Van de Grift, Elisabeth, Eefje Cuppen, & Shannon Spruit (2020, in press). Co-creation, control or compliance? How Dutch community engagement professionals view their work. Energy Research & Social Science, 60. (doi: 10.1016/j.erss.2019.101323)

Abstract: Most literature on community engagement (CE) focuses on why and how local communities respond to energy projects or technologies. There has been very limited attention to project developers and the way they shape CE in the literature. We address this gap by focusing on the work of professionals active within or for energy companies, who are responsible for engaging communities in the development of energy projects: so-called ‘community engagement professionals’ (CEPs). Using Q methodology, we explore how CEPs see their role as front-line workers operating on the boundary between their own organization and the local community. Our analysis results in three perspectives of their own work amongst CEPs. Perspective 1 views CE as co-creation and their position as one of an intermediary between their organization and the community. Perspective 2 sees CE as an inherent part of project management, using it to remain in control of the process. Perspective 3 is all about project development, with CE as something that must be done as part of compliance with laws and regulations. We show that CEPs have heterogeneous perspectives on community engagement. We discuss differences between these perspectives: 1) mode of engagement; 2) the position of the CEP between their organization and the community; 3) how conflict is viewed and dealt with; 4) the extent to which CEPs see themselves as responsible for the representation of communities; and 5) interaction with internal stakeholders. We end by discussing the implications of this study for project developers and the governance of energy infrastructures.

Elisabeth van de Grift <> is in the Department of Multi Actor Systems, Faculty of Technology, Policy, and Management, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands.