‘Change Points for the Nexus at Home’: Stage 3 of our ESRC funded research

For the past six months (since Feb 2018), the Nexus at Home team (Browne, Watson, Evans, Sharp, Foden) – with the exciting addition of Research Fellow Dr Claire Hoolohan – have been busy working on an ESRC Impact Accelerator Account (funded through ESRC IAA at the University of Manchester). This is the third stage of our research project and is titled ‘Change Points for the Nexus at Home: A toolkit for developing policy for water-energy-food consumption in UK homes’. The intention is to build upon our existing inter- and trans-disciplinary research projects (see Reports), and to deepen our influence and impact in different spheres of environmental policy and business practice related to the domestic nexus of water-energy-food.

We are developing a ‘toolkit’ – a co-designed workshop process and accompanying workbook – that stakeholders can undertake (either within their own organisations or with coalitions of interconnected ‘problem owners’) in order to redefine problems, identify alternative ‘Change Points’ to the behaviours they seek to address, and demarcate routes to new policy pathways and intervention programmes.

The objectives of this project are to:

(1) co-produce a toolkit with our non-academic stakeholders and academic advisors to support policy and planning;
(2) to disseminate the toolkit via the networks of each partner organisation to reach practitioners working within business, government and not-for-profit sectors;
(3) develop the application of practice theories and household sustainability research in a way that influences ‘real world’ policy and business settings;
(4) assist in developing the evidence base for policy development based on these theoretical approaches.

The development of the toolkit has been led by Alison Browne (PI) at the University of Manchester,  alongside Research Fellow/Co-I Claire Hoolohan, and with strategic direction and input from Matt Watson, Liz Sharp and David Evans at the University of Sheffield (Co-Is) and Mike Foden (Co-I; Keele University, previously Sheffield). We have six, strongly committed, formal project partners: Defra, FSA, Waterwise, Northumbrian Water Group (NWG, Essex and Suffolk), Actant Consulting and Artesia Consulting. WWF-UK and WRAP have also participated in the project at various stages.

On Wednesday 27th June 2018 we ‘Beta Tested’ the draft toolkit with project partners. In the morning we focused on ‘water efficiency’ with staff from Waterwise, WWF-UK, Defra, and Northumbrian Water Group attending and exploring new approaches to thinking about water efficiency and water demand. In the afternoon we had colleagues from FSA and WRAP discussing food safety and waste. After further refinement, the toolkit will be ‘soft launched’ in October 2018.

Following the ‘beta test’ we have a range of workshops planned with stakeholders from across the water, energy, food, waste sectors who are interested in using our approach to reframe their activities around behaviour change, household sustainability, and wider environmental and health challenges. These activities in 2018/2019 will be funded by impact funding from the University of Sheffield which will allow us to implement the toolkit and workshop process with a range of stakeholder audiences, in order to maximise our impact across a range of WEF policy domains. Updates will follow regarding the workshops, and emerging outputs and impacts from the project.

Sustainability in turbulent times, Westminster conference

Just over the Thames from Parliament, the project was featured at Sustainability in Turbulent Times. This major event, attended by around 350 and featuring a range of high profile speakers, was the culmination of the work of the ESRC funded Nexus Network. In a wide ranging programme, we covered issues around the challenges and opportunities of pursuing change towards sustainability in light of contemporary political and economic changes and what they represent. Continue reading “Sustainability in turbulent times, Westminster conference”