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Principles of Environmental Sustainability (P00807) Part 2: The processes and principles of engagement Dr Claire Haggett Lecturer in Sociology of Sustainability.

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Presentation on theme: "Principles of Environmental Sustainability (P00807) Part 2: The processes and principles of engagement Dr Claire Haggett Lecturer in Sociology of Sustainability."— Presentation transcript:

1 Principles of Environmental Sustainability (P00807) Part 2: The processes and principles of engagement Dr Claire Haggett Lecturer in Sociology of Sustainability

2 Overview 1) Reasons for encouraging engagement 2) Engagement in practice Different forms of engagement Information provision Consultation Deliberation 3) Community benefits 4) Community led schemes

3 1) Reasons for encouraging engagement 1. Pragmatic: public involvement to increasing the likelihood of a successful outcome; may lead to ‘better’ or more competent decisions. 2. Ethics: People have a right to participate in decisions that affect them, and involvement of the public may be an end in itself, rather than being intended to deliver better decisions. 3. Expertise: Local people as lay ‘experts’

4 2) Engagement in practice Different forms of engagement Different degrees to which people are involved, have influence, are valued Three main approaches to engagement

5 1) Engagement as ‘information provision’ Providing information, attempting to educate Some concerns can be addressed, from trusted sources In keeping with ‘decide-announce-defend’ tradition, informing people of plans that have been made Pragmatic basis – avoid ‘problems’ of opposition Examples: distributing leaflets, advertising, providing exhibitions and displays

6 Telling people what they should and shouldn’t do Prof Steve Reicher Leadership for sustainable development You don’t influence people by telling them what they should be doing Provokes resentment, resistance, the experience of domination, and undermines authority

7 Energy saving scheme at St Andrews People saw the scheme as reflecting an (ongoing) management insensitivity to staff experience – ‘them and us’ Seen as an imposition; top-down; no dialogue; patronising Seen an insincere (about attempts to undermine authority of different departments, not about saving the planet)

8 Information provision Least effective – but most commonly used ‘Bottom-line’ approach to engagement Unlikely to be effective in terms of encouraging public support and trust, both for the particular proposals, and for the decision-making process as a whole

9 Information provision People may well not need ‘education’ or even ‘information’ about a proposal No direct correlation between information and attitudes People may be very well informed – not the ‘public deficit’ model May also be drawing on different knowledge – does not value local knowledge May antagonise rather than subdue protest Decide-announce-defend: protest is only involvement permitted Problematises opposition; does not encourage ‘the silent majority’

10 (Importance of local knowledge)  Brian Wynne’s work with sheep farmers in Cumbria after Chernobyl  Scientific, expert, empirical, authoritative knowledge  Lived experience Localised knowledge: dependant on experience, values, attitudes, beliefs Difference between lay and expert beliefs Difficulties of establishing the validity of lay knowledges


12 Farmers’ specialist knowledge was ignored by the experts Standardization built into routines of scientific knowledge ‘Three week model’: based on assumptions of alkaline clay soils (on which initial experiments had been carried out) But: scientists had overlooked the essentially localised nature of this knowledge – clay soil not universal (and knowledge drawn from particular conditions was not universal) Farmers knew about various significant differences in environment, climate factors, management practices between (and within) farms Reflection of substantial skill from farmers – which they saw wiped out by the (ignorant and insensitive) imposition of expert knowledge Experts ignored farmers’ informal expertise when they devised and conducted field experiments farmers knew to be unrealistic Experiments involved penning sheep

13 2) Engagement as ‘consultation’ Not just providing information to a passive public - but actively elicit their responses May help to address the reasons for ‘qualified support’ Eg Middlegrunden


15 3) Engagement as ‘deliberation’ The public are not just permitted to discuss any plans, but are more thoroughly involved in developing them, along with wider policy, in the first place. May overcome ‘democratic deficit’ where the minority is able to impose its will More deliberative processes may assess what the majority thinks Examples: citizens juries, interactive panels, workshops, and conferences Issues are broadly considered and recommendations for decision- makers discussed. However, this approach is rare

16 One example The UK government engagement process to inform Energy White Paper in 2003 Involved ‘all levels of engagement strategy, from simple information provision to complex deliberative processes’ (Chilvers et al, 2005, p24) Aim - open and inclusive Sought to ‘understand public perceptions of energy and their energy concerns’ (Chilvers et al, 2005, p25) Included widespread dissemination of material, road shows, focus groups, deliberative workshops and a final integrating conference The commitment shown by the government to public engagement was welcomed, and that the key concerns that were raised by the public were largely incorporated and addressed in the White Paper

