Social innovation essential in the energy transition
Kennisland believes that more attention should be paid to the social aspect of the energy transition. All too often, the transition is still seen as a technocratic problem, while all the evidence suggests that this transformation of society largely depends on social innovation. This case explains how we contribute to a fair and inclusive energy transition.
- Dave van Loon firstname.lastname@example.org
Ask a sustainable energy policy adviser in local government or a passer-by on the street and you’ll hear the same: they often describe the energy transition negatively, as a technically complex and bureaucratic problem.
It is expensive and taxpayers will ultimately end up footing the bill. There are too many different interests at stake and everyone is waiting for everyone else to make the next move. Sustainable energy sources such as wind turbines occupy valuable land, and individual initiatives are stymied by complex regulations. While there is an understanding that citizens should be consulted about the transition, they are primarily expected to resist change. Politicians may see themselves as ambitious, but they often complain that the lethargic government bureaucracy responsible for implementing all their ambitious plans works much too slowly, if at all. Many experts believe we should already be talking about a climate crisis++DecadesGlobal warming has been on the agenda for decades. From #Shellknew (1986) to An inconvenient truth (2006) and the Green Deal (2021), we will not be able to claim later that we didn’t know. Read more, rather than simply climate change, because the planet is heating too rapidly and we are tackling the problem much too slowly.
One thing is certain: the goal of making the entire built environment energy neutral and phasing out natural gas by 2050 in the Netherlands will be an enormous challenge++National Climate AgreementIn the National Climate Agreement, the Dutch government set out the agreements made between the government, organisations and businesses to reduce CO2 emissions. . The key question is how we can stop fiddling while Rome burns and instead win the hearts and minds of those who must ultimately put the transformation into practice – and help them actually do it. How can municipalities, housing corporations and other professionals play a more effective supporting role in the energy transition?How can municipalities, housing corporations and other professionals play a more effective supporting role in the energy transition?
An activating story
We believe this process should start with a positive story that builds bridges and most of all activates, a story that starts by acknowledging that the energy transition is more than just a technocratic problem: it is a cultural, social, socio-economic and above all a human challenge++A human challengeIt is no coincidence that the European strategy to reach a Green Deal is known as the New European Bauhaus. Von der Leyen: “The New European Bauhaus is a project of hope to explore how we live better together after the pandemic. It is about matching sustainability with style, to bring the European Green Deal closer to people’s minds and homes.” . We are also convinced that the transition towards sustainable energy generation and consumption is not just a solution to our rapidly changing climate, but also a source of new opportunities: for better designed and healthier neighbourhoods, greater citizen participation and new job opportunities for young people. We also believe that our society has a huge untapped potential to tackle this challenge and grasp these opportunities. We believe that our society has a huge untapped potential to tackle this challenge and grasp these opportunities.
It is important to adopt a new perspective and deploy strategies that go beyond organisational and domain boundaries, strategies that harness people’s creativity and motivation to develop new solutions based on co-creation and collaboration between all levels of society++All levelsVon der Leyen: “We need all creative minds: designers, artists, scientists, architects and citizens, to make the New European Bauhaus a success.” (source). In short, strategies based on social innovation.
Social innovation in the energy transition
An important aspect of social innovation is forging unusual and innovative coalitions between citizens, authorities, housing corporations, social entrepreneurs, city-makers, designers and other stakeholders. We bring these parties together to test new solutions and learn with and from one another. This is not a participation process, but a co-creation process: an important principle is that all participants have a say and work together as equals.This is not a participation process, but a co-creation process: an important principle is that all participants have a say and work together as equals. We use design thinking, action research, challenges, incubators, pioneer programmes and our social lab method to help stakeholders adopt and embrace design and research methodologies++What we doRead about the instruments and approaches Kennisland uses for social innovation here. .
An important part of the process is redefining the question. What is important to each of the stakeholders? What energises people? And what is the ideal situation that people dream of? This leads to new approaches: what if, for example, we see the energy transition as a means of accelerating the social and economic development of a neighbourhood?
The participants subsequently design and test innovative activities, interventions and methods step-by-step to bring a fair and inclusive energy transition closer. It is important to monitor and evaluate the learning process++Dynamic evaluationKennisland is experienced in using dynamic evaluation as a means of promoting innovation. itself. The objective is not to judge the development process, but to understand it, to gradually improve it and to be able to share the lessons learned so others do not need to reinvent the wheel. This yields multiple results: there are concrete outcomes, the participants learn collectively and individually, new communities and networks are forged and we strive to force breakthroughs at various levels of the system.
Would you like to know more about how we contribute to a fair and inclusive energy transition? If you see opportunities for collaboration, please contact us!