SAC # 119

What influences what? Using Systems Approaches in the Energy Cultures Project



TIME | 6 October 2011, 4pm onwards

LOCATION | CSAFE Seminar Room, , Dunedin

SPEAKER | Janet Stephenson


Systems thinking can be a powerful tool for improving participation in problem-solving, aiding in developing a shared understanding, revealing its complexity, and gaining agreement on potential solutions (Costanza & Ruhr 1998, Stave 2002). My talk outlines the application of some systems tools to the complex field of household energy behaviours.

Within the Energy Cultures research project, we teamed up with Synergia, an innovative NZ consultancy using ‘soft systems’ based tools for organisational analysis, to assist in integrating the different perspectives and knowledge bases of our interdisciplinary team. My talk will present several stages of the systems mapping we undertook: the ‘concept mapping’ of team members’ perceptions of the issues and drivers relating to household energy use; central concepts and key themes emerging from this; and feedback dynamics. While not an ‘exact science’, systems approaches can provide insights into a complex field and highlight potential opportunities to alter system dynamics.

About the Speaker

Dr Janet Stephenson is a social scientist with a particular interest in societal responses to environmental challenges. She is the co-leader of the 3-year “Energy Cultures” research programme, which is an interdisciplinary project investigating household energy behaviour. She is also co-leader of the Marsden-funded project “Tirohia he Huarahi” examining the experiences of kaitiaki in managing mahinga kai. She has researched and written on people’s perceptions of landscapes, and is co-editor of two recent books “Making our Place – exploring land-use tensions in Aotearoa New Zealand” and “Beyond the Scene – Landscape and Identity in Aotearoa New Zealand”. She is a founding trustee of the National Energy Research Institute and a member of the Otago Energy Research Centre. She is the Director of the Centre for Sustainability: Agriculture, Food, Energy, Environment at the University of Otago.


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