For the past two years, ICA USA has been managing a collaborative project about energy education with members of the Chicago Sustainability Leaders Network (CSLN) in three communities, Bronzeville (with Centers for New Horizons and Sacred Keepers Stainability Lab), Chinatown (with Chinese American Service League), and Chicago Lawn/Gage Park (with Neighborhood Housing Services). The project was funded by the Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation (ISEIF), and the objective was to incorporate Smart Grid energy education into community organizations’ ongoing outreach efforts.
ICA USA trained the partner organizations in image shift methods in order to create messages to support active engagement with electricity in the three different communities. Each partner organization created culturally-specific outreach materials using these messages, and the project evaluator designed and analyzed surveys to identify the most resonant messages and barriers related to energy use.
As the first funded collaborative CSLN project, the process of sharing and learning from one another was key to the project’s success. The most engaging events were cross community events intended to bring together partner organizations and their community members to learn new strategies to efficiently and creatively engage with energy. The events were also unique opportunities for cross-cultural, inter generational dialogue during which residents shared stories about their own relationships to energy.
The learnings and documentation from the two years are shared in a final toolkit intended for use by future practitioners. Each partner will continue to share information about the Smart Grid with their community members as it relates to their programming. The CSLN is looking forward to build on the energy from this project to seek out further opportunities to collaborate across Chicago communities.
This post was written for ICAI’s monthly bulletin the Global Buzz, February 2017.