed solution, its management and the setting for deployment require attention?
- What adpatations might be required to ensure acessibility and inclusivity?
- What might be displaced if a new solution is implemented in the context?
- How will you assess relevance of the solution to the context?
- How will you assess the likelihood of the success and sustainability of the solution in the context?
- How will you take into account the particular needs of the affected population in adpating the solution?
- How will you identify any new risks created with the application of a new solution to the context?
- How will ownership, authorship and intellectual property (IP) be respected if you are adapting from someone else’s design?
- How might your principles inform desisions on whether to adopt a solution or pursue particular design choices?
Questions of what new solutions might be created have relevance for issues including responsiveness to needs and the uncertain harms and benefits of ideas that might be pursued.
- Who are the stakeholders that should be involved in this process?
- Who are you designing for, and how will you make access to the solution equitable?
- How will you ensure alignment of your intentions with the aims and priorities of your organisation or other stakeholders?
- How will you ensure the invention process and resulting solution is responsive to needs and demands?
- How will you determine whether the invention process and resulting solution requires ethical review?
- How will issues of ownership, authorship and intellectual property (IP) be managed?
- How might your principles inform your design choices?
Questions of how to manage what might be described as ‘experiments on people affected by crises’ have relevance for issues of consent and justice, and the fair distribution of benefits and risk, among others.
- Who will be the target group for the pilot?
- Who should be involved in planning the pilot?
- Who is owed a duty of care during the pilot?
- Who should be informed or consulted about the planned pilot, or asked for permission?
- Who is accountable and to who during the pilot?
- What factors are guiding your decision to pilot here and now?
- What makes this pilot different from regular interventions or research projects?
- What measures are in place to reduce the risk of harm and to manage any instances that might occur?
- How will you evaluate the trade-off between risks/potential harms and benefits in piloting the solution?
- How will you determine whether deployment of your innovation means an external ethics review is warranted?
- How will you manage expectations in relation to the uncertainties inherent in the pilot as well as its temporary nature?
- How will you ensure appropriate research methods, consent processes and confidentiality measures are being applied?
- How will you evaluate the pilot and ensure learning and feedback is generated and used in decision making?
- How will you monitor, mitigate and respond to ethical issues and risks during the pilot?
- How will you ensure that any decision to stop the pilot won’t result in harm?
Questions around when and how to scale have relevance for issues of transferability, justice and ownership, as well as the management of risks and use of resources, among others.
- Who will decide that scaling is justified and lead on your scaling strategy?
- Who will benefit from scaling, and will those benefits be shared fairly?
- What will be the criteria for making a decision on whether to scale?
- What level of scale is appropriate and relevant for this solution?
- How will you evaluate the trade-off between risks/potential harms and benefits in scaling the innovation?
- How will you determine your scaling strategy?
- How will you evaluate the success of your scaling strategy?
- How and to whom should new innovators be accountable when applying the innovation?