The project deals with potential political, social and economic contradictions between sustainable consumption and economic growth. It focuses on consumption decisions made by private households, considering their rationalities, options and factors affecting their decision making, and focusing on the impacts of these decisions on sustainability and/or economic growth as well as viable policy options.
To gain an integrative perspective, research findings from social-psychology oriented research on consumer behaviour will be linked with macroeconomic theories on and approaches to economic growth (and thereby also to the debates on green growth, beyond growth and de-growth).
Linking science and policy has already been recognised as a challenge, as these social systems follow different rules and rationalities. RESPONDER faces an additional challenge, as it will have to improve the mutual understanding of what could be called the “pro-growth community” (mostly mainstream economists and policy makers oriented towards the EU Lisbon Strategy) and the “beyond-growth community” (mostly scientists highlighting biophysical limits to growth, social movements in several European member states and policy makers involved in the sustainable development debate). Therefore a highly innovative knowledge brokerage system will be developed and implemented that supports a structured dialogue between researchers and policy makers across Europe.
The overall aim of RESPONDER is to promote sustainable consumption by exploring novel ways of knowledge brokerage that help to improve the management of potential political, social and economic contradictions with economic growth. RESPONDER will not conduct new research in this area, but exploit existing research by new integrative modalities of linking research results to policy-making.
The innovative potential of RESPONDER lies in the methodology for knowledge brokerage, its professional application in different policy areas and the systematic assessment of the experiences gained during the course of the project. This first area of objectives represents the scientific angle of RESPONDER aiming at innovation and progress beyond the state of the art of knowledge brokerage and comprises the following operational objectives:
- set a clear focus and gain a unique position towards existing initiatives;
- start on the basis of a sound and appropriate methodology;
- develop innovative demand-oriented tools for knowledge brokerage;
- implement and test the knowledge brokerage system to gain experiences;
- secure a high quality of results and continuous improvement;
- support the transfer to other policy areas;
- achieve significant impact in science.
RESPONDER will set up a fully-fledged knowledge brokerage system in a complex policy area. In doing so RESPONDER will have several impacts on the communities involved that can be summarised under the impact angle of RESPONDER aiming at networking and improving the application of research findings in policy making comprising the following operational objectives:
- secure the participation of the relevant policy makers and researchers;
- promote mutual understanding and reflexive learning;
- stimulate continuous interaction;
- nurture personal relationships and trust;
- support networking and community building;
- establish a self-sustaining process;
- promote the establishment of a community of experts in knowledge brokerage.
RESPONDER will carry out participatory system mapping; this methodology has successfully been used in several research-based decision-support projects and offers an interesting opportunity. So called “system maps” can support mutual understanding and knowledge transfer, constitute the basis for systematising empirical findings, questioning different model assumptions, analysing the effects of different policy options and identifying new research questions. RESPONDER will use this methodology for the first time to link two high-stake policies (sustainable consumption and growth), with a high number of different actors’ mindsets, paradigms and rationalities.
Cooperating for sustainable consumption and economic growth
A stronger link between policymakers and the latest scientific research is being forged to reconcile economic growth and sustainable consumption. An EU initiative tackled the potential political, social and economic differences between the two areas.
The EU-funded http://www.scp-responder.eu/ (RESPONDER) (linking RESearch and POlicy making for managing the contradictions of sustaiNable consumption anD Economic gRowth) project aimed to reconcile economic growth and sustainable consumption through the creation and implementation of a knowledge brokerage system. This system is designed to link the latest research and researchers to policymakers in order to find effective environmentally and economically conscious solutions.
To achieve this, system maps were created. These were developed further to create a generic map on the relationship between economic growth and sustainable consumption, serving as a basis for project research.
RESPONDER's most tangible outcome is an innovative web-based information platform that continuously processes and exchanges questions and answers from policymakers and researchers based on the system maps. Stakeholders can also exchange information on facts, policies and experiences. The online knowledge brokerage system serves as the main repository for information and as a channel for community building between various stakeholders.
Project members set out to connect and strengthen mutual understanding between various communities, particularly science and policy. It established and implemented a highly innovative knowledge brokerage system supporting a structured dialogue between researchers and policymakers across Europe. To this effect, it carried out participatory system mapping in a series of EU dialogues and multinational knowledge brokerage events. The project website reinforced a dialogue between these events. A peer review was delivered following the completion of all dialogues and brokerage events.
Several outreach and dissemination activities were carried out, namely policy briefs, journal submissions, and a final conference on sustainable consumption and economic growth.
RESPONDER helped policymakers, researchers, civil society and industry expand their existing networks and gain more public visibility in dealing with sustainable consumption and economic growth – two of the most important issues in sustainable development policies at the core of Europe 2020.