The methods for this research will include interviews with individuals at both universities and cities involved in the sustainability process, as well as a review of primary sources for document collection.





Methods for Data Collection



This project is a multiple-embedded case study, as it will be an evaluation of three separate study communities, all with different stakeholders as well as relationships between stakeholders3. Researchers are interested in the relationships that ICLEI member universities will have with ICLEI, and their neighboring communities. Researchers are also interested in how universities and cities are collaborating without the network and tools offered by ICLEI. In total, researchers are looking at three universities and cities: The University of Colorado Boulder and the City of Boulder, Colorado; the University of Northern Iowa, and the City of Cedar Falls, Iowa; and Auburn University, and its neighboring community, Auburn, Alabama. Of these case communities, the former is an ICLEI member city, while the two latter communities have ICLEI member institutions of higher education. The reason for why we chose these cities will be addressed in following section: “Description of Case Communities.”


Research Question 1: How do university and city collaborations most effectively further renewable energy infrastructure and reduce community-wide scope 3 emissions?

  • Hypothesis 1: When facilitated, relationships between universities and cities can promote cross-sector synergistic collaboration.


  • Research Question 2: What best practice facilitation methods lead to more synergistic collaboration?

Hypothesis 1: Researchers will find one or more common specific method across all three case studies, which lead to high level co-creation.

  • Hypothesis 2: Case communities will develop co-creation strategies specific to their unique collaborative projects​.




Interviews of university and city stakeholders will include methods outlined in Rubin & Rubin, which provides guidance for construction of questions, conducting interviews, and coding and analyzing interviews2. Interviews will be conducted with a consensus sample of representatives from both the university and local government who are working on renewable energy and/or scope 3 emissions reduction projects. Categories of representatives from each university and city are presented in the table below. Researchers intend to conduct interviews with members from each of the 10 categories. Researchers will collect contact information of interviewees through internet searches, contacts shared through ICLEI, and information found in documents. Data collection and analysis will be conducted using the methods outlined in Auerbach and Silverstein3.


Researchers intend to conduct interviews with roughly 30 representatives from cities and universities in total. Interviewees from cities will have positions in one of five categories: office of sustainability/resilience, city council, city manager, city planner, or third party expert. likewise, interviewees from universities will be representatives from the department of sustainability/resilience, facilities management, Vice Chancellor, Board of Regents, or third party expert. Third party experts will include interviewees from universities and local governments outside of our three case-communities.


1 Auerbach, C.F. & Silverstein, L.B. (2003). Qualitative Data: An Introduction to Coding and Analysis. New York University Press


2 Rubin, H.J. & Rubin, I.S. (2005). Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data (2nd). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication


3 Yin, R. (2003). Case Study Research: Design and Methods (3rd). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications