What roles and innovations can help to accelerate sustainable lifestyles?

Sensemaking / What roles and innovations can help to accelerate sustainable lifestyles?

We all have a role to play in designing healthy and affordable lifestyles for Europeans. Here's an overview of the options: which are open to you?

By Gemma Adams / 01 Feb 2017

Forum’s investigations as part of a project exploring the future of sustainable living in Europe, funded by EU InnovatE, have taken us to the year 2050 and back, highlighting the expanding opportunities for organisations and individuals to help shift our society onto a sustainable footing in Europe.

What’s clear is that the transition will unfold in unexpected ways and in unexpected places. Our best chance of furthering a sustainable society is for diverse people and organisations to act within their own sphere of influence and to find new ways of collaborating with others to leverage this for impact.

As some individuals, businesses and organisations take a lead in innovation, others will have to adapt. It's important that we start asking now, what might a surge in citizen innovation mean for business, policy and other other organisations? How might their roles change?

How could you play a role in the transition to a sustainable society?

If you’re a civil society organisation, how could you help forge new ways of individuals to participate in society and relate with to another, beyond consumer choices? Or how could you experiment with new forms of governance?

If you’re a citizen innovator, how could you be a maverick to bring about the cultural and social changes needed in society? As you follow your passions, how can you blaze a trail towards better lifestyles?

If you’re a policy-maker, how could you take a systemic approach to diagnosing, responding and understanding interventions? What untapped opportunities are there for you to collaborate with others to overcome the barriers? If you’re an established business, how could you help to bring about a whole system approach to managing the efficiency and impacts of the materials economy? How can you use your scale and reach to bring about changes not just in the technologies that form our infrastructures, but to the design of these systems?

If you’re a small entrepreneur, as you find new ways of creating and sharing value, how could you dematerialise markets? What opportunities are there for you to collaborate with others to grow markets that will help upgrade our infrastructures and improve the efficiency with which we use them?


Three levels of innovation for sustainable lifestyles

Innovation Level

Direct contribution to the transition to sustainability

Indirect contributions to the transition to sustainability

Level 1

Product, service and technological innovations

Improves resource efficiency and the environmental and social impacts of consumption in energy, food, mobility, housing and consumer goods – often affecting more than one of these domains simultaneously

Improves resource efficiency and the environmental and social impacts of consumption through having a knock-on effect, because all our systems are interrelated and one change leads to another

Level 2

Innovation of social structures and goals

Improves resource efficiency and the ability to continue these improvements, by introducing changes in governance and culture within and across the domains of energy, food, mobility and housing.

Improves resource efficiency and synergy with the Earth’s living systems through changes in governance and goals at a ‘whole society’ level. This has complex knock-on effects that influence the behaviour of the energy, food, mobility and housing systems. It makes greater integration possible across spheres of consumption (eg. energy, food, mobility).

Level 3

Paradigm innovation

Develops new mind-sets and language that furthers cultural change through action within and across the domains of energy, food, mobility and housing.

The big shift needed is to reconceptualise our relationship with living systems: from seeing ourselves as divorced from nature to seeing ourselves as nature. 

Develops new mind-sets and language that furthers cultural change through action within and across the domains of energy, food, mobility and housing.

The big shift needed is to reconceptualise our relationship with living systems: from seeing ourselves as divorced from nature to seeing ourselves as nature.


Where to begin? 

Forum for the Future has developed four scenarios for sustainable lifestyles in Europe in 2050. These are a great way to challenge your thinking, stretch your ideas, test your strategies or approaches and start a different conversation about the future.

The scenarios:

  • can be used to build internal organisational capacity for long-term and strategic thinking, a key tenet for people and organisations looking to thrive in the future. 
  • are a powerful systemic tool that can be used to confront people with the ideas of uncertainty, change, and interconnectedness. 
  • offer people a mandate, motivation, and confidence to change current practices so that they are more sustainable. creates a safe space for dialogue among people in multidisciplinary roles, and an opportunity for stakeholder engagement.
  • form a useful basis for generating longer-term and more sustainable strategies, and inspiring disruptive innovations 
  • challenge existing norms, helps prioritise issues and projects, and contribute to project and program design. 

We have created a boardgame version of the scenarios, adopting the award-winning ‘Scenario Exploration’ format developed by the EU Joint Research Council. If you’re interested to find out more about it or to play it with your organisation, get in touch using the contacts below.


 

If you’d like to explore the scenarios, you can read an introduction here, or download a set of summary posters, as well as the scenario pathways to 2050. We will soon be publishing the full scenarios report, so stay tuned.

As William Gibson famously said, “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed”. Explore the examples we are gathering to see what citizens are doing to enable a sustainable society and read more articles in our series about those inspiring changing in their communities here.

This month in our Citizen Innovation explorer we discuss 'What roles and innovations can help to accelerate sustainable lifestyles?'. Share your ideas in the comments box below. Together let’s make this a revolution. // #citizeninnovation

SPREAD Sustainable Lifestyles 2050 was a project funded by the European Commission, and the corresponding scenarios have been developed by Demos Helsinki (www.demoshelsinki.fi). For more information on the original scenarios, follow this link.

If you’d like to hear more, please get in touch with Corina ([email protected]) and Louise ([email protected]). // EU-InnovatE is a ground-breaking initiative funded by the European Commission aiming to accelerate the shift towards to a sustainable future.

Like this article? Don't forget to check out our other pieces on Citizen Innovation:


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