Locally organized groups of people who develop alternative ways of being and acting appear referred in different ways, across scientific and other institutional contexts. Terms often used include: Community-Led Initiatives; Community-Based Initiatives and Community-Led Initiatives for Local Development.
According to EU project TRANSIT  local community initiatives are primarily approached as social innovations. Social innovation is defined in TRANSIT project as:
"(...)as a qualitative property of ideas, objects, activities, and different groupings of people. We define a social innovation initiative as a collective of people working on ideas, objects or activities that are socially innovative and a social innovation network as a network of such initiatives. Two other important concepts that we use are social innovation agent and social innovation field. We refer to social innovations agents as any collection of individuals, initiatives, or networks that engage in social innovation, and the social innovation field as the web of constantly changing agents and social and material relations through which a social innovation takes place." 
Social Innovations are seen as changes in social relations, involving ‘new ways of doing, organising, knowing and framing’  Taking the example of energy communities, for instance, where a group of individuals produce and consumes renewable energy locally, despite the obvious tecnhological and ecological factors involved in this process, these energy communities are socially innovative. They found a ‘new way of doing’, through which they established new practices (e.g. installation of solar panels for self-consumption or selling electricity) and gained new knowledge (e.g. about technologies, energy regulations), new interpretative frames (e.g. the new word – Prosumption), and found new ways of organizing, such as energy cooperatives (although cooperatives are not new, the energy cooperative model re-utilizes an existing model in a new social context).
Social innovations can be transformative when they ‘challenge, alter or replace the dominant ways of doing, thinking and organizating in society. These initiatives are therefore studied as social innovations, because they have an impact in the dominant ways of doing, thinking and organizing within one specific domain of action (e.g. energy) or multiple domains (e.g. ecoconstruction, permaculture, transport, as in the case of some ecovillages, for instance). TRANSIT also approaches addresses the ways in which local initiatives are often organized within transnational networks (e.g. Transition Towns).
Rather than studying local communities as an entry point to develop research on social innovation, EU project TESS  has been, to our knowledge, the only research project which sought to investigate the impact of local communities on climate change and sustainability action. TESS used a simple and working definition for these communities, which TESS called ‘Community-based initiatives’: these are initiatives which are “initiated and managed by civil society actors/individuals; may or may not have received public money; may be not-for-profit as well as for-profit, but their overall objectives should serve the community; and have been up and running for at least one year" 
Working definition for Community-Led Initiatives
Building on the TESS simple definition of local communities, this knowledge commons repository refers to community-led initiatives (rather than community-based), stressing the first part of the TESS definition, i.e. “an initiative managed by civil society actors/individuals”, and otherwise adopts the TESS working definition, adding that these community individuals share a ecological and sustainable principles.
- (TRANSIT Brief 3 2017:7)
- Avelino, F; Wittmayer, J. , Pel. B; Weaver, P.; Dumitru A.; Haxeltine, A.;…& O’Riordan (2017) Transformative social innovation and (dis)empowerment. Technological forecasting and social change. p.3https://doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2017.05.002.
- Defourny, J. and Nyssens, M., 2010. Conceptions of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship in Europe and the United States: Convergences and divergences. Journal of social entrepreneurship, 1(1), pp.32-53.; Haxeltine, A.; Avelino, F., Pel, B., Dumitru, A.; Kemp, R.; Longhurst, N. Chilvers, J. & Wittmayer, J. M. (2016) A framework for Transformative Social Innovation, Working Paper # 5, TRANSIT: EU SSH.2013.3.2-1 Grant agreement no: 613169.
- TESS. (2017). TESS Final publishable summary report. Obtido 20 de Maio de 2017, de http://www.tess-transition.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/TESS-Final_report_2017.pdf; p.6