Flying Less for Work and Leisure? Co-Designing a City-Wide Change Initiative in Geneva

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Flying Less for Work and Leisure? Co-Designing a City-Wide Change Initiative in Geneva


  • Marlyne Sahakian Institute of Sociological Research, University of Geneva, Switzerland
  • Malaïka Nagel Institute of Sociological Research, University of Geneva, Switzerland
  • Valentine Donzelot Institute of Sociological Research, University of Geneva, Switzerland
  • Orlane Moynat Institute of Sociological Research, University of Geneva, Switzerland
  • Wladyslaw Senn Terragir Association, Switzerland


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Abstract:  Geneva prides itself on being an international city, home to the United Nations and international organizations. The airport plays an important role in this image, tied to a quest for hypermobility in an increasingly globalized society. Yet, mobility accounts for close to one quarter of the territory’s carbon emissions, with flights responsible for 70% of these emissions. With recent legislation that includes ambitious targets for net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the role of air travel can no longer be ignored. In 2020, a partnership was formed between the City, the University of Geneva, and a community energy association to explore the possibility of co-designing a city-wide change initiative, focused on reducing flights through voluntary measures. The team consulted with a variety of actors, from citizens who fly for leisure, to those who fly for professional reasons, with a spotlight on academic travel. A review of the scientific and grey literature revealed what initiatives already exist, leading to a typology of change initiatives. Inspired by this process, we then co-designed a series of workshops on opportunities for flying less in Geneva. We demonstrate the value of going beyond an ‘individual behaviour change’ approach towards understanding change as embedded in socio-material arrangements, as well as identifying interventions that seek to address both negative and positive anticipated outcomes. We conclude with insights on how a social practice approach to understanding mobility reveals both material and immaterial challenges and opportunities, involving infrastructures and technologies, but also social norms and shared meanings.

Keywords:  co-design; flying less; Geneva; participative methods; social practices; Switzerland

Published:   9 June 2021


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v6i2.3911


© Marlyne Sahakian, Malaïka Nagel, Valentine Donzelot, Orlane Moynat, Wladyslaw Senn. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.