“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” (African proverb)
The transition to sustainable heating systems (e.g. district heating systems, heat pumps, solar thermal systems, in combination with thermal insulation) is an essential element of an effective response to climate change. But it requires more than technological innovation alone. It entails a system-wide transition that covers both technical and social components, and addresses the supply, distribution, and demand sides of local energy systems. Heating is a fundamental aspect of the human need for shelter in our climates, and therefore a significant social, cultural, economic, and psychological phenomenon as much as technological. Heating reaches far into people’s homes and private lives, not just workplaces or leisure contexts,
involving everyday habits and negotiations between building occupants and family members. Heat is a cultural service that cannot only be seen through the lens of economic efficiencies and return on investments. Providing heat is a key aspect of social life (e.g. entertaining guests) and seasonal cultural practices (e.g. wintertime cosiness). In the transition to sustainable heating, homeowners and local communities therefore form essential parts of the system. Their contribution to this transition by deciding to adopt sustainable heating technology for their homes and buildings is key to making it happen and co-creation provides spaces for citizens to share what heating means to them and for stakeholders to build these insights into their programmes for change.
However, residents and home/building owners are generally considered hard to reach and persuade to make investments, and to let go of currently unsustainable heating systems and adopt those that are more sustainable. This matter is challenging for a myriad of reasons and cost is but one of them. Despite the urgency to lower carbon emissions there is currently a limited market demand for sustainable heating solutions, particularly among building/homeowners in (existing) dense urban areas. Given the urgency of climate change and pressing socioeconomic issues there is a need to develop, implement and test incentives that target home/building owners to make investments. One promising solution is co-creation with citizens and local stakeholders.
This report clarifies the different meanings for key terms used in co-creation by taking stock of the growing vocabulary used in different approaches to public participation: by defining and comparing different terms and how they have been used. The report describes the challenges, as well as the benefits, of co-creation as well as the importance of managing expectations, power relationships, and sharing responsibility.
Co-creation is an intervention which actively involves citizens and stakeholders in making decisions about issues that affect them. The benefits of co-creation, when done well, include helping to deliver sustainable heating solutions in a timely and efficient way, increasing a sense of empowerment and citizenship as well as contributing to building trust between stakeholders and urban communities. Through the process citizens and stakeholders share power and responsibility with a view to improving the social legitimacy of decision-making. This means working together in equal, reciprocal and caring relationships to create a more holistic understanding of context and exploring shared responsibilities for energy transitions.