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ISSE Seed Project: The Green Economy

Principal Investigator: John Shefner, Sociology

2014-2015 Report

The Green Economy Project progressed significantly this year. We conducted over 60 interviews and a dozen focus groups, and held a number of small meetings aimed at examining sectoral needs that, if addressed, will help build the regional green economy. That work was facilitated by ISSE funding of our Highlander Transitions Fellow, Tom Torres. The data collected is summarized in a series of short papers that will make up the material for discussion at our second Green Economy Forum, to be held on Oct. 27, 2015. The intention of that forum is to present those summary papers as drafts of a roadmap that can be used by industry, government, non-profits, UT, other educational institutions, and others to track needs, advocate policy, and articulate directions for the growth of the regional green economy. The drafts will receive comments from representatives from sectors such as construction, economic development, waste management, government, and agriculture, among others. Those comments will be integrated into the document and then made available to local researchers, governments, utilities, and others. This document will also serve as a basis to plan a variety of research possibilities based on engagement with different stakeholders.

We have examined a variety of foundations, and will target several for letters of inquiry and proposals this academic year. Our reach has expanded beyond the Knoxville area with our partnership with the regional economic development group, East Tennessee Quality Growth. We hope to partner with that organization again to house a Highlander Transition Fellow in order to repeat our successful experience of last year.

In addition, we played an important role in the City of Knoxville Smarter Cities Project, and are continuing in that role. In addition, we have been contracted by the City of Knoxville Sustainability Office to conduct evaluation research on outreach intended to attract interest in the new TVA-funded energy efficiency renovations. Successful completion of this work positions us for further social science evaluation work on the TVA project. This work should also increase our ability to market ourselves to do more work in this area.

ISSE support was important in securing UT ORE funding of a second year of the Green Economy ORU.

2013-2014 Report

The Green Economy Project seeks to increase external funding to support research on Knoxville’s Green Economy while nurturing that economic sector locally. This effort requires not only basic research, but outreach to other UT/ORNL researchers, government officials, community organizations, and big and small businesses in order to create multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral teams and facilitate information sharing. The engagement component is aided this year by the Highlander Transitions Fellow, Tom Torres. Mr. Torres is forming working groups in order to begin a conversation that will culminate in a forum in Spring 2015. The working groups will be comprised of government sustainability representatives and utility officials, business owners, non-profit and economic development specialists, those with specialties and interest in technology transfer and representatives from educational institutions. The forum itself is intended to find the bridges and barriers to expanding the local green economy. The outcomes will include more shared knowledge of labor market needs, potentials for business growth, shared research interests, new regulations needed to grow the Green Economy, and ways to grow jobs. Academic outcomes will include research teams to pursue external research. Engagement outcomes will include a report on the state of the art of the local Green Economy, which will be marketed to the City of Knoxville, Knox County, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Knoxville Utility Board, and the Chamber of Commerce. ISSE is providing funding for Mr. Torres, in addition to other assistance.