Community-led initiatives in Europe

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Diversity in Europe, their age, geographical distribution and numbers

Diversity and structure of CLI in Europe

According to TESS, CLIs in Europe tend to be created with the goal to develop sustainability on the environmental and social dimensions, and with more than 90% of its members considering that the most relevant CLI goals for them are: "to provide opportunities for social interaction", "using natural resources more efficiently", "combating climate change by reduce GHG" and "to promote more sustainable behaviour, life styles and social practices" [1]. Although CLIs tend to be connected with a specific CLI network, and that initially the different networks were known to operate in few societal domains (such as Permaculture on Agriculture, Transition on Energy, Ecovillages on Community health) it is very common that, in these days, a single initiative does operate in different dimensions simultaneously, with nearly 50% of the studies initiatives in TESS being active and developing activities in the food domain, 38% on waste domain, 28% on the transport domain and 27% on energy domain [1]. This also promotes the translocal social networking that researcher Flor Avelino appeals to be powered and nurtured. [2]

At the moment (2018) we find in Europe initiatives representative of the Transition movement, Ecovillages, Permaculture movement, Community energy, Solidarity economy, Degrowth, as well as from others such as the Colibris, Community supported agriculture, Slow food and Commons. Regarding their legal status,, most of the 62 CLI studied within TESS[1] were cooperatives evenly distributed among countries. Nearly a quarter has no legal form and most considering and presenting it as an identifying characteristic of their organisation. Although there are cases of a more structured decision making process (general assemblies, committees, etc...), in most of the cases decisions are based on full participation and consensus.

At this moment, the Community-led initiatives by country pages are being developed and populated. The ones on Britain, Germany and Portugal are the ones that benefited from more dedicated literature review and content creation from the pioneer authors of this wiki. We hope that change soon.

Age and Geographical distribution of CLI in Europe

Taking TESS project sampling as potential representative of CLIs in Europe, most CLI were created around 2010, in the early times of the financial crisis, with nearly a quarter of the studied initiatives having more than 14 years of existence and another quarter being created between 2012 and 2016, showing an increase of initiatives being created [1]. Some of the oldest initiatives we know of are the Findhorn intentional community, ecovillage in the UK that was founded in 1962 and the Les Jardins de Cocagne, a first CSA-like initiative in Switzerland that started as early as 1978.

The number of CLIs in Europe depend strongly on the source we investigate. Not only each network might have very different number of initiatives on their national and global map, but also different mapping exercises come out with different numbers per network and country. However, based on the ECOLISE map for TN, GEN-EU and Permaculture we already reach 1000 initiatives in Europe [3]. Adding the 250 Community Energy initiatives [4], two million Solidarity Economy organisations [5] and nearly 2800 Community Supported Agriculture alike initiatives, we can start understanding the dimension of these movements in Europe.

  • scale of action
    • Most of CLI in Europe are anchoring at spatial scale of NUTS3 (city/municipality level) or SubNUTS3 (village, neighbourhood) [1]
  • Distribution per countries?


Table X - Number of CLI at ECOLISE website (including only initiatives from the Transition, Permaculture and Ecovillage movement) [6],

Note: In some European countries (such as Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina) there is currently an absence of CLI in the terms we know it (definition, concepts). However, this gap needs further inquiry and ECOLISE is actively searching to understand and connect with partners, institutions and people that are able to link with ECOLISE so we can share and learn together the knowledge and experience between these countries and the ones we are currently connected.

Ecovillages in Europe

GEN today lists more than 1000 local ecovillage projects and networks worldwide , among them approximately 130 in Europe. [7]

Within the GEN Europe there are 41 projects (aspiring to become ecovillages), and 50 Ecovillages (to confirm with GEN-EU) [8] The independent Eurotopia-Directory on communities in Europe 2014 lists 430 different kinds of community projects including a hard to define number of ecovillages in Europe. [9]

Within Europe, there are several regional and national networks: Baltic, etc... Baltic Ecovillage Network (BEN) RIE, the Red Ibérica de Ecoaldeas which includes projects in Spain and Portugal. The ecovillages in Finland are organized in the National Network GEN Finland SKEY - SUSTAINABLE LIVING COMMUNITIES OF FINLAND. The ecovillages in Hungary are organized in the National Network GEN Hungary.[10] RIVE, the national network Rete Italiana Villaggi Ecologic

Outside Europe, GEN is strong in the Global South: in Africa, Latin America and Asia. The Senegalese government even set up a ministry for ecovillages fostering the evolution of traditional villages into ecovillages. [7]

At ECOLISE map only 57 [11]

The Findhorn intentional community, founded in 1962 comprises an experiment in conscious living for 500 people guided by its core values of the Common Ground Agreement, the spiritual and education centre Findhorn Foundation and an ecovillage.

