"IA Projects on Positive Energy Districts" workshop

15:30 – 17:00, 29th September 2021, hybrid

This is a 90-minute hybrid workshop led by the ATELIER project. While the challenges of collective evaluation and learning in large R&I projects are recognized, there has been little effort to exchange experiences between projects. Processes for learning are often overlooked, perceived as an ‘extra’; the focus is on the explicit formalized capacity building activities. There is a common need to identify approaches and processes to improve evaluation and learning. This paper and workshop will initiate future cooperation in this area. H2020 Innovation Actions are often based on large international consortia, include multiple-case studies and innovation demonstrations with different contexts. They address complex and divers questions on upscaling of technical, economic and social innovations.  This applies in particular to those projects that address Positive Energy Districts (PEDs) as an innovation towards smart, climate neutral and socially inclusive cities. The definition of PEDs illustrates the complexity.

PEDs are energy-efficient and energy-flexible urban areas or groups of connected buildings which produce net zero greenhouse gas emissions and actively manage an annual local or regional surplus production of renewable energy. They require integration of different systems and infrastructures and interaction between buildings, the users and the regional energy, mobility and ICT systems, while securing the energy supply and a good life for all in line with social, economic and environmental sustainability. In R&I projects, evaluation frameworks and processes (including impact assessments) are closely related to learning frameworks and processes. Currently, in the H2020 Smart Cities and Communities programmes, 6 projects deal with PEDs with in total 12 Light House Cities, involvement of more than 100 other cities, and in total a few hundred partners.

This workshop (and associated paper) will explore the experiences with evaluation and collective learning across PED projects and identify barriers and opportunities. Theory of Change is proposed as a starting point in internal developing evaluation and learning frameworks.  Theory of Change is a comprehensive description and illustration of how and why a desired change is expected to happen in a particular context. It is focused in particular on mapping out or “filling in” what has been described as the “missing middle” between what a program or change initiative does (its activities or interventions) and how these lead to desired goals being achieved. It does this by first identifying the desired long-term goals and then works back from these to identify all the conditions (outcomes) that must be in place (and how these related to one another causally) for the goals to occur.  The so-called “impact pathways” introduced under Horizon Europe can be developed within a ToC approach.  The paper will present a case study of application of ToC to PEDs, and how an evaluation and learning process could be derived.


  1. Plenary presentation
  2. Groupwork: Have groups do short Theory of Change exercises to understand the notion of assumptions and how they lead to a shared learning agenda
  3. Group debate: Have small groups share lessons from their own experience, harvest those lessons and capture them in a blog to be shared after the event

Intended Results

  1. A better understanding of conditions for effective upscaling
  2. A better understanding of conditions for effective project and personal learning
  3. Experienced a tasting for Theory of Change methodology; a means for joint visioning and learning
  4. Shared their own lessons and experiences on how to share and capture lessons more effectively in large consortia with multiple case studies
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