Sowing Seeds and Promising a Harvest: Learning from the Delivery and Evaluation of a Local Sustainability Transition Initiative in the UK
Policymakers, practitioners and researchers increasingly understand sustainability transitions as requiring change within complex socio-technical systems. In parallel in recent years, many community-led initiatives sharing this systemic view of change, have sought to enhance sustainability on a local scale. Despite this alignment of understandings, many evaluations of local sustainability initiatives focus on measuring short term impacts, such as energy savings, rather than longer term shifts towards sustainable social practices. This paper uses the case study of a sustainable food, energy, and water project delivered by a team of staff and other partners in a UK market town to explore the impacts that such projects can achieve and how they can be effectively evaluated. We draw upon in-depth participant observation over four years, project documentation and the reflections of project stakeholders. We analyse the project impacts through three lenses: the process of project delivery; progress towards project-defined outcomes and indicators; and the concept of capacity building for sustainable living. Our findings point to building social capital to enable action for sustainable living as being the project’s key impact. As a result, the capacity building lens was the most appropriate framework to evaluate this initiative. Our findings suggest that a professionally delivered approach to enable sustainable living has value when it aligns well with qualities of the local community. We suggest that future evaluation work of such initiatives could focus on issues of process, indirect impacts and capacities for sustainable living. Future research could seek to put these ideas into practice, enabling evaluation to better reflect processes of community engagement and social change.
Citation : Reeves, A. and Mitchell, A. (2016) Sowing Seeds and Promising a Harvest: Learning from the Delivery and Evaluation of a Local Sustainability Transition Initiative in the UK. Paper presented to International Energy Policy and Programme Evaluation Conference (IEPPEC), Amsterdam, 7-9 June 2016.
Research Group : Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development
Research Institute : Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development (IESD)
Peer Reviewed : Yes