While most of the REEEP team spend last week at Abu Dhabi’s WFES2013, I stayed here in Vienna and attended the RESPONDER Event Green ICT (Information and Communication Technology) for Sustainable Consumption (17th/18th of January). RESPONDER deals with potential political, social and economic contradictions between sustainable consumption and economic growthIdeally, economic growth is decoupled from energy consumption. This can be achieved through different measures, one of them being energy efficiency or a shift towards less energy intensive sectors, such as services. and tries to find links by getting together researchers, policy makers and industry representatives.

Last week’s conference in Vienna focused on Smart MetersSmart meters are digital devices which transmit information about electricity consumption and production (feed-in of renewable energy) to the utility provider. Smart meters offer a range of modern applications and allow the end-user to take advantage of dynamic prices and off-peak rebates. and Smart Grids on the first day and on Cloud Computing on the second. I must say that it was a very well organized and interesting gathering of a mixed crowd that included people from academic institutions as well as government departments  and some from business backgrounds.

These backgrounds corresponded well with the approach of the RESPONDER events: After a presentation by a keynote speaker there follows what they call a “system mapping session“. The participants (about 45 people) were split into three groups, each focusing on a different aspect of either Smart Meters (day 1) or Cloud Computing (day 2). The areas were jobs, policy or research, and small groups of about 15 people where presented with a so-called system map. A system map can support mutual understanding and knowledge transfer, constitute the basis for systematizing empirical findings, questioning different model assumptions, analyzing the effects of different policy options and identifying new research questions. You can think of a system map in terms of many notched wheels that each have a certain effect  on other wheels – it’s therefor a good method of discussing a suggested response to a complex problem. See below their system map for cloud computing (can be found on their website after log-in):

I found that working with system maps got participants into a good discussion and I will definitely use the system mapping approach in my work, too.

Keynote speakers such as Ray Pinto (Microsoft), Ysé Serret-Itzicsohn (OECD) and Evelyn Nowotny (Federal Ministry of Science and Research Austria), Grégoire Wallenborn, (Université Libre de Bruxelles) set the scene for the working groups, and moderators made sure everyone was able to make their points.

If you find a RESPONDER event that suits you, I highly recommend you to attend.

Also, if you sign up free of charge at their website you can access and edit the available system maps and have access to a discussion forum.

Find out more:

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