Image credit: ‘Sheffield: The Steel City’  © Matt Cockayne, Goo Design

by Mags Tingey

RIPPLES 2.0, our second group meeting, was held in the Steel City at Sheffield Hallam University, on 9-10 January 2017. Rather than endless research updates, we structured our meeting around discussion between fellow RIPPLERs. To that end, and much to my delight, PowerPoint wasn’t fired up once.

As a new group we’d already decided it was important for us to take stock and look forward. What have we achieved over the last year since our first meeting in Edinburgh (March 2016)? And what role has RIPPLES as a group played in that? What do we want to do, and importantly, think we can do, over the next year?

With that in mind, we first spent time taking stock, engineered through a ‘non-cringe worthy’ ice-breaker helpfully introduced by Tim Braunholtz-Speight. And by golly there was so much to congratulate our fellow RIPPLERs about. Vivas had been successfully defended, PhDs awarded, whilst for other studies had just started. There were also new jobs, papers resubmitted, and data collection finally finished. Plus, new babies, cats, and flats. Landmark milestones were aplenty!

After such an enthusiastic start, we got down to the business of discussing papers that some of us have been working on. Will Eadson and Mike Foden outlined their paper on Energy Markets, Communities and the State, whilst I got helpful input and ideas for a paper about the potential for local benefits to be secured from local government engagement with energy. Unfortunately, Bregje van Veelen, who was stuck at the far end of travel disruption in Georgia, was unable to sketch out her paper on energy democracy.

After an evening of not very successful though fiercely competitive pub quizzing, we reconvened on the following morning to look forward and set out a plan to conquer the world (of publishing and conferences). With the support of Jen Dickie, we identified two review papers to collectively write. One on decentralised energy and one on the use of ‘community’ in environmental policy. Conference highlights included Gerry Taylor Aiken coordinating a group of us to submit a session proposal to The Value of Life: Measurement, Stakes, Implications conference in The Netherlands.

So what remains? Although we’re each addressing similar questions from different angles, we confirmed that by coming together we’re able to share knowledge and build on each other’s work. This will, we hope, support discussions on new conceptual thinking about the policy and practice of local environmental sustainability, enable more informed research outputs, and help identify the many research gaps that still exist.

But ‘wait’ I hear you say, ‘put that academic stuff aside’, ‘wasn’t there mention of a pub quiz?’ Indeed, there was, and it would be wrong of me not to end with our most important discoveries of RIPPLES 2.0:

  • that Monday is a very popular night for pub quizzes in Sheffield
  • that very few of us knew much about David Bowie and his many aliases
  • what Rheas are
  • the identities of some surprising vegetarians
  • and what Alan Bennett would sound like with a Scottish accent