Why and how it works
This strategy combines many of the other strategies mentioned in this handbook. Making people work together towards a common goal uses social norms to reinforce behaviour, gives people stronger feedback from collective actions as well as from the group, is based on people making a commitment and can act as an incentive to get people involved. The Energy-Neigbourhoods is a good example of a large project that has managed to attract attention in media and in the communities in which teams have been formed.
To involve someone in a team-activity generally requires a lot of interest and a willingness to change in the first place. Furthermore it is time-consuming, tends to exclude people who don’t like working in groups as well as people who don’t speak the local language.
Recommendations for implementation
There are many examples where forming teams can be a key element in promoting sustainable behaviour change. In Sweden several municipalities have worked with pilot households who receive green lifestyle challenges and are given expert information. One Tonne Life is a successful project in which a single family worked together to reduce its climate footprint with the help of smart technology and coaches. Another large-scale project focusing on team motivation is the international EcoTeams-project run by the organisation Global Action Plan for the Earth (GAP), since the early 90’s. In this programme neighbours form teams to work and coach each other trough a workbook with concrete activities.
Example: Working in teams to reduce energy consumption
In 2003 the Flemish government of the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium called Flanders initiated the project Klimaatwijken in which citizens where asked to form teams and participate in a challenge to reduce the energy consumption of the participating households. Due to positive results the project was expanded to nine more countries financed by the EU in 2007. Since then two more challenges have been carried out between December 2011 and March 2012 and, most lately, between December 2012 and March 2013, involving a total of 22 420 people from 16 countries across Europe.
The basis of the challenge was to form teams of 5-12 households who were prepared to challenge themselves to reduce their energy consumption and to compete with other teams. Each team selected an Energy Master who got special training to coordinate and support the team to achieve its goals. Each participating country had at least one partner organization to run the national/regional competitions, providing the participants with materials, specific challenges and regular events. At the end of the project each country selected a national winner who got to participate in an award-winning Gala in Brussels. An online calculation tool was developed to help participants visualize their current energy use and how it changed, which has been key for evaluation.
The last two challenges generated average household energy savings of 10 per cent. The overall winning team of the two last challenges was a team from Greece who managed to reduce with as much as 65 per cent. On a national level savings varied between 3 and 27 per cent. Interesting to note is that all savings made were done by simple changes in people’s habits such as to turn all things off standby, reduce the use of tumble dryers and to turn off lights when not in use. The evaluation of the project has showed that the social aspect of working together as a group and the commitment of the Energy Master have been key factors for the success. Another important factor was that relevant energy advice was given. In particular this was clear in Greece where the amount of information given during the project strongly correlated with how much energy was saved.