This project will tackle key issues around how to build future energy systems that are not only responsive to the needs of local communities, but also integrate the experience of community members who are usually side-lined in the energy policymaking process.

Voices from poor communities, specifically women, are the least likely to be heard and often do not have an influence on energy policy. This project aims to turn this on its head: to be sustainable, future energy systems need to integrate evidence-based, community-sourced perspectives and experience at the levels of planning, development, policy and evaluation.

The project will engage with low-income communities in Plymouth, UK and Cape Town, South Africa on the key question of how to structure future energy systems. This will help to ensure they are responsive to, and informed by, community needs, rather than by systems ‘parachuted from above’ that do not always recognise the importance of local community input. At the same time, it will highlight the crucial learning opportunities that exist when establishing dialogues between different communities regarding their experiences, approaches and innovations.


The project will focus on bringing community voices together and informing policy at the UK, South African and international levels, as well as between them. To do this, it has the following objectives:

  1. Establish a dialogue between local communities and policymakers in Plymouth and Cape Town, focused on mechanisms and outcomes for informing policy.
  2. Develop mechanisms for community-based, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)-informed energy policymaking.
  3. Communicate these mechanisms to UK, South African and international policymakers, as well as to broader cross-sectoral and cross-disciplinary audiences.
  4. Track and evaluate the impact of our approach and project outputs.


The methodology is qualitative and will be based on the analysis of community members’ experiences during workshops in Plymouth and Cape Town. To support this, it will follow a comparative, grounded and engaged methodology.

Five to six pre-workshop interviews will be held with local community members. These will be audio-recorded and transcribed. In Cape Town, they will be conducted in isiXhosa and will be translated to English. The workshops will also be treated as research events, with discussions being documented and analysed as a basis for contributing to policy briefs and a policymaking toolkit.


The project aims to produce the following outputs, cutting across academia and policy, to bolster the dissemination of our research findings.

  • Policy briefs for audiences in the UK and South Africa.
  • Overview videos of footage taken at participatory workshops and research activities to showcase 1) the focus on equity and diversity and 2) participant involvement.
  • Workshops held in 1) Cape Town and 2) Plymouth. These will be set up as focus group sessions for information sharing. The agenda will include opportunities for project explanation and personal accounts of participants.
  • Recorded webinars from the workshops. These will be recorded on MS Teams and distributed on social media and to interested parties via email.
  • Impact assessments produced from in-workshop interviews, post-workshop webforms and post-workshop email feedback.