IEA Demand Side Management’s Task 24 Operating Agent and friend of EID, Dr Sea Rotmann, helped co-edit a Special Issue on storytelling in the journal Energy Research and Social Sciences (ERSS), together with Drs Mithra Moezzi and Kathryn Janda. This Special Issue, titled ‘Storytelling and narratives in energy and climate change research’ is the largest ERSS Special Issue to date with a grand total of 35 papers.
This includes her IEA DSM Task 24 paper called ‘“Once upon a time…” Eliciting energy and behaviour change stories using a fairy tale story spine’. It outlines the process of using a story spine, based on the commonly-known “Once upon a time…” fairy tale format, during participatory Task 24 workshops. Over 160 stories were collected by so-called “Behaviour Changers” from many sectors, all over the world. This paper, however, focuses not so much on the participants (the storytellers), or the products (the stories), but the process (storytelling) and its usefulness in promoting empathy and engagement, fostering multi-stakeholder collaborations, and helping develop better interventions to change citizen energy-use behaviour. A more comprehensive ‘A to Z of storytelling’ report will be published later in the year as part of the Subtask 8 Toolbox for Behaviour Changers.
In addition, Dr Rotmann co-authored the review article that serves as an introduction to the Special Issue with Drs Moezzi and Janda. It is titled ‘Using stories, narratives, and storytelling in energy and climate change research’ and outlines the Special Issue themes by providing some definitions and forms of storytelling, the folkloristic perspective, and insights into storytelling and the social sciences, as well as in previous energy and climate change research. It introduces the Special Issue papers, broken into three major subheadings: stories as data, stories as inquiry and stories as process.
Twelve papers in this Special Issue focus mainly on some aspect of energy supply, including stories from, and media representations of people, who live near or make their living from fossil fuels (seven papers); non-fossil fuels and/or renewables (three papers); and the electricity grid (two papers). There are ten papers on energy demand, including nine papers focused on buildings (eight with a residential focus) and one on personal mobility. There are three papers that consider elements of both energy supply and demand, and there are five papers that focus more directly on climate change than energy. There are also three papers that are broadly pro-environmental without being directly about either energy or climate change — one on the circular economy, one on Native American perspectives relating to sustainable design, and a methodological paper about researching pro-environmental behaviours.
The geography covers North America, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Brazil, Japan, the ‘Global South’, and other locales, including international forums more generally. The review article concludes with insights and the three major traits that speak for the usefulness of storytelling in energy and climate change research: stories provide us with a different type of evidence, a different perspective and a different set of tools.
The 35 papers published in the Special Issue can be found here. The editors created this collection with the goal of providing structure and inspiration for academics, policy makers, and energy technology and services providers to consider how best to use stories and storytelling in their work. Although stories are neither benign nor neutral, Moezzi, Janda & Rotmann argue in this Special Issue that they are an important source of information and as well as a useful process of communication and engagement. Storytelling is, after all, the longest and most well-known communication tool of human civilisation, something we’d do well to remember when facts and figures fail to create the urgent change the our world needs.
For more information on this Special Issue, or how to use storytelling in energy research, please contact Task 24 Operating Agent Dr Sea Rotmann (firstname.lastname@example.org)