Participation 3 min. reading time

Collaboration that energizes you - Part II/III

In Part II of this triptych, Anne-Mette Andersen explains why participation stands or falls with dialogue, even in renewable energy. What is a good dialogue, how do you deal with resistance and what is collaboration? Read more here.

How do you realize a solar park that is locally embedded? Our answer: by getting residents to participate in its development as much as possible. Project manager Lylian Dwarkasing introduced Novar's participation philosophy in Part I. In Part II, landscape designer Anne-Mette Andersen talks about perfecting that philosophy, in her master class Novar attended. "Start with a good dialogue.  

People, planet, prosperity, place, public

'Corporate social responsibility involves the three Ps: people, planet, prosperity. If you stand for sustainable development, the balance between these three is important. The value of that development for people, the planet and the environment and also the prosperity that results from it. I add two p's to that with my master class, and they also fit well with Novar. Place, because it matters enormously where you develop something. And public, because with a development you can distinguish whether it brings prosperity to an individual or a larger audience. If you create value in all five of those areas, you're doing well. Novar moves into an area of public interest and develops solar projects that can mean something to an area. Through process participation and local ownership.' 

A time of co-creation 

'It is a time of co-creation. In area development, we cannot ignore the residents. But that requires more than the traditional residents' evening. In that you collect, process input and ultimately present a result. Chances are that residents do not clearly see or recognize their input and are still dissatisfied. The reflex as a developer is to adjust your plan and maybe do it again. This is a shame, because it results in duplication of effort and residents are not satisfied despite the efforts. While a good participation process can save time and support. But what is a 'good participation process'? 

Be vulnerable

'In my master class, we look for this. The starting point is an open process. Especially in the beginning of the process, leave a lot more open, is always my advice. Of course you don't go in blank: you have your preconditions, such as the surface area needed for a profitable solar project. In addition, as a developer, you delve into what is already going on in the area beforehand. Despite this, it is valuable not to immediately present a fixed plan. Yes, this way you make yourself vulnerable, but you really discuss the dilemmas of the task at hand together. And in this way you keep looking for what appeals to people and what will win them over. That is how you build support together with residents. 

Far with participatcie 

'What I find strong about Novar is that they are already far along with participation. We have improved and sharpened the working method even further. My message to Novar in particular is to approach the initial phase a little differently. I have found that Novar actually runs just a little too fast. A full concept plan is submitted. I always advise against that: instead, start with a good dialogue. Because do residents actually care about ecology and do they value hiking trails? What are the things that really create added value for them? Research with the resident what is important and what a solar park can add to the environment.'  

Dealing with resistance 

'In the joint participation process, we work with all five p's for value creation. I notice that I am often busy connecting the wishes of residents - the p of people - with the objective of the government - public. There is a climate objective for the whole of the Netherlands. Every local government must contribute to this, and fortunately many people understand and endorse this. However, when measures such as solar parks or windmills are close at hand, they affect your own living environment. And that can generate resistance.

As a developer, it is important to get a good understanding of the resistance so that you can better deal with it. Where does the resistance really come from? And also: how broadly supported is the resistance? In the end you have to make the right decisions and find the optimal balance between all five Ps. This means that you do not always achieve the ideal situation for each of the Ps. That understanding is incredibly important to foster in everyone in the process right from the start.' 

Right impression 

'In the second master class, we started working on communication. On the spot, we refined the starter letter. The letter now contains the element of an open process. It is incredibly important that as a recipient you get the right impression from moment one. I found that my story fit well with Novar's current way of working. The message picked up well: the insights gained helped Novar fine-tune their participation philosophy.' 

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