Community-Data Loops for Energy conscious lifestyles | University of Amsterdam

The choices we make every day often lead to a demand for energy. A demand that is increasing worldwide. Most approaches
these days focus on reducing energy consumption by relying on new
technologies and efficient devices. Rather than looking at the needs behind
the use of energy. And how they could be reduced. The CodaLoop research project
is doing just that: focusing on how the needs that drive our use of energy can
be reduced. Our aim is to understand how interactions within communities can
influence the social norms that drive our energy demand. The researchers at
CodaLoop Amsterdam have conducted an ethnographic action research within
three Amsterdam based communities. A community of self builders in the
northern quarter, of Buiksloterham. The people that gather in the community
centre the Meevaart in the ‘Indische Buurt’, located in the east. And an online
Facebook group called ‘The Sustainable Community of Amsterdam’. During the one year field work we experimented with: the power of narratives and artistic
expressions, to design multiple interventions. Like energy story nights,
energy quizzes, documentary screenings, weekly Facebook posts etc. Throughout
this we’ve reached three key conclusions. First of all, contrary to popular belief,
money is not always the most important factor when it comes to energy reduction.
Other frames such as morality, self-fulfillment, and the wish for
efficiency, also played important roles. Some participants were willing to reduce
their energy needs as a moral obligation. Or as a way to gain personal self-esteem
and satisfaction. Our second conclusion is that we first
need to understand how a community interacts, before introducing any digital
platform. Face-to-face interactions are crucial for members to gain trust and
express themselves freely. Digital interactions allow to share certain
types of data and information that could not be shared otherwise. And that serve as discussion triggers. Finally the most effective use of data consists of a
balance between numeric and qualitative data. A combination of personal stories,
backed up by hard numbers. In summary: when designing energy policies that aim
to reduce energy needs, it is important to acknowledge the social context, and
pay close attention to the community level. It is effective to build upon
existing communities. And knowing what their interests and ways of
communication are, to spark meaningful discussions. Social change is a long
process that doesn’t happen overnight. And yet it happens every time we make a
choice affecting our future. The communities we belong to are essential sources of support and inspiration, when making these choices. CodaLoop findings
pave the way for community centered approaches, that aim at reducing energy

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