Understanding Communities

Maximizing the impacts of energy access by understanding development opportunities, needs and aspirations of people and communities

This digital seminar is the second edition of our joint series that WISIONS is hosting in cooperation with the Learning Group of the ACCESS Coalition. It focuses on how to maximize the development effects of energy access.

The ultimate goal of energy access interventions is to support people to build prosperous and fulfilling lives. Local contextual factors determine what opportunities are feasible. Moreover, what fulfilling lives means for people is strongly linked to cultural specificities such as values and aspirations.

Thus, understanding how such contextual and cultural aspects of people’s lives and capacities can be recognized and integrated into the conception and realization of energy projects is key in order to maximize the impacts of energy access.


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In the discussion our panelists established that conventional approaches to energy planning devote insufficient attention to community engagement. With their capacities and abilities, communities can support and lead the successful realization of energy initiatives. Engaging them is possible on three different levels:

  • Obtaining information from the communities (one way exchange)
  • Educating communities (two ways exchange)
  • Involving communities in decision making along the entire project cycle (ensuring buy-in)
As people tend to prioritize development aspects that are not directly expressed in terms of energy, such as improving incomes from farming, cross-sector approaches were considered key by our panelists. This requires multi-actor collaboration. The discussion also highlighted challenges of community involvement that can occur, especially resistance in cross-sector collaboration:
  • Experts tendency to dominate talks and decisions
  • Low awareness in politics about the linkages between energy and other developmental sectors
  • Structure of energy investment and funding programs do not prioritize community engagement
Further Materials: This online article illustrates how the “Energy Delivery Model” has been applied for supporting the Kitui county government in Kenya to develop an integrated energy plan: This video talks about how the tool “COMET” can help in engaging community in the planning of mini grids that attend their particular needs under their particular socio-economic and cultural conditions: In this study a transdisciplinary methodology is applied in order to learn about sustainability strategies of farmers’ associations in Colombia. The cases illustrate that an energy technology such as domestic biodigesters can be articulated with many other techniques and strategies for strengthening the livelihoods of farming families (cross-sector links):


Ayu Abdullah
Co-Executive Director Energy Action Partners (ENACT)
Emmanuel Cyoy Ngeywo
Consultant on Energy Model Delivery (EDM)


Dr. Willington Ortiz | Research Associate Wuppertal Institute, WISIONS Inititative

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