Low carbon community programs that encourage citizens to reduce their carbon emissions have been subject to various government and civil society trials in recent years. Behaviour change programs using ‘social marketing’ techniques have had mixed success in community carbon reduction because of a focus on individual control and lack of systemic context. ‘Asset-based community development’ (ABCD) is a strength-based tool that has been successfully used in the community sector to reveal the hidden assets of individuals and views communities as the starting point for change and abundant in capacity for sustainability interventions at the grassroots level.
This paper will detail the development of a ‘low carbon community’ trial known as Livewell Yarra, a 'Living Lab’ action research project funded by the CRC for Low Carbon Living in partnership with Curtin University, the City of Yarra and the Yarra Energy Foundation. This research uses asset mapping as a method to reveal the latent knowledge, interests and skills of Livewell participants and mobilise these strengths to meet carbon reduction goals. Participatory co-design is being used to enable participants to develop social innovations for carbon reduction in their local community which could take the form of community gardens, active transport or neighbourhood-based sharing initiatives.
This paper provides an overview of the Livewell Yarra trial and its theoretical underpinnings and explores how asset-based approaches and social innovation can build capacity for groups to take individual and collective action to reduce carbon emissions for their own benefit and that of the wider community.