New Project in UK on Energy and participatory democracy

This just came across one of my mailing lists — they are looking for someone to help with the participatory engagement part of this work. Seemed like a potential partnership opportunity!

The Observatory for Societal Engagement with Energy (SEE) and net-zero transitions is developing new approaches to map and analyse diverse forms of public participation and engagement in sociotechnical transitions on an ongoing basis. It is a hub that connects UK and international actors interested in societal engagement with energy and climate change, serving as a platform for anticipatory and reflective learning. New social intelligence produced by the Observatory is being translated with partners in government, business and civil society to help make low carbon energy transitions more just, responsible and responsive to society. The SEE Observatory is directed by Professor Jason Chilvers, supported by Dr Helen Pallett (as deputy lead), Dr Tom Hargreaves and colleagues in the 3S Research Group at UEA.

This is their paper on “mapping participation” :

@alberto it might be useful to look at even just to further contextualise the SSNA work going forward.

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“A potential draw-back of our broad definition of participation and attempt at whole system mapping is that it produces an output so broad and plural as to seem paralysing and obscure in the context of informing better policy making around UK energy transitions. However, compared to the dominant mode of policy advice which draws on only a handful of invited and highly orchestrated instances of participation, this mapping represents a much more comprehensive set of evidence upon which to base policy decisions and allows the anticipation of coming barriers or controversies. Far from making policy-makers’ lives harder this approach has the potential in some cases to save time and resources by synthesizing lessons from participation which has already taken place”

"Another key challenge in enacting this method is the limitation of the timeliness of results – at the time of writing the results of our mapping could already be viewed as out of date. However, we would argue that many of the broader patternings and dynamics revealed in our mapping are more enduringly relevant. Furthermore, we believe that it would be possible to conduct a version of this mapping in a less time and resource intensive manner, making more use of the resources available from digital methods approaches, and on a rolling basis so that the results could be continually updated. Recent developments in discussions about how to produce usable and credible data visualizations (cf. Moats, 2015) will also be a useful resource in producing more legible ‘mapping’ outputs from this work.

Crucially, however, we see these mappings not only as a tool to be used by policy-makers – as the latest in a long line of techniques from censuses (Scott, 1998) to surveys (Law, 2009) or focus groups (Lezaun, 2007) for making the public legible to a ruling elite. Rather this is a tool for all system actors – including NGOs and other civil society organizations, businesses and community groups – to use to draw their own conclusions and make their own arguments, and to inform their actions and initiatives."

Their take-homes:

  • Approaches to understanding publics in the context of environmental policy challenges like energy tend to be siloed making cross-comparison difficult.
  • There is a need for new methods to help understand and engage with public participation systemically.
  • The issues, models and subjects of participation in relation to the UK energy system are diverse and multiple.
  • Policy-makers and other powerful actors have tended to privilege certain issues, models and subjects of participation in decision-making.
  • Mappings of diverse, interconnected public participation provide a better basis for decision-making around issues such as low carbon energy transitions.
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What do you think we should do?

Are you aware I am writing a H2020 proposal on “energy citizenship”? Concept note


Cool! I had 2 thoughts – one, that they could be kept in mind as potential partners on these kinds of larger scale proposals that ER makes (like the one you are currently working on). two, that they are currently hiring a full time researcher to work with them for 3 years to map participatory community engagement with energy/climate change, closing date Sept 9. I thought I might drop them a line asking if they’d consider instead, or in supplementary fashion, think about giving us some funds to do that work. The researcher is only paid 40k/year, which certainly isn’t enough for us to do an SSNA project for them (do we have an estimate handy of what the outreach/engagement + ethnography (I can calc that myself) + SSNA viz would cost?) but given how interested they are in mapping participatory engagement, which is exactly what we do, I wonder if they would think about allocating more budget there. No harm in me reaching out, anyway.


Good idea. Go for it.

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