Insights into empirical research of Build4People Work Package “Behaviour Change”: Semi-structured interviews to find out about drivers and barriers for sustainable investment behaviour

On 11 October 2023, the Build4People Work-Package #1 “Behaviour Change” led by Magdeburg University conducted semi-structured interviews in the facilities of Royal University Phnom Penh (RUPP). The main intention of this empirical research was to learn more about the beliefs and attitudes the city’s inhabitants hold about the installation of solar panels on private household’s roofs. 

More specifically, the goal of the interviews was to get a better understanding about drivers motivating people to invest in rooftop solar and, on the contrary, barriers hindering people from doing so. Thereby, the perspective of the urban upper and middle class (the so-called “new consumers”) was of particular interest, as this segment of Phnom Penh’s population can be assumed to be rather capable to invest in rooftop solar than people with less financial capacity. 

This research step is embedded in one of Build4People Work-Package #1 (WP#1) sub-aims, i.e. to develop an understanding for the main drivers and barriers for sustainable behaviours of the “new consumers” in Phnom Penh. 

On a structural level, the interviews were organized by the local WP#1 research partners Dr. Sok Serey and Dr. Op Vanna (both RUPP) while the interviews themselves were conducted by the research associate Mr. Andreas Deuss (University of Magdeburg). In addition, WP#1 was supported by Mr. Thou Punleu and Mrs. Duong Pagna, a graduate assistant and a student assistant of RUPP respectively, for organizational matters and the translation from Khmer to English and vice versa. In terms of interview preparation, Mr. Deuss was in exchange with the civil society organisation EnergyLab Cambodia to learn more about the policy framework concerning rooftop solar in Cambodia. In total, five interviewees took part in the interview session. 

Thanks to the support of Dr. Sok Serey and Dr. Op Vanna the participants were acquired beforehand and were informed that the interview would be about their opinion on different aspects of rooftop solar. Special attention was put on selecting only people belonging to the social group of the new consumers. 

During the interviews, great importance was attached to creating a comfortable and calm atmosphere, so that the participants could forget about the potential artificial character sometimes created by interviews. To keep open the opportunity for deepening the conversation if needed, a semi-structured interview approach was chosen. 

The information gathered through the interviews was very valuable, as several drivers and barriers for the investment behaviour could be identified, among others the environmental benefit of rooftop solar (driver) or the high costs associated with the investment (barrier).

The results will also serve as a base for further research conducted by WP#1, i.e. an online survey aiming to identify drivers and barriers for investment in rooftop solar within a bigger, more representative sample. These important insights form the basis to develop tailored concepts for fostering sustainable behaviour, a crucial step with regard to urban transformation and the overall aim of the Build4People-project to enhance urban quality of life for the people in Phnom Penh. 

The team of WP#1 would like to thank everybody involved in the interviews. Special thanks go to the five interviewees who declared their willingness to take part in the interview-process.