30 SES 02 B, Innovative learning and learning for change
This paper explores change agency formation related to climate change issues, inspired by notions of participation in everyday life (Marres, 2011; Micheletti 2002, 2006), and the notion of the making of green knowledge (Jamison 2001; 2010). The paper is drawing on reflections on a case – the Samsø Renewable Energy Island (REI) project (DK), and the focus is on an exploration of two different formats of knowledge-sharing in the learning processes leading to change on Samsø – ‘neighbourly visits’ and web-based documentation – emphasising the role of knowledge in change agency formation.
The REI project can be described as a ‘child’ of late 1990s’ ecological modernisation, a market-oriented approach seeking to combine environmental concern with economic growth, and a part of a neoliberal knowledge regime, entrepreneurial and following a utilitarian logic (Jamison, 2010). The key narratives of the project link participatory technologies such as shared knowledge- and decision-making (energy democracy) with socio-technical innovation and economic development (green business). The island transition approach to RE can thus be read as an adaptive approach, in line with the normative agendas of the green governmentality knowledge regimes at the end of the 1990s, fixated on keeping a balance of the quantifiable environmental and economic costs, and benefits of individual and community actions. However, the REI project narratives of ‘energy democracy’ and community ownership speak for a co-articulation of the transition approach as social resilience development – as being about both local green knowledge development and about strengthening faith in Samsø as a viable community.
Marres (2011) draws on the notion of the materialisation of participation, involving the use of specific technologies as the means through which participation in everyday life is accomplished. She points out that an important trope in liberal theory is that participation in public affairs must somehow be made ‘doable’ for ordinary people. Rather than emphasising knowledge about climate change issues as a driver for change, SH (one of the main protagonists) focuses on action – making energy democracy and creating jobs on the island. His view on what has been going on seems to resonate with notions of direct democracy and related forms of participation, including Micheletti’s (2002) notion of individualised collective action. She defines this as ‘the practice of responsibility-taking through the creation of everyday settings on the part of citizens alone or together with others to deal with problems which they believe are affecting what they identify as a good life’ (2002:7).
The notions of material participation and individual collective action seems to attempt to break up the distinction between participation in everyday politics and big politics by pointing out how they are linked in co-articulations of multivalent action. Smith and Stirling (2010) and Bollig (2014) warn against downplaying the role of wider democratic politics in the public sphere and of structural change related to sustainable transitions, pointing to the need to unpack normative questions concerning power, such as whose sustainability gets prioritised. Questions that are not in focus in this paper, but that never the less are important in order to understand the participatory and decision-making processes in the REI project and how they shape the possibilities for knowledge-sharing.
Inspired by Marres notion of the materialisation of participation, I discuss two main technologies of knowledge-sharing in the REI project – 'neighbourly visits' and web-based documentation – as essential in the change agency formation at Samsø. The empirical foundation is drawing on notes from informal conversations with key agents (the director SH and project managers ML and MK) during a field visit to the Renewable Energy Island (REI) project in June 2016, as well as an analysis on documents on the web page presenting and documenting the REI project.
Jamison (2010) points out that cultural practices and the mobilisation (or reinvention) of tradition often play an important role in attracting participation and involvement. SH’s ‘neighbourly visits’ to farmers on the island is construed as the main driver for bringing them aboard the project’s establishment of windmills on their land. It drew on a tradition among the island farmers of using the ritual invitation for a cup of coffee as an informal learning space for sharing knowledge and thoughts on how to solve local problems. Knowledge-sharing is one of the main goals of the Energy Academy, and ML describes her task as ‘writing the story about the REI project and the Academy’, to document their processes. The notions of ‘community’, ‘commonity’ and ‘commons’ play a central role in the storytellers’ (ML) understanding of knowledge-sharing: Samsø Island is described as a community; ‘commonity’ as ‘a sense of community’, and ‘the commons’ as ‘something people connect to […] a place where you feel you can contribute – it’s about giving and receiving’ (Energiinstituttet 2014). The ‘giving and receiving’ and importance of ‘joint connections’ in knowledge-sharing are here construed as key aspects in community mobilisation to secure the commons of the future. With reference to Beck’s (1999) concept of ‘sub-politics’, Jamison (2010) notes that participation in ‘small’ or everyday politics presupposes some kind of organisation or coordination that links actions to each other, and provides a set of shared values or beliefs, and thus a space for integrating different ways of knowing and doing. The open source documentation on the website offers a space for articulating the values and beliefs about the commons and sense of community.
Beck, U. (1999). World risk society. Cambridge: Polity Press. Bollig, M. (2014). Resilience: Analytical tool, bridging concept or development goal? Anthropological perspectives on the use of a border object. Zeitschrift Für Ethnologie, 139(2), 253–279. Jamison, A. (2001). The making of green knowledge: Environmental politics and cultural transformation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Jamison, A. (2010). Climate change knowledge and social movement theory. Climate Change, 1(6), 811–823. Kristensen, M. (2015). Samsø project: Past, present and future. http://arkiv.energiinstituttet.dk/589/, visited 10 August 2015. Marres, N. (2011). The costs of public involvement: Everyday devices of carbon accounting and the materialization of participation. Economy and Society, 40(4), 510–533. Micheletti, M. (2002). Individualized collective action. Paper for the Nordic Political Science Association’s meeting, Aalborg, Denmark, 14–17 August. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/57e2/f639c9a37b301812079a8a3219d8886668ff.pdf, visited 27 April 2018. Micheletti, M. (2006). Communication and political understanding as political participation. Pdf version in M. Eduards, C. Linde & A. Segerberg (Eds), State of welfare: Politics, policies and parties in the post-national welfare society. Stockholm: Stockholm University. http://www.statsvet.su.se/polopoly_fs/1.133039.1366808279!/menu/standard/file/micheletti_communication_and_political_understanding_as_political_participation.pdf, visited 27 April 2018. Smith, A. & Stirling, A. (2010). The politics of social-ecological resilience and sustainable socio-technical transitions. Ecology and Society, 15(1), http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss1/art11/ URL: http://arkiv.energiinstituttet.dk/2/28/BestNxt2014-LRreinventing.pdf, ‘Reinventing the Commons’,visited 27 April 2018.
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