Sólheimar is one of the oldest communities in Europe. Founded in 1930 it is today a village with 100 inhabitants focusing on social, artistic and ecological aspects of sustainability.[12]

Ecodorpen Netwerk Nederland The ecovillages in Norway are organized in Norske Økosamfunn Forening (NOF)

Transition in Europe

Globally 934 initiatives and 26 Hubs [13] Europe: More than 630 initiatives [14] 18 Hubs [13]

Transition hubs form at various levels of scale to catalyse and support Transition. Initiatives are groups of local people who come together to change their area.

Transition Town Totnes in Southwest England was the world's first local Transition initiative, launched in 2006. Totnes is also home to Transition Network, coordination and support organisation for the Transition movement since 2007, and the two organisations share an office in the town. Spreading initially by word-of-mouth through permaculture and other sustainability networks, Transition was quickly adopted in communities across Britain before spreading to other countries in the world. TINI, the national umbrella organisation for Transition Ireland & Northern Ireland, is currently operation as an is an informal network with a Facebook page[15] and plans to re-develop the website and organisation structure.[16] Transition Italia The national Transition Movement in Luxembourg is supported by CELL, the Centre for Ecological Learning Luxembourg, While there are 4 initiatives listed on the international Transition Network[17] the Dutch Transition Town network lists 41 self-registered projects in different phases of development including 2 official Transition Towns (Groningen and Denveter).[18] A national hub România În Tranziţie The national hub Red de Transición (RedT)

Permaculture in Europe

The Permaculture Association was set up as a charitable unincorporated association in 1983 and in 2006 registered as a charity in England[19] The LAND Network of permaculture learning and demonstration sites run by the Permaculture Assocation (Britain) includes 115 registered projects in England and around thirty others in Scotland and Wales.[20] According to Andy Goldring, chair of the association, this comprises only a small fraction of the projects that actually exist, with substantial numbers of unregistered projects in cities such as Leeds (ten or more) and Bristol (fifty or more); the actual number of community-level permaculture projects in Britain is probably around 500-800.[21]

Regional and national networks: Finnish Permaculture Association The Permaculture Association According to its website,[22] the charity´s mission is to: "Empower people to design thriving communities across Britain, and contribute to permaculture worldwide"

The Norwegian Permaculture Association, founded in 1987, lists 2 LAND centres, 2 LAND learners and 5 local networks.[23]

Permaculture is well grounded in Portugal, being one of the countries with more projects per capita and land area according to Worldwide Permaculture Network [24]. In Portugal, the national Rede Convergir map lists 46 registered permaculture projects in late May 2018 [25]

Permakultur Danmark lists more than 250 registered permaculture projects In Denmark with the highest concentration in urban areas, there are 10 local networks established or in development and 14 LAND centres and starters.[26].

The Latvian Permaculture Association (LPA) is representing the transition movement in Latvia as a national hub of the Transition Network.[27] Permacultura-Romania Institute for Research on Permaculture in Romania (ICPR)

Solidarity Economy Projects in Europe

Solidarity Economy, whose number of initiatives count to more than two million and growing fast during the last decade [28].

The SUSY report of 2015 on Social and Solidarity Economy indicates that while solidarity economy gained ground tremendously after the crisis of 2008, it is still a very young sector with most of the projects founded after 2012. [29]

Commmunity Energy Projects in Europe

More than 250 energy cooperatives in Europe [30].

Community Energy England (CEE),

"Middlegrunden Wind Farm is a very large-scale offshore project in Copenhagen harbour, half-owned by the municipality and half by a local co-operative with over 10,000 members. The project received widespread support at the planning stage in the 1990s. It was greatly helped by Denmark’s institutional support for both renewable energy and community scale projects, as well as the lead role played by local government".[31]

Community Food Production in Europe

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in Europe Community Supported Agriculture initiatives in Europe are already approximately 6.300 [32]

According to URGENCI, the International Network for Community Supported Agriculture, the first CSA-like initiative in Switzerland were started as early as 1978 (Les Jardins de Cocagne) and 1982 (La Clé des Champs) but the majority of todays CSA groups were founded after 2007.

