Smart Communities Project
Smart Communities, funded by the RCUK Energy and Communities programme, is a major new project which will investigate whether members of a community can be facilitated to deliberately debate, develop and adopt new low energy norms, practices and lifestyles. The project is lead by principal investigator Dr Ruth Rettie and co-investigator Dr Kevin Burchell.
Smart Communities is the first research project to bring together members of a community to discuss, develop and adopt new energy-saving ways of doing everyday things. The three-year project draws on practice theory from sociology, the social norm approach from social psychology and community action best practice. Led by researchers at Kingston University, the project is a partnership between the community itself, Fern Hill primary school, Kingston Council's sustainability team, Transition Town Kingston, Tudor Drive library and the Energy Savings Trust.
In cycles of action and reflection, active community members will meet to discuss energy consuming practices (such as cooking or cleaning), develop new energy-saving ways of doing things, and decide how to encourage their adoption by the rest of the community. The school and all community households will use energy monitors to learn about the energy consumption of everyday practices. The Smart Communities website will act as a virtual community hub where participants record their energy consumption, pledge to try new practices, record their progress, and share advice. Following the social norm approach, the website will encourage adoption of new energy-saving practices by plotting participants’ performance against the progress of the community as a whole. The project evaluation includes extensive qualitative and quantitative research.
Significantly, the project will allow Dr Rettie and Dr Burchell to expand on the work being undertaken as part of the CHARM project. This is a £1.1 million research project with Swansea University and the University of West England, funded by the EPSRC. It involves 800 people in three case studies: electricity consumption, active lifestyles and Facebook.