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The human dimensions of low carbon underwear

unlocking sustainability

REDUCING CARBON IS NOT just about technology.  We need to overcome economic, political and organisational issues too.

That’s three huge Systems, each with a capital ‘S’.  These are the human dimensions of low carbon.

Because these factors are interlinked, changing just one is likely to create limited impact; we have to address them together.

Guess what?

It means that we need to understand the relationships between people.

Insider Voices was a ground-breaking study of the human dimensions of transition to a low carbon world. The stories draw on accounts from industry and local authorities: a pasty company, biogas generation, heating/cooling schemes, and a startup with a vision of compressed air as a service.

Oh, and an eco-underwear-factory.


Top human dimensions of low carbon

The report offered tools and practical recommendations for leaders and policy-makers to consider the human dimension of low carbon change.  Above all, these include:

  • collaboration among different actors;
  • a requirement to be proactive, open and creative;
  • the need to challenge rules or procedures that might get in the way.

Funded by The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (ESPRC) and The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), action researchers used interview and editing techniques to document the process of creating and implementing low carbon approaches.  Innovative events brought stakeholders together to support collaboration and a website, printed book and pdf supported dissemination.  Academics have a name for the outputs from this approach to documenting the human dimensions of low carbon: Learning Histories.  It’s especially powerful because it involves so many of the people who influence the many, interconnected systems.

Could we improve on this process?  It’s the kind of thinking that our Contented people perform all the time.  Well, it turns out that this report was primarily retrospective, capturing what had happened largely through extensive interviews with personnel in and around the projects.

One of our colleagues asked: “If this is a Learning History, what would a Learning Present look like? What if companies documented their stories as they went along? We can help them do that.”

So, now we do. We support clients in the whole process from generating insights to acting upon them.  And we document the innovation as it unfolds.

Building on the seminal Insider Voices report, we work not only historically, but also forward in time.  Consequently, we can help ensure that clients apply learning and optimise conditions for innovation.

A decade on, digital technology has created huge potential to enhance dissemination in a way that supports collaboration and develops powerfully influential learning communities of interest, practice and enquiry.  As a project unfolds, we capture and promote the narrative using storytelling techniques.  We’re contintually exploring new ways of doing this.  Can you come up with any new ways?


Further support

In conclusion, our communications approach generates, captures and promotes insights into the human dimensions of low carbon change.  We call the outputs Innovation Stories.

While you can read about it in The Guardian, most internet links we know about appear to be broken.  We have a well-thumbed copy that we’re always happy to bring along to meetings and talk about.  Let’s have a conversation.


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