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Making more of middles: advancing the middle-out perspective in energy system transformation

Panel: 1. The dynamics of limiting (energy) consumption

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Kathryn Janda, Energy Institute, University College London, United Kingdom
Yael Parag, School of Sustainability, The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC, Israel
Katharina Reindl, International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE), Sweden
Faye Wade, School of Social & Political Sciences, United Kingdom
Yann Blumer, ZHAW School of Management and Law, Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Switzerland


Social and technological innovations are commonly seen as either being induced from the ‘top-down’ — e.g., by policymakers—or evolving from the ‘bottom-up’— e.g., by consumers. Instead, a ‘middle-out’ perspective (MOP) focuses on agents of change that are located in the middle, between the top and the bottom. Janda and Parag (2013) and Parag & Janda (2014) describe how middle actors include (but are not limited to) such groups as building professionals, religious congregations, and commercial property owners (Janda & Parag 2013; Parag & Janda 2014).

In recent years, these and other authors have further developed the MOP to address providers of housing refurbishment (Janda, Killip & Fawcett 2014), heating engineers (Wade, Hitchings & Shipworth 2016), community-based organizations (Hamilton et al. 2014), facilities managers (Goulden & Spence 2015), social housing providers (Cauvain & Karvonen 2018), and actors involved in energy storage (Devine-Wright et al. 2017).

This paper focuses on recent advances in the ‘middle-out perspective’. It considers several new middle actor groups, including an energy committee for orthodox Jews in Israel (Parag 2018), code officials in India (Janda & Khosla 2018), formal social groups in Swiss cities (Blumer et al. 2018; Frick et al. 2017), professionals working with housing providers in Sweden (Reindl 2017), local authorities and delivery agents in Scotland (Bush, Wade & Webb 2018), and housing developers in the USA (Agee et al. 2018).

These cases demonstrate new applications of the MOP, bring additional theoretical perspectives to bear (such as practice theory) and further develop the use of perspectives already recognized within the MOP (e.g., system of professions). By looking across these, this paper develops the MOP with respect to other work on intermediaries, professionals, and communities of practice. To increase practical use of the MOP, the paper encourages future authors to clarify both the direction and scale of middle-actor impacts.


Download this paper as pdf: 1-391-19_Janda.pdf