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    Review of 'Decarbonising Existing Homes in Wales: A Participatory Behavioural Systems Mapping Approach'

    Decarbonising Existing Homes in Wales: A Participatory Behavioural Systems Mapping ApproachCrossref
    Despite a few criticisms, I felt the paper was strong and a welcome addition to the literature.
    Average rating:
        Rated 4.5 of 5.
    Level of importance:
        Rated 4 of 5.
    Level of validity:
        Rated 4 of 5.
    Level of completeness:
        Rated 4 of 5.
    Level of comprehensibility:
        Rated 5 of 5.
    Competing interests:

    Reviewed article

    • Record: found
    • Abstract: found
    • Article: found
    Is Open Access

    Decarbonising Existing Homes in Wales: A Participatory Behavioural Systems Mapping Approach

    Background: To reduce carbon emissions, urgent change is needed to high-carbon human behaviours including home energy use. Previous policy failures point to insufficient use and integration of systemic and behavioural approaches to bring about change. A novel behavioural systems mapping approach was used to inform national policy recommendations for energy-saving retrofit of homes in Wales. Method: Three participatory workshops were held with the independent Welsh residential decarbonisation advisory group (‘the Advisory Group’) to (1) map relationships between actors, behaviours and influences on behaviour within the home retrofit system, (2) provide training in the Behaviour Change Wheel framework (3) use these to develop policy recommendations for interventions. Recommendations were analysed using the COM-B (capability, opportunity, motivation) model of behaviour to assess whether they addressed these factors. Results: Two behavioural systems maps were produced, representing privately rented and owner-occupied housing tenures. The main causal pathways and feedback loops in each map are described. Necessary interventions to achieve national-scale retrofit included: government-led investment, campaigns and awareness-building, financial-sector funding mechanisms, enforcement of regulations, and creating more streamlined and trusted supply chain services. Of 27 final policy recommendations, 6 addressed capability, 22 opportunity, and 12 motivation. Conclusions: Participatory behavioural systems mapping can be used in conjunction with behaviour change frameworks to develop policy recommendations that address the behavioural determinants of complex environmental problems. Research is underway to refine and extend the approach through application to other sustainability challenges and methods of constructing systems maps.

      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.

      General behavioral science
      Public policymaking,Energy and policy,Environmental policy and practice,Sustainability in architecture and the built environment,energy, decarbonisation, retrofit, behaviour change, complexity, systems thinking, participatory systems mapping, policy,Sustainability

      Review text

      Summary of paper: this paper describes how a systems mapping approach which built an additional behavioural and actor focus into causal systems mapping was used to inform national policy recommendations for making existing homes in Wales more energy-efficient.

      Summary of review: The paper is very clear and well-written, and is well embedded in the literature and policy debates. It presents an interesting and ambitious project, which clearly took a lot of hard work and thinking. The findings and discussion are interesting, and there are some honest and refreshing reflections. I felt there was an under-discussion of some key methodological elements, for example there was not enough discussion of whether systems and behavioural approaches are complements or alternatives, and there was no obvious analysis or deeper use of the map beyond creating it and interpreting it in a generic way. Overall, I felt the paper, despite these criticisms, was strong and a welcome addition to the literature in these domains.

      Detailed comments:

      • Abstract
        • Clear and well-written
        • The abstract could hint more at the connection of behavioural and systems worldviews – it reads as if these are natural companions, but to me it is more intuitive to think of them as alternatives (e.g. many systems thinkers are critical of the narrow focus of behavioural approaches). This comes out in the introduction a bit, but is missing in the abstract.
      • Introduction
        • I would ideally like more discussion of the tension between behaviour and systems approaches – the critiques they make of each other, and whether they can fit neatly together. I think they can, but it warrants more consideration.
      • Participatory Approaches to Systems Mapping
        • It would be helpful to acknowledge the distinction between complexity approaches and systems thinking here I think. ABM in particular, and arguably network analysis too, come more from a complexity science/theory angle than systems thinking. I think it is fine to lump them together in general, but I would acknowledge this distinction here.
        • There is some unfortunate duplication of the use of the term ‘Participatory Systems Mapping’ in the literature – it would be helpful to explain the difference between Artunes et al and Barbrook-Johnson and Penn more clearly. My understanding is that Artunes et al is causal loop diagrams, whereas Barbrook-Johnson and Penn is more like fuzzy cognitive mapping but using network analysis for analysis, not turning the map into a simulation. The paper skims over these nuances too quickly.
        • It would be helpful to make clearer the real difference between (i) the method used/developed here and (ii) annotated versions of causal loop diagrams or the PSM proposed by Barbrook-Johnson and Penn. In the early text of the paper, it seems like there is a big difference, but it is a little vague, then when you see the maps in results, it looks like an annotated causal loop diagram. More commentary on how this is helpful, but also the issues it introduces would be beneficial too.
      • Process
        • Was any analysis of the maps done – how were the maps interpreted with and without stakeholders?
        • The researchers take a lot of control of the process, refining and merging maps, and asking stakeholders to build simple versions. Could you comment on any bias or shifts in focus this brought, if any?
      • Discussion
        • Very clear discussion, and nice connection to policy process and behavioural framework.
        • Refreshing and good to see honest reflections in imperfections in the process/method.


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