While the first CSA-like initiatives in Britain were started as early as 1994 (Earthshare in Scotland) and 1995 (Tablehurst Farm in England), the movement is still less known than other local food schemes such as farmers markets and operates in a situation where the overall food retail market is dominated by large supermarkets (in England 70%).

According to URGENCI, the International Network for Community Supported Agriculture, the first CSA in the Netherlands were established in 1994 with the movement increasing in recent years and changing from farmer based projects aiming for solidarity to more and more initiatives by city people looking for more sustainability and transparency in food production. The URGENCI report "Overview of Community Supported Agriculture in Europe" names 47 known initiatives in 2015, ranging from „ fully-democratic associations of farmers and eaters, through cooperatives of self employed farmers with volunteers, to regular firms with subscribers“.[33]

According to URGENCI, the International Network for Community Supported Agriculture, Austria has the highest share of organically cultivated area worldwide.

According to URGENCI, the International Network for Community Supported Agriculture, the first CSA initiatives in Greece was started in 1995 and then more after 2010 in response to the crisis. The URGENCI report "Overview of Community Supported Agriculture in Europe" names 7 known initiatives providing for up to 2.400 people in 2015. The legal status of CSA in Greece is unclear which leads to a relatively slow development of CSA initiatives, even though there is a “surge of citizens’ groups trying to tackle food in different ways, (... like) box-schemes, collective-buying groups, no-intermediaries markets, social solidarity grocery stores, non-profit supermarkets (...)“.[34]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Celata, F., Hendrickson, C., 2016. Case study integration report (TESS Project Deliverable No. 4.1)
  3. ECOLISE map, accessed on June 2018
  4., accessed on June 2018
  5. accessed on June 2018
  7. 7.0 7.1 Kunze, I., Avelino, F., 2015. Social Innovation and the Global Ecovillage Network. Research Report, TRANSIT: EU SSH.2013.3.2-1 Grant agreement no: 613169.
  9. Wurfel, M. (Ed.), 2014. Eurotopia: living in community : directory of communities and ecovillages in Europe. Würfel, Sieben Linden.
  10. Accessed on May 24th 2018
  12. Accessed on May 28th 2018
  13. 13.0 13.1
  15. Accessed on June 11th 2018
  16. Accessed on June 11th 2018
  17. Accessed on June 10th 2018
  18. Accessed on June 11th 2018
  19. Accessed on June 4th 2018
  20. Accessed May 28th 2018.
  21. Andy Goldring, personal communication, May 2nd 2018.
  22. Accessed June 4th 2018
  23. Accessed on June 15th 2018
  24., accessed on Jun 2015 (before changing project eligibility
  25. Rede Convergir. Accessed May 28th 2018.
  26. Accessed on June 18th 2018
  27. Accessed on June 11th 2018
  28. Troisi, R., di Sisto, M. & Castagnola, A. "Social & Solidarity Economy as Development Approach for Sustainability (SSEDAS) - Final Report. (2015)
  29. Troisi, R., di Sisto, M., Castagnola, A., 2018. Transformative economy: Challenges and limits of the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) in 55 territories in Europe and in the World. Sustainable and Solidarity Economy, Firenze.
  31. "Dr N. Simcock, R. Willis and P. Capener in association with Lancaster Environment Centre – Lancaster University. THE BRITISH ACADEMY 2016. Cultures of Community Energy International case studies"
  32. Volz, P., Weckenbrock, P., Cressot, N. & Parot, J. European CSA Research Group (2016): Overview of Community Supported Agriculture in Europe. (2016)
  33. Volz, P., Weckenbrock, P., Cressot, N. & Parot, J. European CSA Research Group (2016): Overview of Community Supported Agriculture in Europe. Accessed on June 7th 2018
  34. Volz, P., Weckenbrock, P., Cressot, N. & Parot, J. European CSA Research Group (2016): Overview of Community Supported Agriculture in Europe. Accessed on June 7th 2018