Part of the joint "Energy Transition Ruhr" Project, this initiative focused on creating a framework to guide energy transition at the municipal level taking into account local social and cultural circumstances.
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Problems and Purpose
Starting point of this research project was the idea that a plan like the energy transformation is not only meant to be a technical-organisational large-scale project, but it is rather subjected to be a fundamental cultural dimension as it raises questions about possible social future situations:
- In which future do we want to live?
- Which path should be chosen for the future?
The focus of energy transition shifts decisively from a present-related time to a futute-related time, which represents a change in values and can rarely be made explicit: Engery and climtate protection concepts gain important roles when it comes to enhance the quality of life for future generations. Apart from the discussion about technical innovations energy transformation could be also connected to lifestyle habits, everyday perceptions and future expectations of the citizens; on whose support and legitimation the transformation decisively depends on.
The research project focuses mainly on which specific barriers and conflicts of objectives could harm or complicate the implementation of the energy transition in the municipalities and which solution approaches could be found to achieve it. Therefore, the project group focuses on already existing initiatives for a qualitative, systematical evaluation. Furthermore, the research project wants to enable intermunicipal learning processes and wants to show possibilities to take action to gain a succesful energy transition implementation in the municipalities with a complementary and focused research plan.
Problems that came up during the project:
- Finding appropriate civic networks, initiatives, long-term interview partners
- Communication strategies, PR
- Finding participants for specific events, e.g. "future council" (in German: "Zukunftsrat")
- keeping the participants interested/active/engaged, especially if they have crucial roles: like important "change agent" roles for example
Background History and Context
In 2013, the state of North-Rhine Westphalia passed the "Climate Protection Law" (Klimaschutzgesetz) and sent out important signals towards those ambitious climate objectives on national and european level. The new law set timeframes and limits to decrease the CO2 emissions by 25% in 2020 and by 80% in 2050, compared to the year of 1990. The project for the implementation of a municipal energy transition is taking place in the context of a multi-dimensional structural change in which the Ruhr Area is located. In this context the focus lies on questions about the structural, political, cultural and institutional conditions as well as on problems and solution strategies for the implementation of the municipal energy transition.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Originating Entities have been the Wuppertal Institut, Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI), Technische Universität Dortmund (Fachgebiet Städtebau, Stadtgestaltung und Bauleitplanung), Spiekermann & Wegener Stadt- und Regionalforschung (S&W), Bergische Universität Wuppertal. The project was funded by the Stiftung Mercator, a foundation based in Essen, Germany.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Experts, municipalities and regional institutions, business companies and associations, energy and mobility providers, civic networks and citizens - especially so called "change agents" or "agents of change"
Methods and Tools Used
Two main events during the project took place: the "future council" (in German: "Zukunftsrat") and the "workshop future council" (In German: "Werkstatt Zukunftsrat"). These two events were important for the empiric outcome for the project. Besides that a lot of long qualitative interviews have been done with change agents and several other persons who are located in the field of civil society, the politics and administration.
Methods used during the "future council":
- participatory observation
- observation diary for two days
- filming and taking pictures
- qualitative interviews
- informal talks in breaks, inbetween, after the event
Methods used during the "workshop future council":
- participatory observation
- presentations about/on the topic of the project
- world café
- taking pictures
- informal talks in breaks, inbetween, and after the event
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The future council (German: "Zukunftsrat") was one of the most important cooperation instruments used during the project. It is an democratic participation experiment where participants discuss about a topic which is based in the future. The discussion is not only about this topic, it is also about how it can be achieved and with which actions.
Characteristics about the future council:
- specific communication for a specific group of people about a specific purpose
- co-creative process between the different sub-groups of participants, e.g. change agents (civil society), politics and administration
- the aim is to find and work out common ideas for a future reladed topic, e.g. a sustainable energy transition in the Ruhr Area as well as beneficial conditions for existing social innovations in the field of sustainability
composition of the actors:
- heterogeneity of the participants (background, profession, e.g. work in the sustainable area/energy transition related work
- different municipalities from all over the Ruhr Region
The future council was moderated by a team of externals (non locals/not from the Ruhr Area) moderators.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Papers, articles, brochures, reports, pesentations and more: https://www.energiewende-ruhr.de/die-produkte/
Energy transiton map Ruhr. An interactive map with lots of options and information about several different topics related to the energy transition in the Ruhr Area:
Book "AgentInnen des Wandels für ein nachhaltiges Ruhrgebiet": https://www.energiewende-ruhr.de/die-produkte/buchpublikation/
Analysis and Lessons Learned
In a heterogenous and multilayered region such as the Ruhr Area it is very difficult to integrate the citizens - especially because the municipalities in the area do not have gained enough experiance when it comes to into participatory processes or approaches. This applies also to the cooperative and participatory method of the "future council".
Recommendations for this instrument:
- not to strict formalised processes when it comes to search for suitable participants, instead more context and problem related form of a future council - a moer open perspective
- make future councils on several local levels (city quarters or the whole city).
- make the process transparent: targets, expectations, actual design possibilities
- coordination of duration, scientific questions/problem/purpose, composition
- a positive setting: equality of all actors/particiapnts, make sure they have this possibility
- future council are not recommended for actors/participants which are indifferent or negative about topics like energy transition or sustainability - future councils support alreday active actors in their daily work life
Publication about the "future council" (Zukunftsrat):
- Lea Schmitt, Britta Acksel, Stefan Schweiger, Jennifer Kappmeier-Klenk (2016): Der Zukunftsrat. Ein Kooperationsinstrument zwischen Verwaltung, Politik und Zivilgesellschaftlichen AgentInnen des Wandels im Bereich Energiewende & Nachhaltigkeit. Policy Paper. 12 p.
Final KWI report: Innovative participation approaches and change agents:
Find a lot more information from the joint project (papers, articles, brochures, reports and more) on the joint project homepage under the tab "Start"/"Produkte": https://www.energiewende-ruhr.de/die-produkte/
KWI project homepage [GERMAN]: http://www.kwi-nrw.de/home/projekt-100.html
KWI project homepage [ENGLISH]: http://www.kulturwissenschaften.de/en/home/project-84.html
Joint project homepage [GERMAN]: https://www.energiewende-ruhr.de/
All images: Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen https://goo.gl/bCDH6o