Measuring Impact of Low Carbon Social Mobilization Initiatives

A core pillar of CEKAP’s mandate is to facilitate knowledge exchange between communities of research, policy and practice. In line with this mandate, on October 12, 2018, CEKAP hosted a half day workshop “Measuring Impacts of Low Carbon Social Mobilization Initiatives” at OCAD University. The workshop was part of the broader 2018 Ontario Climate Symposium “Adaptive Urban Habitats by Design”.

The purpose of the workshop was for academic researchers and social change practitioners to come together to explore approaches to evaluating the impact of low carbon social mobilization initiatives, as well as explore what role academic researchers could play to support and/or enable ongoing experimentation and measurement of impacts of existing and emerging models. The 50+ workshop attendees represented a diverse group of non-profit organizations, local government, academic researchers, consultants, and others involved in the low carbon social innovation space. 

The workshop began with a series of context setting presentations from leading scholars and practitioners in the low carbon/sustainability social mobilization space.  Links to each presentation are below:

Following the presentations, workshop participants were asked to reflect on a series of questions related to measuring impact of low carbon social mobilization initiatives individually, and in groups:
  1. How can we foster effective community action and scale it up?

  2. How do we evaluate not just short-term proximate effectives, but longer term impact in terms of systemic social-cultural change?

  3. How can we report on impact for multi-objective projects?

  4. If you have experience trying to evaluate contribution to systemic change or scaling up impact, what kinds of methods, data and approaches did you find useful?  

Notes from the breakout discussions were compiled, and are presented here as a summary to support further reflection and discussion around this important topic. Key Takeaways from the workshop:

  • Workplace engagement on sustainability behaviours can be an important channel to leverage, given the amount of time people spend at work and the power of social norms in work environments.

  • Top-down policy change on its own is insufficient; it needs to be complemented by bottom-up community development efforts to motivate behaviour change and socialize new pro-sustainability norms

  • Long term social- cultural change can be achieved by seeing changes in structures and it will be intergenerational also, new technologies are encouraging greater social and cultural shifts (e.g. Renewable Energy).

  • There needs to be several different methods of reporting multi objective projects. This will ensure maximum impact of reporting and will meet the needs of various stakeholders.

  • There is opportunity and interest in creating a social mobilization community-of-practice to help increase the skills and capacity of social change practitioners, and build the necessary ecosystem of support from other stakeholders (e.g. academic researchers, funders, policymakers, etc.)

  • The theory of change approach, which requires upfront identification of desired impact and the indicators by which progress can be tracked, can be a powerful tool for helping to communicate to a wide range of audiences. 

To learn more and to read into the details, please click here to access full report.