Open Access

Social Innovation and Co-creation in Smallscale Renewable Energy: an Asset-based Approach


This paper makes a novel contribution by turning an ‘asset’ lens onto social and technical innovation in the context of the small-scale generation of renewable energy. The authors draw on learning from an international project that aimed to develop innovative technologies for the micro generation of energy using wastes and residues. Variations on innovation that cut across the social and technical are introduced. It is noted that although emanating from different traditions, a common theme is emphasis on a distributed knowledge base in which the roles of innovator, producer and consumer overlap or merge. This implies that the (social) innovation process is also one of co-creation. The authors borrow from international development studies the Sustainable Livelihood Analysis (SLA) framework, which is usually used for working with poor households to foreground strengths and resources rather than needs and deficits. To illustrate the utility of SLA for social innovation at local and community level, findings are presented from UK fieldwork on socio economic barriers and opportunities affecting the feasibility of new community energy generation and enterprise options. The importance and the fragility of human assets are highlighted.