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    Review of 'The diffusion of sustainability through community-based climate action collaborations'

    The diffusion of sustainability through community-based climate action collaborationsCrossref
    A descriptive case study of the engagement of a local community on sustainability and climate change
    Average rating:
        Rated 3.5 of 5.
    Level of importance:
        Rated 4 of 5.
    Level of validity:
        Rated 2 of 5.
    Level of completeness:
        Rated 3 of 5.
    Level of comprehensibility:
        Rated 4 of 5.
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    The diffusion of sustainability through community-based climate action collaborations

    Dingle Peninsula 2030 or Corca Dhuibhne 2030 (Irish translation), is a collaborative project which is seeking to transition a region in the peripheral south-west of Ireland to a low-carbon, sustainable community by 2030. The project has employed a novel governance structure through the formation of a collaborative committee. This committee consists of representatives of a local not-for-profit (Mol Téic), a local community development organisation (NEWKD), Ireland’s national electricity distribution system operator (ESB Networks), and our research institute (MaREI). This transdisciplinary configuration is grounded within the local community, whilst also having capacity at a national level. Despite emerging as recently as 2018, Dingle Peninsula 2030 acts as a community based, transdisciplinary collaboration that has had impact both at a local community level, and on a wider national and international stage. The project has gathered national media coverage, been designated as a living laboratory by the United Nations, and has a sent a delegation to COP-26 to discuss the role of community based initiatives for climate action. Here, we represent the local community impact of Dingle Peninsula 2030, to date. Central to this representation is the concept of the diffusion of sustainability, across a range of sectors including energy, transport, agriculture, education, tourism and employment . The concept of the diffusion of sustainability is outlined in the paper as a means through which to categories the holistic impact which community led climate action projects can facilitate across a range of sectors.

      Review information

      This work has been published open access under Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Conditions, terms of use and publishing policy can be found at www.scienceopen.com.

      Social & Behavioral Sciences,Renewable energy
      engaged research,diffusion,climate action,collaboration,Dingle Peninsula 2030,socio-technical transitions,Climate,community,sustainability,Sustainability

      Review text


      General Assessment

      This is an important subject and community engagement and action will be crucial to tackling climate change and other key challenges in the Sustainable Development Goals (halting the loss of biodiversity, ensuring responsible consumption, reducing pollution and waste, enabling sustainable economies and promoting a more equitable distribution of finite resources and social benefits).  Therefore, the chance to study how sustainability consciousness and action is diffused within a well-defined community in the south-west of Ireland offers the chance for some key insights.  I think this paper does describe a novel approach to this community engagement (i.e. the diffusion of sustainability approach) but I am not clear that I fully understand either how this has been implemented or how its impact has been assessed.  The paper seems to be essentially a descriptive case study, informed by a selective review of relevant literature but the methodology is not very well described or defined, either for the case study nor for any search terms used to select appropriate literature in the assessment of impact.


      Methodology and findings

      There is a clear (although ambitious) research question posed in the introduction (page 3) which is: what has been the contribution of the project to sustainability goals? While later there is a further potential question framed (page 7) namely: how do social innovations diffuse?

      The paper then proposes using the sustainable development goals to show the linkages between a number of novel initiatives that have emerged (presumably within the Dingle peninsula over the time-scale of this project, although neither the population being studied, nor the time-scale that has been covered, are very clear).  Nor is any clear research hypothesis formulated and, even for a case study methodology, it might have been possible to explore a hypothesis such as the researchers anticipated that sustainability initiatives would have greatest impact in Dingle on those SDGs most relevant to the local community (e.g. a community living in a mixed rural and coastal area with evidence of young people moving away after schooling and middle aged or older people with higher education and greater income re-locating within these communities).  The methodology seems to be based on Kinnunen’s 1996 analysis of Tarde’s work which proposes that diffusion is a descriptive concept; “the spread of social or cultural properties from one society or environment to another”; it is described as ‘a qualitative approach combining exploratory interviews, ethnographic attendance of events and meetings, and secondary desk research’.

      The results section lists a number of projects that have arisen within Dingle Peninsula 2030 and then lists how each of these can be linked to individual SDG goals.  However, but it is not clear how these links have been established from the methods nor how the diffusion of sustainability has been monitored or tracked. 

      A number of related research papers from this project (see page 4 for example) some of which have been published and some are listed as forthcoming; it is not entirely clear how this paper relates to these previous papers and whether these hold the key to describing how the individual projects have had an impact on sustainability.


      Relevance to other work


      The paper covers some theories of behavioural change (e.g. on early adopters, early and late majority adoption and the resistant laggards) although I am not sure that this has been clearly referenced.  There ae other theories of change relation to health behaviour (awareness, contemplation, planning and then action) which can be applied to behaviour that would support sustainable action (e.g. sustainable nutrition, increased walking and cycling, reduction of consumption and waste).

      Quite a lot of the literature quoted is historic and while this does not invalidate the value of this research, I was expecting this to be balanced by some more recent research on diffusion of ideas and influence on behaviour e.g. on local community activism and on social media effects.  I note in the case study background an aspiration that ‘the diffusion of sustainability is offered as a framing through which the emergence of novel innovations can be outlined in real time’ but I struggled to see how this had been demonstrated in the paper in its current form.



      The paper covers a very important challenge in the engagement of local communities in sustainability and climate change.  It is readable, interesting and logically organised. 

      However, I did not find it clear how the research methods produced the results described nor the degree to which individual projects may have assisted (or resulted from) the diffusion of sustainability.  Either this is because I am too far from my own academic areas (public health and environmental sciences) or the paper could be made more understandable for a wider academic audience.

      I would suggest less theoretical background and more attention to how the case study was undertaken, what were the key findings and what are the strengths and limitations in the approach adopted.


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