Innovative partnerships and territorial anchorage: Transforming GRDF into a zero carbon platform for societal impact
This collaboration was initiated as part of an ambitious mission: increasing GRDF’s (Gaz Réseau Distribution France, a gas distribution company) green gas or biogas proportion in its infrastructure network to 10% by 2030, compared to it’s 0.1% today. This mission aimed to connect GRDF with actors of the ecological transition, who are commonly under the radar of most of the gas companies today, with the aim of creating value for local territories.
Natural gas is currently the world's third-largest source of thermal energy, and its main producers are the United States and Russia. It is also a significant cause of greenhouse gas emissions, and a fossil fuel that will be fully used up by the end of the century. Green gas or biogas, on the contrary, is obtained by the fermentation of waste and organic matter in a process called methanation. Green gas manufacturing costs are still high, but are dropping annually.
The upcoming opening of the market to competitors and the need to take environmental issues into account presented a unique opportunity for GRDF to reinvent itself and to implement their vision to become a zero carbon platform for societal impact in each territory?
To achieve this goal, GRDF sought Ouishare’s support for the following tasks:
- To identify local actors involved in the energy transition with which GRDF should interact in the short term in each pilot territory (Metz Metropolitan area, La Rochelle Metropolitan area, the a group of communes of Chinon and the Auvergne region).
- To define emerging dynamics and trends in each of these territories.
- To propose methods of intervention with these stakeholders and give recommendations to strengthen GRDF's relations with the local ecosystems.
- And finally, to contribute to the transformation of the group's positioning, which must no longer be a supplier-client relationship.
GRDF wanted to work with Ouishare because they recognized us for the know-how necessary for the successful realization of this mission. First of all, the limited interaction between the actors meant that we made it our goal to connect the two worlds, and were able to assume the role of a neutral and flexible mediator until they found a common interest. Our ability to create rich partnerships that go beyond financial transactions also helped. Finally, we relied on the strength of Ouishare's community network: local partners who could facilitate meetings with all relevant ecosystem players in several French cities, in-depth knowledge of urban transformation topics such as the fab-city project, third places and the sharing economy.
In concrete terms, we accompanied both the headquarters team in Paris and the local teams in pursuit of these objectives over a period of four months in 2019.
Four months to discover ecosystems: our chosen methodology
The first step was gathering inspiration and evaluating best practices. We presented a summary of actors and emerging territorial trends (Collaborative Economy, Third Places, Fab City, the Commons etc.) to the extended project team of GRDF and we shared findings from the four projects Ouishare implemented in the field of ecosystem mobilization: Sharing Lille with Transdev, a project on energy poverty with the Rexel Foundation, CESAme with the Marmande Townhall and POC21.
We also conducted a series of interviews with the management at the GRDF headquarters, (for example with the innovation manager, the biomethane project development manager and the sustainable development manager) in order to understand their needs and be aligned on project execution.
It is necessary to change the corporate strategy on methanation and our business model, otherwise we take the risk of disappearing.
- Frédérique le Monnier, Communication Manager
Do 90% of the local communities we work with believe that gas is the energy of the future? I am not sure.
- Sandra Rossini, Sustainable Development Manager
Following this preliminary work, we carried out research work in each field on emerging trends and local actors of the ecological transition which resulted in the development of two maps.
We then went to each field for two days, to meet the local actors identified and to refine our maps and to better understand the actors' strategies. These meetings were made without the GRDF teams in order to maintain our impartiality.
Each trip resulted in a half-day workshop with local GRDF teams, two external guests of their choice and one to two people from the headquarters. The goal was to co-build a current ecosystem canvas with them, inspired by Platform Design Toolkit framework.
Then we made a canvas of the strategic ecosystem (six-month projection) of GRDF, based on all the documents previously created. Following this, we drafted recommendations to implement the strategic ecosystem of GRDF. These recommendations were precized and developed specifically for each field. For every recommendation, we proposed actions to put in place in under 15 days and under 6 months.
The project concluded on our side with a closing event as well as follow-up calls with the GRDF teams to answer their questions.
Learnings and positive reactions
This project, was in its entirety an invitation to embrace openness.
We have zero relationships outside of the technical field and our core business, I had the intuition this was the case but now it is obvious.
- Renaud Francomme, La Rochelle
During the workshops and the headquarters meetings, we encouraged them to include people from outside the organization. This has helped to strengthen the link with these actors and increase the level of mutual trust. The external contributions enriched the exchanges and allowed a finer analysis of the territory.
Openness, acculturation, operational recommendations, I am extremely satisfied with this mission and I’m already thinking of next steps.
- Olivier Dusart, Direction Territories and Future Projects
The support provided during this mission was a "turnkey solution" and asked the GRDF teams to let themselves be guided and trust the process. It is thanks to this confidence and the maturity of the local teams that the collaboration worked so well and that it will give rise to concrete projects. It is necessary for local actors to be able to describe their problems with clarity, in order to move on in this approach of innovative partnerships.
This project responds to our intuition and our need for decentralization. I am very enthusiastic, I want to continue and see how to implement all the recommendations.