How do we better involve residents in Climate Positive Circular Communities (CPCCs)? Key takeaways from workshop during ISHF 2023.


Involving residents in renovation and energy efficient social housing projects can be challenging. Lack of motivation, a general distrust towards institutions and miscommunication are issues that may arise when working with resident engagement. How do we meet these challenges, ensuring that people’s needs are met when developing Climate Positive Circular Communities (CPCCs)?

Exploring challenges and tools related to resident engagement was the main topic when ARV and the syn.ikia-project joined forces in a workshop during this year’s International Social Housing Festival in Barcelona (ISHF 2023). The event took place on June 8th 2023 and was organized by ARV’s coordinating institution the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) together with Housing Europe and INCASÒL. The aim was to facilitate the exchange of knowledge around resident engagement in energy efficient social housing projects. Clara Mafé from Housing Europe, who leads the work on stakeholder engagement in syn.ikia, moderated the event.

The festival addressed challenges in mature and emerging housing systems in the Mediterranean region. Our workshop introduced several social housing projects involving resident engagement and focused especially on syn.ikia and ARV’s demonstration projects in Spain. The 43 participants were also given a brief look into ARV’s methodology for planning citizen engagement activities.


Involving residents in renovation and energy efficient social housing projects

“Active resident engagement and feedback are often the weakest links in processes of sustainable neighbourhood developement” – Caroline Cheng

Caroline Cheng (SINTEF Community) leads the work on citizen engagement and Living Labs in ARV. She briefly introduced the ARV project before presenting ARV’s SMILE methodology: Scope, Map, Implement, Learn, Enhance. The methodology involves analyzing the key actors involved in order to target specific needs. She emphasized that with a better understanding of our target groups, we can better messages from the tenant’s perspective. The language we use to communicate is key.

Carles Mas (INCASÒL) presented the syn.ikia-project, followed by the social management process in syn.ikia’s demo in Santa Coloma de Gramenet that will be finished next year. This includes setting up an office on-site where tenants can report and discuss issues that are important for them. He emphasized the importance of cultivating trust between tenants and the project administration.

Marta Nicolau Prohens (City of Palma) presented ARV’s demo in the Llevante District in Palma. She introduced strategies for creating an inclusive energy transition process and carrying out large-scale retrofitting. According to her experience, a successful engagement strategy should increase comfort and security amongst residents, as well the energy efficiency of the neighbourhood. She highlighted that given how people is unpredictable, you never know what the outcome of engagement activities will be. It is important to be adaptable and rethink plans along the way.

Anna Mestre (Catalan Housing Agency) has worked with resident engagement in the three retrofitting projects HOUSEFUL, 4RinEU and Plug-n-Harvest. She talked about planning engagement activities and the various participation tools they used in each of the three projects. These included group discussions and one-on-one conversations with tenants and focus groups to detect incentives.


Keys takeways

The presentations was followed by group discussions around which target groups are more or less difficult to engage and why, incentives that can be used for motivation and participation tools.

Key takeaways from the discussion:

  • Engagement should start with children and parents as this is the easiest group to engage.
  • The more difficult groups to engage are older people and low income groups.
  • A major challenge is the distrust in institutions and projects administrations amongst residents.
  • Using participation tool involving the use of senses works well, such as videos, models that people can touch etc.
  • Involving residents at the right time is a typical problem for housing associations. It is easier to get people engaged in the beginning of a project development than at the end.
  • Information updates about the project development should be given at all times – even the bad things
  • Keys to moving forward: choosing the right communication channels according to target groups, developing key messages that residents will understand and being present in the neighbourhood in an approachable manner.