Winter Away Day

Researchers from across the SPRG projects met in Manchester on January 17 and 18th for the Winter Away Day. The event set out to plan for the SPRG's Symposium in April, and to start shaping the SPRG’s final event (Sept. 11th) - an exhibition and plenary aimed at academic, policy, business and civil society audiences. Both these events are focused on integrating project findings and synthesising insights from across the projects—making the SPRG more than the sum of its parts.

Nicola Spurling and Andy McMeekin began the workshop by presenting video clips from the Theoretical Development and Integration group’s Project Conversations activity. These will feed into a video summarising the projects and reflecting upon the SPRG programme as a whole. Participants discussed colleagues' filmed responses to broad questions such as ‘How does your project deal with issues of sustainability?’. Nicola noted how some projects, such as Zero Carbon Habitation, examine how sustainability is imagined by its research subjects—such as architects or participants in innovative housing schemes. For other projects sustainability opens up issues of rights and social justice.

The opening session also debated commonalities across the projects. Andy noted how the heterogeneity of the projects—in use and understanding of ‘practice’, in the range of methodologies, and varied contributions to the wider sustainability debate—has a positive role to play. The SPRG has collectively taken practices as a unit of analysis and demonstrated the range of uses and approaches to which the concept can be put. Broadly speaking, the projects challenge some of the common pre-conceptions behind current policy approaches to behaviour change intervention, examining the role for sustainability played by, for example, habits and cultural pre-dispositions, material culture and infrastructure and political economy, rather than individual attitudes and behaviours.  

Day One’s main session concerned developing ideas for the SPRG’s final stakeholder event in September. Frank Trentmann and Elizabeth Shove introduced the session. Frank kindly offered advice from his experience of organising the Finale Event for the Cultures of Consumption research programme. Elizabeth offered insights from her experience of developing the Transitions in Practice project’s ‘Extraordinary Lecture’ as well as the SPRG stakeholder exhibition Day 22.

Each project had been asked to prepare some materials in poster form introducing how they might contribute to the final event. The session consisted of small groups being assigned as ‘friendly critics’ to appraise the project contributions, and then to feed back to a general discussion. Without giving too much away, proposed contributions included a short film, games and models, as well as the more traditional poster displays and exhibition stalls. Whether the Sheep Dip, Talking House and a super-hero called the Homogeniser make it into the final programme remains to be seen!

Day Two saw a workshop to develop ideas for the April Symposium, which will be structured around papers from SPRG researchers moving beyond the specific projects to capture the range of ideas and insights generated by SPRG research overall. To facilitate discussion on these general themes participants moved between three ‘stations’ each themed around an abstract frame drawn from the SPRG’s programme-wide research questions: Change, Stability and Variation. Small groups moved from station to station, building on each other’s discussions to suggest articulations between the projects and the programme as a whole: addressing the research questions of the persistence, disappearance, emergence and spread of practices, and how policy might intervene in practices to encourage sustainability. From this discussion prospective topics for the Symposium papers were distilled.

The Winter Away Day laid foundations for a challenging programme of integration and synthesis over the next nine months leading up to the SPRG’s final stakeholder event in London on September 11th.

Event Information

Date: 17 Jan 2013 - 18 Jan 2013Location: ManchesterTime: Noon

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