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      The diffusion of sustainability and Dingle Peninsula 2030

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            Revision notes

            • 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.

              The paper has been more explicitly outlined as a case study, from which the diffusion of sustainability has emerged. This understanding of the diffusion of sustainability has now been updated to align with more recent considerations within the literature.

              “The case study under investigation is Dingle Peninsula 2030 or Corca Dhuibhne 2030 (Irish translation), a collaborative project which is seeking to transition a region in the peripheral south-west of Ireland to a low-carbon, climate resilient, sustainable community by 2030.”


              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?


              Second research question has been removed to give greater clarity to the case study format of the investigation. The primary research question in investigating this case study is ‘what the contribution of the project to sustainability goals has been?’

              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). 

              Some further detail has been added to highlight the case study

              “The Dingle Peninsula has a population of 12,500. As outlined by Ó Caoimh and McGookin (2021), the Peninsula has a lower proportion of high social class categories of employment than the national average.  There is limited manufacturing-based employment opportunities leading to a small number of people in occupations classified as manual and semi-skilled. Relatively speaking there is a higher percentage of ‘own-account workers’, related to the tourism industry and there is a higher significance of both agriculture and fishing. Both sectors, however, are situated within the unsustainable current practices and historical timelines which have led to the contemporary situation.  Dingle Peninsula 2030 project emerged as an initiative seeking to facilitate the emergence of decarbonisation initiatives, with the central aim of bringing sustainable employment to the area”.


              “The case study has been investigated for the period January 2018 up until June 2021”.


              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). 

              Final paragraph of introduction revised to address this as follows: “This paper makes effort to address this issue by using the sustainable development goals to map the broad range of projects that have emerged in the case study area. The unique approach leads to the concept of the diffusion of sustainability as a means to understand impact. It points to a wide breadth of novel initiatives beyound the original objectives of the project. As would be expected the core focus of the initiative on energy and climate is clear, but there are importantly also unexpected outcomes in education (SDG 4), decent work (SDG 8) and innovation (SDG 9).”


              Further clarity added to methods ;

              Within this piece of research, diffusion has been investigated and highlighted through a qualitative approach combining exploratory interviews, ethnographic attendance of events and meetings, and secondary desk research. Also, once compiled, the diffusions outlined have been cross referenced with the primary project manager for Dingle Peninsula 2030.



              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.

              How the list of projects was drafted has now been more clearly outlined in the methods section:

              “The list of projects is based on those that the four core partners in Dingle Peninsula 2030 were involved in between January 2018 to June 2021. In addition, effort has been made to map the various spin-offs projects led by key local actors that took part in Dingle Peninsula 2030 events or initiatives and have since sought to champion sustainability projects of their own.”


              Monitoring and tracking the exact impact remains a key challenge. This limitation is noted in the Discussion:

              The third key methodological challenge is determining the extent of the impact for each of the various initiatives. For energy and climate goals, the CO2 emission savings of technologies can be determined. This is possible for some of the technologies implemented to date, for example, tracking the number of solar PV installations, savings resulting from home energy improvements, or electric vehicles (Boyle et al., 2021d). However, since the majority of the projects listed in Table 1 are at very early-stage, it is not possible to determine the impact on key indicators at this time. Moreover, broader social benefits and capacity building, which are critical to the delivery of projects, cannot be so easily measured.”

              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.


              Further outline of the case study context has been added from the different related research papers to give more descriptive information on the case study context.

              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).


              **We have decided against a further integration of theories related to behaviour change such as those mentioned. These theories would add great depth to our discussion, but we have decided to go further into more recent theoretical literature on the diffusion of social innovations as outlined in the point below.

              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

              **A recent and relevant paper has become a central focus of the theoretical introduction to diffusion


              “Recent work on the diffusion of transformative innovations for sustainability (Loorbach et al., 2020) has highlighted ¬a number of different typologies for situating diffusion. From this a typology of development mechanisms for transformative innovation has been formatted. A number of these have relevance to the case study context presented in this paper. Growing, whereby an initiative quantiatively grows by attacting more participants and funding, can be facilitated by increased social visibility, professionalization and communication capacities. Replication, whereby ideas or practices are translated into new contexts, can often occur due to ideas perculating in the media or communication channels. Partnering, whereby initiatives share resources and capacities, takes place when collaboration is mutually beneficial. These three typologies have acted to frame out understanding of the diffusion of sustainability in the context of Dingle Peninsula 2030.”


