I’ve had a new paper, written with my colleagues Jason Chilvers and Tom Hargreaves, published in the journal Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space. The paper is entitled ‘Mapping participation: A systematic analysis of diverse public participation in the UK energy system‘ and is one of the major papers from our work on the remaking energy participation project as part of phase 3 of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC).
In the paper I detail how we have developed a new methodology for mapping participation in response to conceptual arguments that we need to get beyond a focus on discrete participation events in empirical research on participation. This work also responded to UKERC’s ‘whole systems’ philosophy for approaching energy systems. So we considered what a ‘whole systems’ account of participation would look like, drawing inspiration from recent work by proponents of deliberative systems like Jane Mansbridge and John Parkinson among others.
Methodologically I locate our approach in between the rich ethnographic detail of comparative case study accounts of participation like Ellen Stewart and Sally Eden’s recent books, and the large scale point mappings of digital methods approaches developed by Tomaso Venturini, Noortje Marres and others.
The paper is available to read and download for free and demonstrates our new approach by presenting a mapping of cases of participation in UK low carbon energy transitions 2010-2015, drawing some broader conclusions about what this tells us about participation and UK low carbon transitions.
We’ve been surprised with how well these arguments have gone down with various policy, civil society and business audiences, so they seem to chime with what many people experience when they try to orchestrate public participation and engagement. We’ll be taking these ideas forward more practically with some non-academic partners as part of phase 4 of the UK Energy Research Centre which is just getting underway. More information on these new developments to come soon!
In the meantime I’m keen to connect with others interested in these themes and methods, and to discuss your responses to this and other pieces of writing we’ve published from this project.