Designing solutions to energy insecurity with those most concerned
A Ouishare team accompanied the Rexel Foundation, to co-design responses to energy insecurity with those most concerned. The second step was to activate a community that could experiment with these solutions.
This case study was originally published in French. Click here to access the original link.
According to the Environmental Agency and of Energy Management, around 3.8M* French people (14% of households) spend more than 10% of their income on energy in their homes. This is the most common definition that we know of when it comes to energy insecurity. The criterion used to characterise the number of French people who have difficulty accessing energy is the subject of much controversy. Just like the Gilets Jaunes movement, some argue to also include the cost of gasoline in this calculation. Other approaches can be used to quantify fuel poverty: a 2018 study reveals that 3.5 million households claim to suffer from cold in their homes. One must take note that 55% of these households are more than 60 years old. This energy insecurity/precariousness should be put into context with a desirable ecological transition and the poor thermal quality of the French housing stock. The French energy rating ranges from A to G; where A is most efficient and G is the least. 3/4 of the park falls under the energy grade range between D to G.
The desire to provide access to clean and affordable energy to the entire population has mobilized the Rexel Foundation since 2013. More recently, the desire of the foundation is to place the residents at the heart of the search for solutions. Notably, in the North of France with a project to identify possible solutions to energy insecurity in Roubaix.
To implement this desire and consider new ways of interacting with beneficiaries, the Rexel Foundation and Ouishare have decided to work together around this theme.
Our support focuses on the following questions:
- What does it mean to know people and families in fuel poverty? How far should we go to understand them? Should we even try to understand these households? How can we identify these households?
- How do we help different agents in the ecosystem directly and indirectly concerned with the causes and consequences of energy insecurity in order to help these households?
We are mobilising participants in order to bring out potential cooperation to be launched collectively. This work was carried out with participants such as GRAAL, the Compagnons Bâtisseurs, the Abbé Pierre Foundation, Energie Solidaire, several social centres in Roubaix, companies such as Rexel and Leroy Merlin, and residents of Roubaix who live or have lived in this situation of precariousness. It is also a question of enhancing a community capable of experimenting with these solutions.
Ouishare brings skills in community design, workshop design and group facilitation. To be fair in the way the of carrying out exchanges with a diverse and sometimes fragile public, the Rexel Foundation called on the mediation skills of Daniel Maciel, who has been involved in the community sector in Lille for over twenty years, and knows the area and the positions to adopt with the diversity of the actors brought together. His experience in dealing with people living in poverty contributes greatly to the success of the workshops by guaranteeing their benevolent and inclusive nature.
Cultivate an empathetic attitude
Concretely, we are conceiving and conducting a series of four workshops to create a community around the theme, ready to be engaged and experiment the potential solutions.
We are working in an iterative manner; each new workshop is created on the basis of the previous one with the dual objective of federating these actors and bringing out common ideas. We are particularly careful not to “push” solutions and to maintain a listening and facilitating posture. Our neutral and naive posture, we who do not belong to the "energy" ecosystem, is an asset because it allows us to approach subjects without a priori and with a lot of curiosity.
Finally, we make sure to document what happens during these workshops as well as the process, in order to make the approach more easily replicable in other localities.
Designing complex solutions to a dual challenge
Surprisingly, the lack of finances was not the most difficult challenge: the weaknesses identified concerning the responses to fuel poverty are as follows: lack of dialogue between partners, complexity of the different schemes and communication available to benefit from them and mistrust between different stakeholders.
There is a lack of a trusting and listening environment for the person in a fragile situation.
To overcome these shortages, three main solutions were proposed:
- A sponsorship system "l'énergie des possibles": this involves setting up a peer-to-peer support system between a resident who is in search for help and another who has already gone through that stage
- Representation by the collective “the link”: The ability to mobilize a network of individuals or associative / institutional actors, to make an individual problem collective. The aim is to make the most disadvantaged, who are often little listened to and considered, audible.
- A “les allumoirs” (the igniters) gathering space: this involves setting up an in-person and/or online spaces to centralise questions and answers and prevent potential beneficiaries from an obstacle course asking them to expose their problem to multiple times
*Sources : https://www.ademe.fr/expertises/batiment/quoi-parle-t/precarite-energetique