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Sustainable Consumption Institute

The coordination of grassroots innovation networks: a pilot study

In the past two decades there has been significant academic and policy attention for grassroots innovations, networks of activists and organisations that generate novel bottom-up solutions for sustainable development.

illustrations of plants connected by lines in a network

Examples of grassroots innovations include community energy projects, community currency initiatives, and local food systems. Grassroots innovations have typically been studied from theoretical perspectives oriented on niches and/or transitions, and more recently links have also been made to social movements literature. While the importance of networks or networking is widely acknowledged in these theoretical perspectives, as well as in the growing number of empirical studies on grassroots innovations, research on the structure and dynamics of ‘grassroots innovations as networks’ is lacking.

The project will fill this gap by studying how grassroots innovation networks emerge and evolve, how (and to what extent) they are coordinated, and with consequences for the types of activities carried out by initiatives that are part of the networks. The project focuses specifically on two grassroots innovation networks that have a ‘franchise-like’ structure, where individual initiatives are explicitly recognised as part of the network, and where some form of coordinating body exists: The Repair Café movement and the Precious Plastics movement.

In the project, initiatives in these two movements are surveyed to investigate dynamics through which the movements emerged and developed. The project asks, among other things, when different initiatives were started, what kind of activities are carried out within them, what organisational forms are used, and to what extent coordination takes place with other initiatives and in what forms. The outputs of the study will be used for at least one academic publication, and as input for a larger research bid around this topic.

Research team