17 Success suggests that: Should be used more as widely and frequently as possible Decision-making less about deciding, announcing, and defending, and more about local people and decision- makers working together Views would be sought, and listened to, and outcomes that were satisfactory to all would be negotiated

18 3) Community Benefits Various different schemes Demonstrable benefits Demonstrates a commitment to the area Developer seen as accessible and accountable

19 Tangible benefits Scottish Power: £200,000 on windfarm community projects Disabled footpath access Construction of BMX track Repairs to church roof Senior citizen parties Purchase of defibrillator for remote community Music tuition for under-privileged children Full-time energy education officer Delivery of community benefits key role in fostering and maintaining effective relationships with local communities

20 Issues with community benefits Local benefit for the local disadvantage (and the national benefit) Developer less of an outsider Implies care and responsibility Bribery? Potential for conflict within community as to distribution of benefits Who benefits? Who decides?

21 4) Community-led schemes Rare: Private-sector led model dominates Limited stakeholder development in energy planning and development Highly centralised energy system creates spatial and psychological distance between energy generation and use Previously the domain of alternative activists Since 2000, new policy emphasis and investment in ‘community renewable development’ Series of Government funded programmes aiming to facilitate, support, and subsidise community based renewable energy projects at the local level

22 Awel Aman Tawe Community energy project in south Wales Contribution to local regeneration and implementation of LA21 Schemes including: Solar hot water panels at local community centres and cinema 24 solar hot water panels for private houses Installing biomass district heating system for 14 new houses in one village; more being developed (with Family Housing Association) Energy efficiency grants (eg thermafleece for domestic installation), and advice/workshops Selected as one of six case studies for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg by the Department for International Development Community wind farm application

23 AAT context and history Local area: deprived, high unemployment, industrially scarred, declining local services, financial insecurity 1998 local residents set up a steering group to use RE developments to encourage local regeneration Principles: Pro- local involvement Pro- wind energy Aimed to persuade local people to feel a sense of ownership Profits from electricity generation back into the communities for social, economic, environmental schemes Extensive public consultation

24 Issues of community ownership Hard work One full year’s work before first funding application Long term commitment Securing funding Slow responses Finding time and staff (with skills and resources) Highlights any divisions within a community Effort to resist being overtaken and retaining control “ironic that external companies who are interested in the project because of its (innovative) community led nature should try to take control of it, thereby destroying what is novel about it”

25 Windfarm proposal Financial: profits from sale of electricity channelled back into community initiatives “If anyone was going to make a profit out of ‘our’ wind it was going to be us, not some external developer” Social: facilitation of community decision making; empowerment; building networks; pride Individual: training, local employment, education and awareness raising

26 Community response Considered in light of experiences, networks, local issues Decline and deprivation of the area Nothing to lose Or – having to suffer a windfarm because is a deprived area Past experience of coal mining Healthier comparison Or – area already scarred Powerful community spirit, with entrenched rivalries and prejudices Flare up over issues like a windfarm

27 Community response Potential benefits to the local area should be identified The importance of social networks and the local context should be recognised For people to feel that they ‘own’ any project, the plans must be flexible to adapt to key aspects that are important to them Need to listen to people To understand and show respect for experiences and concerns To demonstrate the project is committed to locally important issues

28 Importance of understanding choices and behaviour How people make decisions Context Relevance of local, immediate factors Trust in information Trust in decisions and decision makers Extent to which people are engaged, involved, offered the opportunity to participate

29 Can opposition to wind farms be justified? How can the development of wind farms be done better to engage – rather than antagonise – people about renewable energy? Should people be able to express their views? Or should we go ahead with valuable projects such as wind farms anyway?

30 Opposition to wind farms Ultimate selfish, parochial, anti-green behaviour…? Disjuncture between local costs and global benefits Poor relations with developer: opposition to developer, not development Lack of engagement with process

31 Key points Education and information alone is not sufficient Need to have locally relevant information Need to listen to people and develop locally relevant solutions Need to take account of tangible, immediate costs and benefits Need to develop ideas with people, rather than imposing them upon people Process can be just as important as product

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