The University of Newcastle, Australia

Dr Askland part of research project to study advocacy coalitions

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Member of the Centre for 21st Century Humanities, anthropologist Dr Hedda Askland, is part of a new $418,828 multi-institutional research project led by Dr Alfonso M. Arranz at the University of Melbourne, which aims to better understand and utilise the mechanics of “advocacy coalitions” for low-carbon technologies.

Smoke stacks

The study will explore who forms the advocacy coalitions that operate in the NSW low-carbon technologies space and what their belief systems are. This process will facilitate identifying ‘key opinion leaders’ (KOLs). Dr Askland said the study seeks to learn from interactions between KOLs in order to identify and better understand the social dynamics of new, broader coalition building.

“It is important to identify these KOLs, also known as influencers or thought leaders, and understand their personal belief structures and those of the coalitions they belong to,” Dr Arranz added.

“Policy proponents can leverage this knowledge for better targeting of funding and resources for low-emissions technologies.”

The team explained that one of the objectives of the project is to understand how and why people join coalitions.

“Socio-political research shows that coalitions or groups of like-minded people have either ‘core’ or ‘peripheric’ beliefs, which determine the likelihood of them joining other coalitions or changing their interim goals,” Dr Arranz noted.

“It is KOLs in these coalitions who will largely be responsible for spreading awareness of, support for or opposition to a technology. Therefore, this study examines NSW low-carbon advocacy coalitions, by first targeting the KOLs”.

The project is funded by the NSW Government’s Coal Innovation Fund in an effort to better understand the debate and community involvement around the energy transition.

The project will undertake online data-mining to trace the spread of ideas and concepts across organisations, institutions and social media and will conduct surveys to gauge opinions of community leaders and commentators on the low-carbon energy transition.

“The information that emerges from this will be mapped noting NSW advocacy coalitions and their belief systems. We will then devise and test a communication strategy to bring together as much as possible the diversity of advocacy coalitions towards a common energy future,” Dr Askland said.

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