Dialogue frontrunner and R&Dialogue champion Anna Ernst, with her colleagues Andrea Fischer-Hotzel and Diana Schumann, have published a scientific paper on the R&Dialogue experiences in Germany. The title: “Transforming knowledge for sustainability: Insights from an inclusive science-practice dialogue on low-carbon society in Germany“. Download it here https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1V0e47tZ6ZfVOF (open access link available until 29 June 2017).
Summary of the article: In order to combat climate change and reduce carbon dioxide emissions as suggested by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the contemplation of different knowledge types is discussed as a leverage point for transforming towards sustainability.
In order to analyse how a science-practice dialogue can improve the understanding of transformation processes towards low-carbon societies, we set up a dialogue process in North Rhine-Westphalia to envision a low-carbon future. We addressed the deficits of previous transdisciplinary projects and tested different dialogue formats. The approach applied put us scientists in the unusual position as facilitators of dialogue.
This contained some challenges but also offered an in-depth understanding of the science-practice dialogue that would not been possible with traditional scientific methods. The participating stakeholder perceived bringing together different actors with complementary knowledge and experience and associated mutual learning as beneficial. However, the wish not only to gain knowledge but to influence decision making determines whether a dialogue process is perceived as effective.
We found that envisioning processes are valuable to explore highly uncertain future processes. In addition, the envisioning workshop revealed the actual source of conflicts and thus, creates an effective dialogue by addressing the actual differences and not the symptoms.
The Vision produced by the Italian R&Dialogue Council is a multimedia document to inspire energy innovation through ideas, images, music and taste… It condenses the rich exchange on energy futures which took place in the Italian Council and during meetings with citizens and stakeholders.
All along the Italian R&Dialogue action the visionary dimension was given voice, to understand the values and goals considered to be desirable by the group, in order to achieve a low carbon society. What does it mean working for a low carbon society? Why do we need to develop a Vision? How can dialogue help?
Reflecting on these issues and confronting themselves with a real case study, the hypothesis of transformation of a rural village into a sustainable community, the Italian participants of R&Dialogue have expressed and defined the steps that can lead us through the energy transition, to achieve the goal of a low carbon society: an inclusive process that develops world class collaboration; the comprehension of local contexts through dialogue, enabling anyone in the world to access the benefits of sustainable energy; the development of research, tools and database that can support the efforts of the communities in managing energy use and production and much more.
The document is but a first step to help others join the visioning exercise and the implementation of the Vision. Download the online version and enjoy reading, let yourself be taken away by songs and videos: as the founder of Dragon Dreaming, John Croft, would put it, dreaming together is at the foundations of any successful project.
The Italian Vision is available both in the online version in English and Italian (the files can be downloaded on the Italian R&Dialogue website or on the R&Dialogue website) and in the printable and printed version, for files or copies please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the afternoon’s panel session, Olivia Woolley (University of Aberdeen), Marcus van Leeuwen (NWO – the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) and Gert-Jan van der Panne (R&Dialogue) entered in a dialogue with the public. The topic was the social dimension of the energy transition and the role social sciences and humanities can play. Better and more frequent cooperation between the different actors in the energy transition appeared as a crucial element, to which SSH can contribute.
We discussed the need to enhance our understanding of behaviour of relevant actors that play a role in a sustainable energy transition and identify the barriers and enablers for realising the energy transition. The audience was curious about the role of the European Commission in this and how to set up such multi-actor dialogues. The R&Dialogue website provides many insights and practical experiences from all over Europe with regard to energy transition dialogues between many different stakeholders.
The event on 14 June 2016 in the Solvay Library in Brussels started earlier that day with an opening by Gerd Schönwalder. Dr. Schönwalder is strategic policy maker at the European Commissions’s DG Research and Innovation focusing on energy strategy. He emphasized that the transition to a low carbon energy system is a complex societal problem, and not merely a technical problem.
Next, Linda Steg, professor of Environmental Psychology at the University of Groningen and PERSON coordinator, presented the PERSON platform to the wider audience. She discussed the mission of PERSON to unite and advise on European top-class SSH energy research on the human dimensions of sustainable energy transition to promote a secure, clean and efficient energy system.
After the coffee break, William D’Haeseleer, professor of engineering science and director of the KU Leuven Energy Institute, Sverker Jagers, professor of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg and Sabine Pahl, associate professor in Psychology at Plymouth University highlighted the essential contributions that SSH can make in energy research.
As it can easily be imagined, many of the challenges lay in the different backgrounds and beliefs of the participants. From the very beginning they agreed about the need to transform the energy system, but had very different opinions on how this should happen.
It was also difficult to understand how dialogue could help with such complicated and complex issues, which involve so many vested interests, until everyone started to realise how transformative dialogue could be. The participants experienced that they themselves went through a transformation, starting to see things in a different way.
The R&Dialogue Italy Discussion Paper represents the effort to express the problems discussed from the angle of the new perspectives emerging through the group exchange. It not only proposes precise themes for furthering the dialogue, but can also be a tool for other stakeholders to understand how to progress more quickly towards reciprocal understanding. In this respect, today we can say that dialogue is a real and important opportunity for advancing our democracy.
This is why this Discussion Paper is a must read for the stakeholders who want to raise their own awareness on the nature of problems that need to progressively find a solution, if we want to work together for the development of the energy system and the construction of the Energy Union.
The transition to a low-carbon energy system poses a complex set of challenges for policy, technology, businesses and academia. The PERSON-platform aims to bring crucial knowledge from Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) into this debate. On 14 June 2016, the PERSON-platform organises the session “Innovative Social Sciences and Humanities perspectives on Energy Transitions”. Next to representatives from research, technology and the European Commission, R&Dialogue coordinator Gert-Jan van der Panne will be on the panel.
Although the R&Dialogue project officially ended in November 2015, project members continue work on the dialogue and the societal dimension of the energy transition. The presence of R&Dialogue in the European Sustainable Energy Week’s PERSON-session is a good example of this. Registration for this event is free and available via this link.
The dialogue on stage and with the public will cover how the necessary steps towards energy transition can only reach the next level when cross-overs and interlinks are explored.
Date: Tuesday 14 June 2016, 9:30 to 16:30
Location: Rue Belliard 137 / Belliardstraat 137, Brussels (BE)