The importance of preliminary community based research

“…sensitivity to local context and the local embeddedness of the project were key aspects determining the immediate successfulness of the project…” (Raven et al, 2008)


Taking into account the local context when trying to implement something new seems pretty obvious for an architect. However this is not always the case for other disciplines that affect our surroundings. New sustainable technologies have sometimes a negative effect on the environment and social systems even though it was planned with the best purposes. Therefore I think it is necessary to thoroughly investigate the context before implementing any new sustainable technique. A concept or vision based on proper research is a reasonable starting point for the actual implementation. 

The vision can be built up from the perspective of the technology or from the perspective of the context. The first approach has a certain technology as a starting point. Its effects on the context will be investigated. Then it can be altered to fit the environment. You could say that this is a kind of made-to-measure approach.

The second one takes the context as the leading idea. The context has to be analysed at first. This analysis will make clear what the environment really needs. Sustainable technologies will then be looked for to fulfil these needs. Whether the technologies are suitable has to be determined by how it affects the natural environment and communities. This approach could be seen more as the haute-couture approach.

 So, embeddedness in and sensitivity for the local context can be reached in two different ways. I think that the haute-couture approach will deliver the best results, because it is much more focused at the level of the community and environment. On the contrary, I think it is much more time consuming than the other method because of the extensive research that has to be done.

The made-to measure method is, I think, quicker, because you already know with which technology you want to begin. There are simply less options than when all options are still available. A negative side could be the backfire of unforeseen problems caused by the lack of preliminary research. 

I think that it is most useful for the island of Texel to do extensive research before implementing new technologies. It is very important to know what the context is, because the island has such a small and strong community. The effects of changes are therefore much easier to be felt with a higher risk of disruption. Besides that, change is not really ad-hoc needed on the Island. So, people might take their time to analyse and test various alternatives to be sure that it fits the island in the long term.


Borris Boschman


R. Raven, E. Heiskanen, R. Lovio, M. Hodson, B. Brohmann, 2007, The Contribution of Local Experiments and Negotiation Processes to Field-Level Learning in Emerging (Niche) Technologies, Meta-Analysis of 27 New Energy Projects in Europe


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