Tom Hargreaves

Hargreaves, T

I am interested in the challenge of making everyday life and society more sustainable. Accordingly, my research focuses on how different types of sustainability innovation – from ‘smart’ home technologies to grassroots social innovations like community energy initiatives – operate in everyday settings and situations, and how attempts to govern everyday life impact on patterns of societal engagement.

A key focus of my research has been to explore how social relations and dynamics shape, and are shaped by, the adoption, use and impacts of sustainability innovations. I have developed this theme across a number of different topics, with a particular focus on sustainable energy transitions. This has included work on: how energy feedback from smart meters is shaped by household social dynamics, and what might be done to move beyond energy feedback and open up new forms of social engagement with energy; how workplace behaviour change initiatives operate within and can struggle against existing social practices, social interactions, office politics and power relations; how community energy initiatives can benefit from relations with one another and with intermediary organisations, but can struggle against narrow energy system priorities that don’t always align with local wants and needs; how social relations and emotions can impact on the capabilities of energy vulnerable households in asking for and receiving support; how household roles and relations shape the domestication of smart home technologies; how different forms of public engagement with energy transitions are inter-related in wider ecologies of participation; how different academic disciplines might experiment with new ways of relating to one another in interdisciplinary collaborations.

In pursuing this research, I draw on methods and concepts from human geography, sociology and science and technology studies. I am particularly inspired by in-depth, qualitative and ethnographic research methods, but have also used methods such as surveys, social network analysis, Q method, content analysis, secondary qualitative analysis, systematic mapping and comparative case study analysis. Theoretically, I enjoy working with approaches that develop and encourage a focus on situated and grounded social relations and dynamics. As such, my work to date has drawn on and sought to develop a variety of theoretical approaches including: social practice theory, governmentality, social interaction, domestication, socio-technical transitions, grassroots innovations, capabilities approaches, geography of emotions, phronetic social science, and ecologies of participation.

My research is of direct relevance to a wide range of audiences outside academia and I am always keen to develop new partnerships and collaborations beyond the academy. This has included giving presentations on my research, as well as conducting research consultancy and advisory work with a range of organisations including: BEIS, Defra; the European Commission, E.On UK; British Gas; Anglian Water; Adapt Low Carbon; Green Energy Options; E.On UK, and Marketforce.

I teach on a number of different modules across both Undergraduate and Masters degree programmes at UEA. I am also the module convenor for ‘Energy and People’ a third year undergraduate module that explores the social science of sustainable energy transitions. Since 2018 I have served as the External Examiner for the M.Sc in ‘Energy, Society and Sustainability’  in the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh.

Websites: My Google Scholar profile

3S Strands:
Transitions to Sustainability
Sustainable Consumption
Knowledges and Expertise
Policy and Governance


Systemic participation and decision making in UK energy transitions

REFIT – exploring the domestication and use of smart home technologies in everyday life (funded by EPSRC, 2012-2015)

Realising Transition Pathways – exploring ways of integrating qualitative and quantitative data on domestic electricity use and demand response (funded by EPSRC, 2012-2016)

TRANSIT – Transformative Social Innovation Theory (2014-2017)

Community Innovation for Sustainable Energy (CISE) – exploring community energy initiatives as forms of sociotechnical ‘grassroots innovation’ (funded by EPSRC/EdF ECLEER, 2010-2013)

Transition Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy (funded by EPSRC and E-ON, 2008-2012)

The Visible Energy Trial 

PhD Students:
Richard Hauxwell-Baldwin (2009-2013)
Jeppe Graugaard (2010-2014)
Phedeas Stephanides (2012-2016): Crisis as opportunity? An ethnographic case-study of the post-capitalist possibilities of Crisis Community Currency Movements
Rachel Macrorie (2011-2015)
James Graham (2014-2018): Governing social practice for sustainability
Sara Skarp (2017-): Sustainable waste systems and practices

Tel: +44 (0)1603 593116

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Publications list