Designing Real-World Laboratories for the Reduction of Residential Energy Use: Articulating Theories of Change

Eva Heiskanen, Senja Laakso, Kaisa Johanna Matschoss, Julia Backhaus, Gary Goggins, Edina Vadovics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Reducing residential energy use and carbon dioxide emissions is a policy concern across Europe. One of the approaches to address this problem, real-world laboratories (RwLs), has recently gained prominence as a means to generate both sustainability change and social knowledge. Yet RwLs are context-bound, and transferability is an issue for scaling up change. Drawing on Realistic Evaluation (RE) and Theories of Change (ToC), this paper analyses researchers’ and practitioners’ views on the role of contexts and change mechanisms in the outcomes of interventions targeting residential energy use. The results show that extracting the underlying logic of RwL designs could help to identify where and when these designs are likely to be transferrable. This contribution has implications for the design of future RwLs, given that RwLs have until now rarely articulated their ToC.
Original languageEnglish
Issue numberS1
Pages (from-to)60-67
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 517 Political science
  • context dependence
  • real-world laboratories
  • residential energy use
  • theories of change
  • transferability

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