How can citizens and their cities work together better? Experiences from cooperation labs.
In 2020, REScoop.eu and Energy Cities teamed up to help foster active collaborations between municipalities and energy cooperatives, with the support of the European Climate Foundation. You can read more about the cities and cooperatives that participated in the Cooperation Labs here (make sure also to check out the great podcasts Energy Cities made in this context).
We are glad to announce that thanks to the ongoing support by the European Climate Foundation, we will be able to continue and grow the work of the past year.
With a fresh year starting, we wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on some of the most relevant lessons we learned through these first collaborations, namely:
REScoops and local authorities are natural allies in the energy transition. Both types of organisations serve citizens in different ways; pairing the authority and resources of local governments with the community trust and citizen project experience established within energy cooperatives can open pathways each of the actors on their own would not be able to explore.
If possible, allow your municipality to join your cooperative. By becoming a member of the cooperative, the municipality has a stronger involvement, and hence a stronger interest, in making the cooperative's activity a success.
Municipalities can help cooperatives find the right sites for their projects. One of the main struggles of energy cooperatives is finding, and getting access to, the appropriate sites to operate their renewable energy production facilities. By forming a partnership, municipalities can help cooperatives find these sites, and reap the benefits of having directly supported their citizens and local community.
There is no one solution. The collaboration between REScoops and municipalities can take many different forms. It is important to stay open to the needs of your partnering REScoop or municipality, and actively look for a common way forward that benefits both partners.
Rome wasn't built in one day. Nor would Rome's energy community be built in one week, or even a month. Establishing the trust and governance processes for an energy community takes time and many meetings. Cities can facilitate this process in various ways. Find out more about this here.
Public tendering needs more attention. Many questions remain with regards to public tendering and the extent to which citizen participation can be considered in such tenders. In order to accelerate the uptake of citizen energy projects, this needs to become an area of increased attention.
You don't need to meet in person to make things happen… Being forced to come up with interactive solutions for online workshops due to the COVID pandemic helped us develop formats that make such events productive and successful despite the physical distance. In some cases, the online format even allowed people to participate who may have had to miss these meetings had there been travels involved.
…but nothing replaces the bonds and trust people build when meeting in person. Participants of the Cooperation Labs were encouraged to sit down over dinner or drinks in person to continue their conversations and plan their future collaboration once the sanitary situation allowed; the feedbacks received were unanimously positive and proved that even if we have found successful ways of working together online, nothing replaces the value you get out of meeting a person in real life.
We look forward to continuing the work with cities and REScoops in 2021 - don't hesitate to get in touch with us if you would like to learn more about our work with municipalities!