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Wyoming Voices: Digital Storytelling as a Participatory Research Method for Identifying Community Priorities to Promote a Just Energy Transition

Aragon, Darylann
Abstract This Plan B research supported Wyoming Voices , a pilot community-based participatory research (CBPR) project, jointly conducted by Powder River Basin Resource Council, an organization that advocates for the responsible development of Wyoming’s energy resources, and University of Wyoming academic researchers. Energy justice and just transition literature emphasize engaging communities and a wide range of stakeholder voices in energy transition decision-making processes. To explore how to catalyze energy justice principles into action, this project investigated digital storytelling as a CBPR method for identifying community priorities in southwest Wyoming, where communities are experiencing interrelated wellbeing challenges, including the energy transition, COVID-19 pandemic, and economic crisis. The research process involved the co-development of digital stories ( N = 8) that provide first-person narratives around community members’ hopes, wants, assets, and needs in order to highlight priorities for pathways toward more just energy transition in the region. Additionally (specifically for this Plan B project), we conducted focus groups (n = 3; n = 5; n = 4) wherein other community members and leaders viewed and discussed the stories to support robust community-based co-identification and interpretation of priorities (as opposed to researcher-interpreted priorities). Using a thematic analysis approach, five key themes across all community priorities emerged from the focus groups: maintaining community, family, nature and landscape, social services, and economic priorities . Three subthemes emerged under the economic priorities theme: grit and resilience, economic diversification, and workforce transition . Findings show that community priorities are diverse, community members demonstrate resilience and a deep love for their home, and there is no single narrative of energy transition and wellbeing in southwest Wyoming. Participant reflections on the digital storytelling process also revealed that storytelling resonates as a meaningful platform for storytellers, audience, and community-based organizations; and stories play a humanizing role amid challenging transition conditions and diverse perspectives. The themes and broader digital storytelling processes described in this research respond to the call found in energy justice and just transition literature for engaging community voice in energy transition situations. This novel approach can support community-driven envisioning, and ultimately, inform pathways for healthy and resilient energy futures in the region.
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University of Wyoming. Libraries
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Community Based Participatory Research,Energy justice,digital storytelling,narrative storytelling,just transitions,Wyoming
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