Stakeholders reflect on values in health, ageing and technology in dynamic online workshop

Jon Switters · September 21, 2020
Active discussions during the workshop focussing on a word cloud.

Discussions of dignity and privacy were the main focus when stakeholders from the active and healthy ageing arena reflected on values drawing on a preliminary version of the GATEKEEPER valuation framework in relation to technological innovations. The discussions took place during an online participatory workshop organised by Funka and the University of Utrecht.

The main driver behind the GATEKEEPER project is to facilitate an open and trust-based exchange between stakeholders from different walks of life. The project reaches out to a wide range of stakeholders including healthcare providers, businesses, entrepreneurs, and elderly citizens and the communities they live in.

Because of this strong focus on societal aspects, the project needs to makes sense to the people it serves if it is to make an impact in practice. This includes being responsible regarding the values affected and created by the project innovations. In other words, if the project and its results are at odds with the issues that the stakeholders find important in their daily lives, it may become irrelevant.

This is why the project is developing a valuation framework that will guide reflections on the stakeholder values that come into play in connection with ageing and technologies. The insights on how the values interrelate and change will later feed into the finalisation of the innovations in the project and the identification of real-world implementation pathways. The ambition is that thinking about values and their dynamic nature at an early stage will help to anticipate how the stakeholders will relate to the innovations implemented in the project, and therefore increase the potential for sustainable solutions.

To get the discussion started, Funka and Utrecht University organised a participatory online workshop to map and explore dynamic values in health, ageing and technology. The participants included representatives from different stakeholder groups in the AHA domain, from across the EU. Using a wordcloud technique, the participants mapped out different values connected with how digital innovations such as digital coaching, home sensors and artificial intelligence can relate to health promotion and prevention. Some examples of values that were mentioned by the participants were: privacy, dignity, trust, consistency, empowerment and autonomy.

Two of these values, privacy and dignity were then selected for further exploration in smaller groups. The group discussions were facilitated by a digital collaboration workspace that allowed for the use of virtual post-its where the participants could post their take on the values to the group. Thanks to the enthusiasm of the participants and the dynamic discussions in the group, the project now has a rich material of reflections around these values and obtained productive feedback on the valuation framework that is being developed. This will be taken forward in a further discussion and co-creation workshop with regional stakeholders about their value positions in relation to the GATEKEEPER use cases.

Much of the discussions on both dignity and privacy evolved around issues of how the user can be respected and remain in control in the application of digital innovations. For example, in terms of privacy it was highlighted that there is a need for clear communications around how personal data is shared, and that the users need to be able to give a clear consent. In practice this can be challenging at times, when respecting individuals’ privacy conflicts with the ideal of ensuring their safety. An interesting aspect discussed in relation to such potential value conflicts also was that the broader context plays a role, as for instance individuals’ positions to privacy and the sharing of electronic health data can be affected by their overall trust in the regional health provision. Similarly, the discussions around dignity brought up the importance of the user being able to decide on when and how they want to make use of the innovation and about them feeling confident in the use of the technology. Moreover, stakeholders made it clear that in connection with digitization, the “human touch” will remain important in the provision of elderly care and the support of ageing-in-place. And finally stakeholders underlined that values like privacy or dignity are also specific to regional and cultural contexts.

As a conclusion, this novel and experimental workshop shows that these kinds of open stakeholder discussions with a focus on values rather than needs or requirements are very helpful when it comes to opening up reflections on how innovations interact with different stakes in society. It also shows that there is a demand among stakeholders to open up the dialogue with actors in research concerning the practical use of technological innovations. This is certainly a point worth taking on board for all new technological innovation projects that have a direct link to societal stakeholders.