Community-led initiatives

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Community-led initiatives (CLIs) are activities that are self-initiated and self-managed by groups of people at the local and regional scale for the sake of actively sustaining, protecting and restoring ecological and social qualities.

CLI as a Concept: Theoretical Context and Conceptual Development

The first "Status Report on Community-Led Action on Sustainability and Climate Change in Europe" describes CLIs as follows:

“Community-led initiatives (CLIs) arise whenever people self-organise in the places where they live to take action on issues that concern them. These issues may range from local to global in scope, and often bridge these levels of scale. They may, for example, address local sustainability issues directly and at the same time consider them in global context, or pay attention both to the direct local impacts of climate change and its global causes and solutions. As well as being effective and important in their own right, they often inspire other people, within their home communities and elsewhere, to question and transform their ways of thinking, acting and being in the world.”[1]

CLIs, as a concept, emphasises the role of “communities” as transformative actors and drivers of societal change. However, the meaning of the term “community” is ambiguous. As in the Status report, it is understood as referring to collectives of individuals in both rural and urban contexts that intentionally join together to initiate a project that serves themselves, their wider community and their natural environment. This could for example be a group of committed people from an urban neighbourhood, inhabitants of traditional village communities or workers associations.

The concept of CLIs, as used by ECOLISE, depicts a wide range of activities. At the same, several defining criteria and common principles can be identified to unify all initiatives that fall under this umbrella term. Most fundamentally, CLIs are:

  • community-driven
  • targeting the restoring of social and ecological qualities
  • operating at a the local or regional scale (small-scale and place-based)

Furthermore, CLIs’ orientation ranges from adaptive approaches to transformative approaches. Adaptive CLIs aim to address specific societal challenges as a direct response to a perceived threat[2]. Transformative CLIs take a more systemic approach, as they do not only address societal challenges, but also challenge the systemic structures and institutions that created those challenges in the first place[3].

The term “community-led initiative” is so far underrepresented in the scientific literature. It has been used by ECOLISE in its publications, such as the Status report, as well as in several other publications. Closely related concepts that appear in the scientific literature are:

CLIs as Real-World Phenomena: Types of CLIs and Exemplary Cases

CLIs as real-world phenomena are as old as humankind and exist all over the globe. In practice these initiatives vary in terms of size, duration, thematic focus, and objectives. The Status report emphasises five major networks and movements of CLIs:

Furthermore, CLIs can be classified according to particular thematic foci. For example, community-led economic initiatives (CLEIs) are those CLIs that have a strong orientation towards sustainable economic practices. Key principles of CLEIs are that they are primarily oriented towards human needs instead of profit and capital accumulation (even though they do not need to be non-profit), the means of production as well as goods and services are collectively owned (“commons”), the non-monetary sector plays a crucial role in social provisioning, and resulting consumption needs to be quantitatively and qualitatively assessed based on ecological considerations[8][9][10][11][12].

The diversity of CLIs in the real world is illustrated by the following list of exemplary cases:

  • "Community Supported Agriculture initiatives
  • (Urban) Community gardens that unite neighbourhoods around gardening
  • Traditional local communities introducing sustainability and climate change action in their strategies and enacting that strategy effectively
  • Local Action Groups (LAGs) from the CLLD programme, especially those that actually uphold bottom-up community-led action in local communities
  • Community-driven businesses and cooperatives
  • Energy initiatives at community scale
  • "Social Solidarity Economy" initiatives
  • Co-housing, communes, squats, spiritual communities, …

References

  1. Penha-Lopes, Gil; Henfrey, Thomas (2019): Reshaping the Future: How Local Communities are Catalysing Social, Economic and Ecological Transformation in Europe. The First Status Report on Community-led Action on Sustainability and Climate Change. ECOLISE. Brussels.
  2. O'Brien, Karen (2014): Adaptation vs Transformation. CChange. Available online at https://cchange.no/2014/01/adaptation-vs-transformation/, checked on 5/18/2020.
  3. Wittmayer, Julia M.; Kemp, Rene; Haxeltine, Alex; Avelino, Flor; Pel, Bonno; Ruijsink, Saskia et al. (2017): Transformative Social Innovation. What have we learned in four years of research? Available online at http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/content/original/Book%20covers/Local%20PDFs/ 287%20TRANSIT%20brief%206%20final%20brief%20web.pdf, checked on 9/17/2019.
  4. TESS (2017): TESS Final Publishable Summary Report. Available online at http://www.tess-transition.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/TESS-Final_report_2017.pdf.
  5. Wittmayer, Julia M.; Kemp, Rene; Haxeltine, Alex; Avelino, Flor; Pel, Bonno; Ruijsink, Saskia et al. (2017): Transformative Social Innovation. What have we learned in four years of research? Available online at http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/content/original/Book%20covers/Local%20PDFs/ 287%20TRANSIT%20brief%206%20final%20brief%20web.pdf, checked on 9/17/2019.
  6. European Commission (2014): Community-led Local Development. Cohesion Policy 2014-2020.
  7. Grassroots Innovation (2020): Grassroots Innovation - Researching Sustainability from the Bottom Up. About. Available online at https://grassrootsinnovations.org/about/, checked on 5/18/2020.
  8. Dawson, Jonathan (2010): Economics of Solidarity. Good Practice from within the Ecovillage Family. In Jonathan Dawson, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Ross Jackson (Eds.): Gaian Economics. Living Well within Planetary Limits. Hampshire: Permanent Publications (Four Keys Series, Economic Key), pp. 192–194.
  9. Esteves, Ana Margarida (2017): "Commoning" at the Borderland. Ecovillage Development, Socio-Economic Segregation and Institutional Mediation in Southwestern Alentejo, Portugal. In Journal of Political Ecology 24 (1), p. 968.
  10. Jackson, Hildur (2010): Designing Your Local Economy. In Jonathan Dawson, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Ross Jackson (Eds.): Gaian Economics. Living Well within Planetary Limits. Hampshire: Permanent Publications (Four Keys Series, Economic Key), pp. 130–135.
  11. Kunze, Iris (2019): Soziale Innovationen aus Gemeinschaftsinitiativen. Grundlagen für eine gemeinwohlorientierte Ökonomie. In Ines Peper, Iris Kunze, Elisabeth Mollenhauer-Klüber (Eds.): Jenseits von Wachstum und Nutzenmaximierung. Modelle für eine gemeinwohlorientierte Wirtschaft. Bielefeld: Aisthesis, pp. 149–172.
  12. Penha-Lopes, Gil; Henfrey, Thomas (2019): Reshaping the Future: How Local Communities are Catalysing Social, Economic and Ecological Transformation in Europe. The First Status Report on Community-led Action on Sustainability and Climate Change. ECOLISE. Brussels.