The social practices of change agency in the context of community energy use

Global CIities Research Institute
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Global CIities Research Institute People and the Planet 2013: Conference Proceedings, 2013, pp. 1 - 19
Issue Date:
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Abstract: This paper investigates the social practices of Australian sustainability `change agents that are working to reduce community energy use. These change agents work to promote change for sustainability, often through leadership of specific projects or initiatives. Their practices are of interest because they influence the effectiveness of efforts to reduce energy consumption. The specific social practice framework employed in the paper draws on the work of Elizabeth Shove and colleagues. It contends that social practices integrate three types of element: materials, competences and meanings. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with 28 change agents across Australia, the paper identifies the materials, competences and meanings held by the change agents and explores how those elements are integrated into practices. Observed competences included skills in co-learning or facilitated learning and the cultivation of positive agency. Change agents employed diverse materials, including new forms of media, and tailored their initiatives to the material context in which they were operating. In the realm of meanings, change agents drew on competing theories of change but were united in their focus on the individual as the locus of change. A social practice framework decentres the individual and may offer new opportunities to shift community consumption patterns.
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