              And we have situated our piece more specifically in recent work…


              “The last number of years has seen a growth in the emergence of research investigating the diffusion of social innovations related to transformations towards sustainability (Loorbach et al., 2020; Mayr, 2021). The investigation of social innovations with relation to isolated rural locations, similar to the case study context under investigation, has recognized the importance of both local and external actors to processes of change in rural locations, but emphasized the central importance of local knowledge and local activities (Kluvankova et al., 2021). The regional level is understood within the literature to be an important context for the diffusion of sustainability to other locations (van den Heiligenberg et al., 2022). The case study outline provided here can contribute to raising awareness of regional innovations for sustainability, and the diffusion mechanisms at play”



              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.


              As above, approach now more clearly outlined in Methods section. The issue of absolute attribution is outlined and using the multi-level perspective and the three classficiations of diffusion (i.e. internal, external, and mixed) influence we aim to make clear the relationship between the diffusion of sustainability and dingle peninsula 2030. this is strenghtened by emphasis on a case study approach as suggested by the reviewer.

              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.


              A number of theoretical paragraphs have been removed from the theoretical outline of diffusion.



              1. The introduction may focus less on the historical review of the diffusion of sustainability schools and more or current projects that have been implemented worldwide and that have used or could use SDG to analyse the diffusion of sustainability. The authors can provide real life examples to allow the reader understand the context the proposed approach can be applied to.


              A number of theoretical paragraphs have been removed from the theoretical outline of diffusion. A number of new papers which investigate the diffusion of social innovations have also been added as per the comments made above in relation to reviewer 1.

              2. The whole article would better read if structured as a case study. As it is currently written, it is not immediately clear that the article presents a case study to propose a new framework. I suggest to include the Dingle Peninsula 2030 programme in thte tile and to orient the introduction towards the analysis of this programme, too


              In line with this and above comments for reviewer 1, the paper has been restructured to work more as a case study.


              The title has also been changed to reflect this, now:the diffusion of sustainability and Dingle Peninsula 2030



              Response to reviewers:

            • We would like to kindly thank both reviewers for taking the time to provide feedback on this paper which we have prepared for publication. We have taken on the advice of both reviewers in more clearly outlining this paper as a case study through which the diffusion of sustainability has been illustrated in a regional context. In refocussing the paper towards a case study we have added some further descriptive information on the context under investigation and have also sought to remove some of the theoretical foundations on diffusion which previously were contained. We have updated the readings to represent some recently published material on diffusion in this space. We have decided against a further integration of theories related to behaviour change such as those mentioned by Reviewer 1. These theories would add great depth to our discussion, but we have decided to go further into more recent theoretical literature on the diffusion of social innovations as outlined in the point below. we have sought to add further clarity both in the introduction and methods section with relation to the approach taken, and also the limitations of tracking impact of sustainability initatives in real time when taking an action-oriented approach to research. We have not sought to outline other examples to provide insights as to where the diffusion of sustainability can be applied, but rather offer it as a means through which more holistic understandings of sustainability within transition projects can be achieved. Both reviewer comments have helped us to place more emphasis on the central case study component of this study, provide greater clarity with relation to the methodological approach and its limitations, and reorientated the theoretical grounding towards more recent and relevant discussions. Thank you to both reviewers for their time in contributing their views. 


            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, using Dingle Peninsula 2030 as a case study for investigation.


            Author and article information

            UCL Open: Environment Preprint
            UCL Press
            31 August 2022
            [1 ] University College Cork
            [2 ] Mol Téic, Co. Kerry
            Author notes
            Author information

            This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

            : 20 April 2022
            : 29 September 2022
            This research was jointly funded by ESB Networks and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) through MaREI, the SFI Research Centre for Energy, Climate, and Marine Grant No: 12/RC/2302_P2

            The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
            Social & Behavioral Sciences,Renewable energy
            engaged research,collaboration,sustainability,socio-technical transitions,climate action,diffusion,community,Dingle Peninsula 2030,Climate,Sustainability


            Date: 29 September 2022

            Handling Editor: Prof Dan Osborn

            Editorial decision: Accept. This revised article has been accepted following peer review and it is suitable for publication in UCL Open: Environment.

            2022-09-29 12:22 UTC

            Date: 08 September 2022

            Handling Editor: Prof Dan Osborn

            The article has been revised, this article remains a preprint article and peer-review has not been completed. It is under consideration following submission to UCL Open: Environment for open peer review.

            2022-09-08 15:41 UTC

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