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Promoting energy-saving behaviour: formal social groups as promising middle actors for municipal interventions

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Frick Vivian, Seidl Roman, Stauffacher Michael, Moser Corinne,
Project Using formal social groups to promote energy sufficient behaviour in cities
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Energy Efficiency
Volume (Issue) 10(6)
Page(s) 1539 - 1551
Title of proceedings Energy Efficiency
DOI 10.1007/s12053-017-9543-2


City governments worldwide are trying to motivate their citizens to reduce their energy use—a particular challenge as they try to reach individual households. A promising strategy to engage the public broadly entails collaborating with middle actors to multiply the effects of municipal interventions. Some of these middle actors are formal social groups (e.g. sports clubs and neighbourhood associations). We conducted an online experiment (N = 136) to determine whether such interventions were more effective when they are communicated through formal social groups than when communicated through city governments. Participants received letters containing advice for saving energy in the household. Willingness to participate was higher when the letters came from formal social groups than when they came from a city agency. Furthermore, actual members of formal social groups generally were more willing to participate. Our evidence suggests that formal social groups are promising middle actors for energy conservation campaigns and that city governments should engage more often with these groups to communicate with residents.