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CarbonCulture at DECC was designed to test one central hypothesis: that it is possible to deliver high performance sustainability engagement that could scale to large populations at low cost.

Existing ‘high-performance’ engagement programmes achieve high uptake, but can come at a high cost-per-user — particularly in large, complex organisations. Conversely, ‘low-cost’ engagement programmes can be delivered with less resource but normally have low impact.

The technical architecture of the CarbonCulture platform allows for deployment at a large scale, and achieved uptake comparable to conventional ‘high-performance’ programmes, with a projected cost-per-user close to the level of conventional ‘low-cost’ programmes.

With uptake of 40%, the levels of engagement achieved in the CarbonCulture at DECC pilot were very high, whether measured against existing sustainability engagement programmes, wider generic user engagement programmes, or general-purpose web based applications.

The pilot identified levels of user engagement as different users were attracted or incentivised by different tools. These ‘segmentations’ illustrated that certain tools can be used to pull additional groups of users in at different points during the deployment. The order in which this is done can make a difference, helping to reduce costs, and to maximise overall engagement and use of all tools.

The technique of adding additional options over time led in each case to an uplift in participation numbers. We believe that this provides a sustainable mechanism to attract and retain users over a long period of time by keeping them interested in fresh new tools, as well as attracting new staff to the platform.

The pilot has proven a valuable new way of driving engagement and adoption of behaviour change with sustainability outcomes. Modelling of the impact of these behaviour changes suggests that with a portfolio of tools, savings delivered by this web-delivered mechanism could directly reduce an organisation’s total carbon emissions by around 10%, and release direct savings in energy bills.

While the user-facing, cultural side of the CarbonCulture platform has demonstrated its benefits in achieving user engagement, the physical savings unlocked by the real-time data collection and visualisation (by identifying unnecessary or reducible energy consumption) were also high.

The technical side of the platform has also proved invaluable for allowing users to visualise energy use, and to facilitate communication between building users and the facilities managers and other experts.

One Response to “Conclusion”

  1. I like the Distributed Dialogue approach, esalicpely the bit about creating the environment in which it can happen’. Research by Cardiff University and others suggest that the majority of people in the UK are concerned about climate change. If at the same time they do not seem to be making any changes to their lifestyles, there is reason to suspect that they need help to overcome barriers they may perceive. Will the engagement kit help people identify what the barriers are that prevent them from making different choices; choices that they want to make but don’t feel able to? And then, once it is clear how they could be enabled or empowered to change their behaviour, who will help them realise change? There are many others than Government who can play a valuable role here. Perhaps the Localism agenda and the Big Society ideal are expected to encourage this, but without a consistent and credible driving force they are likely to fall short. If DECC’s 2050 Challenge is to be met, we will need to see a Yes we can’ mentality picking up soon. I have seen this in some of the Low Carbon Community Challenge projects and it can feel hugely inspiring and encouraging. The circumstances however were often exceptional, with project teams relentlessly putting time and effort into the project in order to gather momentum, and DECC keeping a close eye. Now, among all the scepticism and the cynicism that Government, and polictics in general, are facing, how will they inspire positive local activism in the style of LCCC? Where is their Low Carbon Future Champion’ will they be able to find among their ranks someone who can credibly fulfil this role? And, finally, will they have the courage to adapt the Localism Bill and Big Society concept to become instruments for this other, urgent agenda: reducing climate change?

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