Sustainable social innovations and grassroots movements

urban gardening
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Consumption of non-renewable resources in the global North far exceeds what might be considered sustainable. Most strategies to tackle unsustainable patterns of production and consumption aim at efficiency or consistency. In complement to such efforts, the project “Analysis of voluntary offers and initiatives related to sufficient behaviour” focuses on strategies of sufficiency.

Research objective and methods

CDE researchers conducted interdisciplinary research on the possible contribution of grassroots initiatives and social innovations – such as agricultural cooperatives or repair cafés – to societal transformations towards ecological sustainability.

The diverse perspectives of initiative organizers, users, and members of networks, umbrella organizations, and the public sector were studied in a series of empirical working steps that built upon each other.

Results and recommendations for action

In addition to conceptual development of a framework model, the project generated insights into the connection between use of relevant offers and development of sufficient lifestyles at the individual level. In addition, factors were identified that hinder or promote the creation and spread of corresponding initiatives. Based on this, the researchers formulated several recommendations for action.

Highlights include:

  • Voluntary grassroots offers and initiatives related to sufficiency can make a valuable contribution to societal transformation towards ecological sustainability.
  • Corresponding initiatives and offers enable less resource-intensive lifestyles at the individual level. In addition, they can trigger transformation of societal subsystems.
  • The goal should be to increase the diversity and density of such offers.
  • Interest groups, umbrella organizations, and networks play a vital role in the creation and maintenance of such offers and initiatives.
Info box
More information (in German) Spotlight
Funding Energieforschung Stadt Zürich
Duration  July 2017 – September 2018
Partner Risk Dialogue Foundation
Contact Dr Stephanie Moser

Dr Christoph Bader

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