Energy In The Neighbourhood

Participation professionals collect input from residents through various channels, but for many reasons this often proves difficult to connect to internal planning and decision-making processes. This leads to disappointment among both professionals and residents. This research will help strengthen the action repertoire of participation and back-office professionals, with the aim of improving this connection. 


The project looks at the objectives of participation and back-office professionals in securing or blocking participation in the heat transition, it studies which strategic (inter)actions they use and it investigates how those actions are (or are not) translated into decisions about the execution. It is important to arrive at a more balanced and transparent assessment, in order to ultimately realize a more successful connection between participation and backstage processes. 

This leads us to the following main question: 

In what ways do professionals interact with each other around the heat transition in post-war residential areas, and how can those interactions lead to a more successful connection between participation and internal processes? 


This research works towards the following intended results: 

  • For the benefit of knowledge development, we develop a concise and accessible research report and professional publication. These products are about suitable ways of strategic interaction between participation and back-office professionals, with the aim of achieving a more successful connection between participation and internal processes in the field of the heat transition. 
  • For the purpose of product development, a useful tool for professional practice is developed based on the knowledge acquired and in co-creation with the stakeholders. This tool will be called 'Toolkit Participation for the heat transition in post-war neighbourhoods'. The aim of this is to facilitate a successful connection between participation and internal processes in the field of the heat transition. 
  • Useful products for education are also being developed. This research leads to a program of guest lectures and other contributions to the four knowledge institutions involved, and, if interested, also to tailor-made programs at other consortium partners. From year 2 onwards, cross-university graduation workshops on participation in the district-oriented heat transition will also be set up three times. 
  • For the purpose of personal development, this research aims to develop knowledge about how the professional competencies of both participation professionals and back-office professionals can be developed, with the aim of achieving better interactions - and therefore better decision-making.
  • For the purpose of system development, this research aims to bring about change through a Community of Practice (COP). This COP works in an overarching manner to understand similarities and differences between cases and make use of them, to arrive at understanding and action perspectives at the level of personal competencies and interventions at process and organizational level that are robust and consider the local municipal context. 


01 January 2023 - 31 December 2026


This research uses the method of participatory action research and is a research approach suitable for investigating processes of strategic interaction and for guiding change processes. It offers the opportunity to look behind the scenes in participation processes for a long time, so that the development of these processes can be better understood. 

"At an administrative level, it is necessary to realize that a successful energy transition is a social transition. The issue should not only be dealt with from a technical and physical perspective, but the social perspective is crucial to get residents on board."

Associate professor Maarten ter Huurne about the social side of the energy transition


The research is co-financed by RAAK PRO.

More information

The heat transition will come to the district in the coming decades. Substantial investments are needed. Many of the post-war neighbourhoods with a higher degree of socio-economic problems are the first to be affected. In order to make participation feasible and affordable, citizen involvement is essential, because it involves investments that also come from behind the front door, and moreover, citizens know better than anyone which other problems in the neighbourhood could be tackled as 'linking opportunities'. 

Participation professionals from municipalities, corporations and grid operators face the challenge of involving residents in the local heat transition by taking their diverse ideas and wishes into account. Back-office professionals, in turn, are faced with the task of incorporating these wishes into the ongoing implementation processes of these organizations, which are subject to strong time pressure and have narrow financial frameworks. These dilemmas therefore become the focus of interaction between different professionals. They face the joint challenge of connecting residents' input to the processes and policies of large institutions such as municipalities, network operators and housing associations. 

However, little is known from the literature about how participation and back-office professionals deal with this challenge. The existing literature on citizen participation focuses mainly on interactions between participation professionals and citizens, or between citizens themselves. Little is known about interactions between participation professionals and back-office professionals during participation processes. An additional gap is that existing research focuses on participation in the formation of policy and plans, and rarely on participation in implementation, a phase that is now rapidly approaching in the heat transition. This research therefore focuses mainly on the strategic interaction between participation and back-office professionals during an implementation phase. 

HU researchers involved in the research

Collaboration partners

Would you like to collaborate or do you have any questions?

Maarten ter Huurne

Maarten ter Huurne

  • Researcher
  • Research group: Sustainable Communities