Bursting bubbles: can we engage our way to a Green Recovery?

14 May 2020

Bursting bubbles: can we engage our way to a Green Recovery?

Bursting bubbles… No, I’m not talking about a new #HomeSchool activity or #PEwithJoe move!

I am lucky enough to have a month or so left of maternity leave in these strange times, and spent last week trying to keep the small human engaged* and reading a raft of thought pieces and news articles, all championing a Green Recovery.

From the Committee on Climate Change’s ‘6 key principles for a resilient recovery’, to the Energy Transition Commission’s ‘7 priorities to help the global economy recover’, I felt buoyed by the those calling on Government to invest in renewables and energy efficiency, to reduce air pollution, to bring forward electric vehicles.

And yet, last week also saw the publication of BEIS’ latest Public Attitude Tracker, which found that only 35% of people had any awareness of the term ‘Net Zero’. I know I spend a lot of time in a happy green twitter bubble, so this was a good reality check. How can we achieve the CCC’s call for a shift towards positive, long-term behaviours and embed fairness as a core principle when awareness is so low?

Well, Net Zero jargon aside, people remain concerned about climate change: “three quarters (76%) of people said they were either very concerned (35%) or fairly concerned (41%) about climate change”. As an engagement practitioner (who hasn’t seen a lot of humans lately!), my first instinct is we need to reach these people and they need to shape a Green Recovery.

So how can we reach them?

Whilst many of us can’t see our families yet, let alone meet new people, this pandemic has pushed more of us to connect digitally. We’ve seen older relatives use Whatsapp for the first time and large swathes of the workforce now use online collaboration and conferencing tools. So, let’s not press pause on engagement, indeed let’s take advantage of being able to convene people without the limitations of geography and the speed at which we can reach people. Let’s use digital tools to bring together people who wouldn’t usually talk to each other. It won’t be easy, and it’ll need thoughtful planning and facilitation, but that shouldn’t stop us.** See my colleague Killian’s comments on inclusion online and Lucy’s on consulting and engaging online.

And how can they shape a Green Recovery?

Well even pre-pandemic, in an era of #fakenews and living in like-minded social media bubbles, deliberative engagement has become an ever more useful method. At Traverse we use it regularly to help utilities clients engage consumers on technical and future-oriented subjects.

A deliberative process prioritises building knowledge amongst participants of the subject at hand, laying a solid foundation for discussion. Creating a sample for participant selection, means that discussion should reflect views from across society. The time and space for that discussion, allows viewpoints to evolve, be challenged and crystallise.  

It has been heartening to see both the UK and French national climate change assemblies, which use deliberative processes, move successfully online. Undoubtedly it has helped that their participants had met face to face previously. Can we enable deliberation amongst those who have never met and on a future which currently seems uncertain? I know that at Traverse we are excited to try, and lucky enough to be working with Councils setting up climate assemblies and energy networks asking consumers to shape their business plans. Widespread public dialogue would be a meaningful way to burst bubbles and harness current social capital toward a green(er) recovery.

If you want to share #GreenRecovery #BuildBackBetter engagement ideas come have a natter in my twitter bubble @ByAmelieT

*OK, admittedly real bubbles were involved in this case!

** Fun, possibly involving bubbles, should definitely be designed in ????

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