The coordination of grassroots innovation networks: a pilot study

In recent years there has been increased interest in academia, policy and business for the concept of Circular Economy.

illustrations of plants connected by lines in a network

Many definitions of Circular Economy exist, and what these typically have in common is the idea that our current economies are based on a linear ‘take-make-dispose’ model, and that making our economies more sustainable requires that we transition to circular economies in which resource inputs, wastes, emissions, and energy leakages are minimised by engaging in activities such as long-lasting design, maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing and recycling. It is also common to envision the transition to circular economies as a process in which businesses take the lead by developing and deploying circular business models, incentivised by appropriate legal frameworks and consumer demand for more sustainable products.

However, in practice we also witness initiatives with relevance for circular economies emerge in civil society, such as the Repair Café community and the Precious Plastic community. In these initiatives, innovations towards circular economies develop from the grassroots, driven by networks of activists and organizations that respond to environmental problems and unmet social needs. Until now, these grassroots innovations for circular economies have remained underexplored. A deeper understanding of them can enrich visions of what circular economies might look like and how they come about.

This project contributes to this deeper understanding by exploring the Repair Café community and the Precious Plastic community, two examples grassroots innovations for circular economies. The project explores the diversity of the initiatives that constitute grassroots innovations, including the organisational forms that they use, the goals with which they are started, the activities that take place within them, and how they interact with their wider community and beyond. This exploration is carried out through online surveys carried out among the Repair Café and Precious Plastic communities.

Research team


The project has led to open access reports on both communities:

An academic publication on the results of the project is currently in development.