Localised Solutions Briefing Paper

VEIL’s fourth paper in its distributed systems series focuses on research and case studies in Victoria presented at the Localised Solutions forum held in November last year. The event explored the value and implications of local initiatives that follow the distributed systems model. It brought together perspectives from the private sector, utilities, non-profit organisations and research bodies – reflecting the diversity of examples in Victoria.

Authors: Che Biggs, Chris Ryan, John Wiseman
Participating Institutions: Victorian Eco-Innovation and The McCaughey Centre, University of Melbourne

Localised Solutions – briefing Paper

In the national debate about how to address climate change, the role of individuals and small organisations is rarely considered. Yet households, communities, local governments and small business represent the largest body of consumers of energy and critical resources and have the most to lose from climate change and resource scarcity. Equally concerning is the way the opinion and ideas of these smaller stakeholders rarely enters the debate. Communities tend to be seen as only reactive to new government initiatives, rather than vital participants in climate innovation. At a time when many recognise individual and community creativity as the greatest source of  innovation, it would be wise to learn from those tackling climate change and resource problems at a local or community level.

Growing evidence points to a recent and significant growth in local initiatives that tackle social and environmental challenges. This development is significant, for it indicates community-scale actors are showing leadership on issues that are often cast as national or global in scale – beyond their ‘sphere of influence’. Furthermore, initiatives are occurring despite the inertia of state, national and international level actors. Also significant is the way these solutions involve a re-localisation of resource and service systems such as energy, food and water infrastructure. These initiatives represent a shift to more distributed methods of production and consumption and are a radical break from conventional services.

To understand the nature of these ‘localised solutions’, the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab (VEIL) and the McCaughey Centre organised a forum in Melbourne at the end of 2009. That event explored the value and implications of local initiatives that follow the distributed systems model. The forum brought together perspectives from the private sector, utilities, non-profit organisations and research bodies – reflecting the diversity of examples in Victoria. This paper presents key findings structured around three themes:

  • The shape of localised solutions and parallels with distributed systems
  • Implications for adapting to climate change and resource scarcity
  • The factors enabling and limiting further development of localised solutions
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