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Engaging communities for energy practice in Graz redevelopment areas and Leibnitz: cases, approaches, lessons learnt.
The current strategies for energy transition reflect the technological, commercial and industrial prevalence. Although there is a growing recognition that citizens play a crucial role in this process as drivers of change as well as smart consumers and investors into energy efficient equipment, little is known on how behavioral change can be promoted on a societal scale or which conditions can best accommodate strategic citizen engagement in the context of energy transitions.
Lifestyle change is a distributional issue as well as a problem of motivating changes in behavior, attitudes and values. In other words, individual change is made much more likely and easy if it is part of a collective shift. This requires focusing on new forms of participation and social interaction that steer mutual learning between the individual, the community and other urban actors, while influencing changes in common values as well as individual choice in lifestyle.
Participatory approaches, including living lab approach as well as experimental approaches are being increasingly considered important tools that foster motivation, participation and mutual learning, thus supporting social innovation. For many years StadtLABOR has been able to develop and test different participatory approaches in practice within projects in city districts in Graz and the surrounding areas. Nevertheless, the implementation of a participatory approach in the daily project planning raises many questions and challenges that go beyond the theoretical considerations.
The overall goal of this paper is to explore the use and the impact of participatory approaches and methods that have been implemented in testbeds in Graz and Leibnitz in the process of facilitating the learning process and behavioral change towards more energy efficient lifestyles. In line with living lab key principles such as co-creation, inclusiveness, and experimentation, these interventions were designed in a way to allow three different types of learning: a) participatory formats that aim at reflecting an individual energy consumption, b) participatory formats that support learning processes through an exchange with other community members, c) formats that promote dialogue and exchange with energy policy makers and other energy experts. Based on a series of case studies from the practical work in the testbeds Waagner-Biro and Reininghaus in Graz as well as in Leibnitz, this paper comprises theoretical and strategical considerations with regard to engaging communities towards more energy-efficient lifestyles in urban context. What has proven itself successful and what are specific bottlenecks and barriers? Lessons learnt from implementation of methods and interventions in the three Austrian testbeds are summarized, providing some insights with regard to the importance of designing context-specific interventions that increase people’s motivation to change their energy-related behavior.