Between the development of the technical products, citizens’ needs , and the COVID-19 – participation activities in the lighthouse city Leipzig
The importance of energy transition as one of the key factors in the climate change process has been increasingly gaining on public acceptance. Along this positive trend grows also a demand on effective and widely available solutions, making many of the planning and implementation stages highly complex and untransparent in the eye of an average citizen. Nota bene the decentralized, single-use solutions which scaled-up might make the most difference, need an engaged individual who consciously and consecutively uses them and shares their thoughts on potential improvements. In the era of lacking time, shrinking resources, and raising expectations on multifaceted lifestyle improvements this so-created socio-economic distress makes such engagement particularly challenging. Here, the central question shifts slowly from “why the civic participation is so important” to “how to enable an inclusive access to the change process”.
The first year of the project concentrated on understanding the added value of the yet-to-be develop SPARCS-products and involving their inventors, hence the technical partners of the Leipzig consortium, in the designing process of the participation formats. Parallel we noticed the urgent need to think at the same time in two levels: (1) all actions within the SPARCSproject and (2) all those that happen outside of it. Initially, each of the citizen or community engagement activity was meant to answer a specific solution and its target group. Within the time though, our team observed the undeniable importance of the latter level – the involvement of replication opportunities enabled us a much more in-depth cooperation with and between the technical partners itself. Through this mean, the core objective of not only informing the communities on the energy transition matters but also actively setting them in the center of creation process of selected products was strengthened in a noticeable and much more genuine way. As a result, a wide range of citizen science workshops, unconference-ideas, and on-site, direct engagement activities with the communities appeared in the participation concept at the end of last year, patiently waiting for final completion of the technical products and a safe moment to collaboratively evaluate them with the citizens.
In the meantime, the additional, COVID-resilient alternatives were investigated, which would go further beyond than just making the planned activities digital (and therefore exclusive or unattractive for some of the target groups). Based on numerous interviews with strategical municipal units and experts in the roll-out of MINT-activities for teenagers were able to design an initial educational offer for schools and -SPARCS-communities. Now the idea is to merge it with the already existing events with a hope to make it an inclusive and inspiring contemporary set of actions for every age group. As the SPARCS-objectives emphasize the replicable nature of undertaken steps, we see the promotion of social and urban mixture as well as civic empowerment as a default working premise.