Civil society knowledge exchange workshop

19 Apr 2023
Civil society knowledge exchange workshop

UKERC held an online workshop in April 2023 with a diverse cohort of civil society groups active in the climate and energy space. The event was chaired by UKERC Co-Director and Observatory Lead Jason Chilvers and attendees included representatives from the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE), the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE), Climate Outreach, E3G, Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), Energy Saving Trust, Energy UK, Green Alliance, Greenpeace, Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), National Energy Action (NEA), Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) and WWF.

The workshop began with a discussion around how best to engage, with attendees sharing their experiences of engaging with academia. Here, attendees outlined the multiple benefits of collaborative partnerships between academia and civil society organisations, from providing more robust and better evidenced insights and recommendations to ensure that academic research can have an impact on the ground. Simultaneously, though, they acknowledged some practical challenges of delivering on the promises of such partnerships, including: a) difficulty in finding appropriate academics to collaborate with, b) competing commitments and project timescales between the two sectors, c) competing aims and priorities, and d) critical budget constraints.

This discussion was followed by three mini knowledge exchange sessions on topics of interest. The point was to establish a two-way dialogue around these subjects, sharing our expertise with each other, as both academic and civil society organisations have deep knowledge of climate and energy issues. Jason Chilvers in particular led one mini knowledge exchange session focusing on the social dimensions of the energy transition, drawing on insights from the latest mapping of diverse forms of public engagement with energy, climate change, and net zero occurring in the UK between 2015-2022. Against a backdrop of mainstream research and practice that typically assume ‘the public’ lack knowledge or are disengaged, the participants were encouraged by our analysis that shows how multiple different publics are already engaged in many different ways around energy, climate change and net zero. Specifically, the increasing visibility of citizen-led engagements relating to social movements, activism, protest, and citizen action was seen to align with the visions of many participating civil society organisations of ensuring that civil society plays an important role in delivering a transition that is not only environmentally sustainable, but also just, fair, inclusive, and democratic.

Feedback from attendees has been overwhelmingly positive. We are already working on plans to host more events of this nature as we hope this will strengthen our research outcomes and will help ensure their socially transformative potential is realised.