Society’s greatest challenges are ’wicked problems’, whose interdependency and urgency make them immensely difficult to solve, IF we pursue traditional ways. 'Wicked problems', such as climate change, the pandemic, and inequality, are global challenges with a broad effect on societies. Finding solutions requires new ways of thinking through the inclusion of all (diverse) talent. According to United Nations, innovative technology is key to climate action. Yet in the technology field, there is a noticeable lack of diversity. This is a paradox. While current research show that diversity is important for innovation, this line of work is less clear on exactly how the socio-economic structures in place might be challenged. Consequently, this research project will explore how actors within the field work purposefully and reflectively to construct changes in their immediate context, as well as within the field more broadly.
The project explores how diversity in teams and organizations influences their ability to create social innovation; which institutionalized barriers exist within the technology field, and how actors within this field might work to change established structures to enable a greater use of diverse talent. In terms of diversity, the focus will be on gender and ethnicity specifically.
The project will provide an enhanced understanding of the complex mechanisms at play, while also providing insights into how the Danish technology field may become more diverse and equipped to tackle 'wicked problems' in the years to come.
The project is centered on two key areas of the technology field in Denmark: education and the start-up environment.
First, education plays a central role in the standardization and spread of practice. Therefore, sub-project A (PhD student Frida Hammel’s research project) focuses on engineering education at DTU and on exploring diversity in teams. The study will be carried out primarily as a qualitative study, including observation studies of the students’ work processes, interviews with students and the partner companies and document analysis, while comparing more and less diverse teams in real time.
Second, change and innovation are often initiated by organizations on the periphery, that are less constrained by established structures. Hence, sub-project B (Assistant Professor Thomas Burø’s research project) will investigate technology start-ups with a social innovation agenda, interviewing their founders, managers, and organizational members, as well as investors. Again, selecting organizations with more and less diversity in the organization in terms of gender and ethnicity.
Finally, the research team study field level dynamics in the technology field via observations of field configuring events, and interviews with social movement actors, including founders, investors, foundations, and professional organizations, who are working to change established structures to enable a greater use of diverse talent.
In combination, this research design allows us to gain an advanced understanding of the complex mechanisms at play, while also providing insights into how the Danish technology field may become more diverse and equipped to tackle wicked problems in the years to come.
"Diversity in Technology: Finding New Ways to Solve Wicked Problems" is funded via a Carlsberg Foundation Young Researcher Fellowship to Associate Professor Lærke Højgaard, Christiansen, DTU Engineering Technology (Lead Researcher), the grant also include funding for a PhD-scholarship and an assistant professor.
Description of project at Carlsberg Foundation Young Researcher Fellowship website
Interview with Research Lead Lærke Højgaard Christiansen, DTU Engineering Technology at engtech.dtu.dk