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'It Takes Money to Buy Whiskey' : Local Energy Systems and Civic Participation
Unformatted Document Text:  The connection between meeting attendance, geography, and a sense of ownership was expressed by a focus group participant from the Central region, in two separate quotes: To me it just seems very distant, because I’m driving an hour and a half to a meeting. If there was a way to have a conference call I would love to hear about it, because I am hugely against carbon, and to get in the car and drive this far… I’m all for meeting four times a year, or three times a year, because relationships are hugely important. You have to know ‘Oh, there’s Dan,’ so that when you hear him on the phone you can put a name to a face. But to have every meeting, with all this driving… The impact of geography goes beyond the irony of driving two hours for a meeting about community energy. Although some regions have at least a part-time regional staff person, at least one region is coordinated by the CERTs staff in the Twin Cities. This could create a distance that is more than physical, as these focus group participants from the Northeast and Central regions described: There are dedicated people, serving locally, and I think it takes a lot of effort for someone to come from St. Paul, up to here…and it seems like the point people for this region are out of St. Paul and they do a great job at coordinating, but it’s a long way away…and it’s just as far going the other way. One issue is, if I talk to CERTs, I’m calling the cities so I just…don’t know who to talk to…by now maybe I should …maybe I should look on the website and see if there’s a membership list with local people…But there’s really no help up here. They’re all in Minneapolis… Finally, the CERTs project is facing a challenge in how team members can sustain meaningful engagement. Table 2 compares 2005 survey responses to 2007 survey responses in terms of levels of participation among CERTs participants. Not surprisingly for an online survey, electronic participation accounts for the highest level of participation in 2007 (71 percent), followed by attendance at conferences (49 percent). 19

Authors: High-Pippert, Angela. and Hoffman, Steven.
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The connection between meeting attendance, geography, and a sense of ownership was
expressed by a focus group participant from the Central region, in two separate quotes:
To me it just seems very distant, because I’m driving an hour and a half to
a meeting. If there was a way to have a conference call I would love to
hear about it, because I am hugely against carbon, and to get in the car and
drive this far…
I’m all for meeting four times a year, or three times a year, because
relationships are hugely important. You have to know ‘Oh, there’s Dan,’
so that when you hear him on the phone you can put a name to a face. But
to have every meeting, with all this driving…
The impact of geography goes beyond the irony of driving two hours for a
meeting about community energy. Although some regions have at least a part-time
regional staff person, at least one region is coordinated by the CERTs staff in the Twin
Cities. This could create a distance that is more than physical, as these focus group
participants from the Northeast and Central regions described:
There are dedicated people, serving locally, and I think it takes a lot of
effort for someone to come from St. Paul, up to here…and it seems like
the point people for this region are out of St. Paul and they do a great job
at coordinating, but it’s a long way away…and it’s just as far going the
other way.
One issue is, if I talk to CERTs, I’m calling the cities so I just…don’t
know who to talk to…by now maybe I should …maybe I should look on
the website and see if there’s a membership list with local people…But
there’s really no help up here. They’re all in Minneapolis…
Finally, the CERTs project is facing a challenge in how team members can
sustain meaningful engagement. Table 2 compares 2005 survey responses to 2007
survey responses in terms of levels of participation among CERTs participants. Not
surprisingly for an online survey, electronic participation accounts for the highest level of
participation in 2007 (71 percent), followed by attendance at conferences (49 percent).
19


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