Community-led initiatives in Europe

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Revision as of 14:25, 2 October 2018 by Tom Henfrey (talk | contribs) (Community Food Production in Europe: tidied, removed section on Greece to Greek Solidarity movement page)

A wide diversity and growing number of community-led initiatives (CLIs) can be found all across Europe, with documented histories in some cases of over 50 years. Initiatives associated with the Transition, Permaculture and Ecovillage movements, along with Community energy, Solidarity economy and various forms of community food initiative are found across the whole of Europe, though distribution of particular networks can be clustered and/or patchy. Despite significant recent research effort, the full numbers, nature, scope and impacts of CLIs in Europe are not yet documented or established.

Diversity and structure of CLI in Europe

2018 we mapped more than 1000 initiatives from the from all corners of Europe, although a bit more absent in Eastern Europe. The members of ICLEI, Solidarity Economy, Community Energy Projects and Community Food production groups add more thousands initiatives to this old continent.

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 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 acceleration 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 and a first CSA-like initiative in Switzerland that started as early as 1978.

An assessment of number of CLIs in Europe is difficult and depends strongly on the sources we use. Not only each network might register and map a very different number of initiatives on their national and global maps, but also different mapping exercises come out with different numbers per network and country. However, based on the ECOLISE map for Transition movement, Ecovillages and Permaculture movement 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.

TESS project realised that most of CLI projects are either acting at the NUT3 spacial scale (city/municipality level) or SubNUTS3 (village, neighbourhood), with an almost equal share [1]


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

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

Ecovillages in Europe

GEN today lists more than 1000 local ecovillage projects and networks worldwide , among them approximately 130 in Europe [7], a number slightly lower than the number mentioned by GEN Europe, that includes 41 projects (aspiring to become ecovillages) and 50 Ecovillages [8], but much lower than the 430 community projects identified in 2014 by The independent Eurotopia-Directory [9]. ECOLISE maps currently 57 ecovillages [10]. Within Europe there are several regional networks, such as the Baltic Ecovillage Network (BEN) and the RIE, the Red Ibérica de Ecoaldeas which includes projects in Spain and Portugal. National networks are very widespread in Europe as shown by the SUSTAINABLE LIVING COMMUNITIES OF FINLAND, the National Network GEN Hungary [11] and RIVE, the Italian national network. Outside Europe, GEN is strong in Africa, Latin America and Asia [7].

While Findhorn intentional community, founded in 1962 and harbouring nearly 500 people, 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].

Transition in Europe

Globally there are 934 local initiatives and 26 national or regional Hubs registered within Transition Network [13]. In Europe we can find nearly 630 initiatives [14] and 18 Hubs [13]. While Transition hubs tend to form at various levels of scale to catalyse and support Transition, local initiatives are groups of local people who come together to design and implement collective sustainable to regenerative solutions in their area.

The first and oldest is Transition Town Totnes which was launched in 2006 and is home to Transition Network that coordinates and supports the Transition movement since 2007. Transition was quickly adopted in communities across Britain before spreading to other countries in the world.

The Hubs are usually national networks as shown by Transition Italia (Italy), România În Tranziţie (Romania) and Red de Transición (RedT) (Spain). However, hubs can be informal and support territorial units crossing existing national/political borders, such as TINI, the national umbrella organisation for Transition Ireland & Northern Ireland, which is currently operation as an is an informal network with a Facebook page[15]. Also, some national hubs can by supported by existing organisations such as the Luxembourg case, which is supported by CELL, the Centre for Ecological Learning Luxembourg.

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[16] 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.[17] 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.[18]

Regional and national networks: Finnish Permaculture Association The Permaculture Association According to its website,[19] 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.[20]

Permaculture is well grounded in Portugal, being one of the countries with more projects per capita and land area according to Worldwide Permaculture Network [21]. In Portugal, the national Rede Convergir map lists 46 registered permaculture projects in late May 2018 [22]

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.[23].

The Latvian Permaculture Association (LPA) is representing the transition movement in Latvia as a national hub of the Transition Network.[24] Permacultura-Romania Institute for Research on Permaculture in Romania (ICPR)

Solidarity Economy Projects in Europe

Solidarity Economy initiatives count to more than two million worldwide and growing fast during the last decade [25]. 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. [26]

Commmunity Energy Projects in Europe

More than 250 energy cooperatives in Europe [27].

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".[28]

Community Food Production in Europe

Within Community Food Production we are considering Community Supported Agriculture projects, Self-Sufficiency projects as well as Community gardens. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is defined by the European CSA Research Group in 2015 as “a direct partnership between a group of consumers and producer(s) whereby the risks, responsibilities and rewards of farming activities are shared through long-term agreements."

According to URGENCI, the International Network for Community Supported Agriculture, the first CSA-like initiatives in Switzerland were founded in 1978 (Les Jardins de Cocagne) and 1982 (La Clé des Champs), but the majority of todays CSA initiatives dates from 2007 or later. URGENCI's 2015 report on community-supported-agriculture in Europe documented CSA activity in 21 European countries and recorded 2,783 initiatives producing food for almost half a million people. When CSA-like initiatives like the French Jardins de Cocagne and all Italian GAS are also taken in account, these number rise to approximately 6,300 initiatives and one million consumers.[29] The same study found that these initiatives range from „fully democratic associations of farmers and consumers, through cooperatives of self employed farmers with volunteers, to more conventional firms supported by subscribers.[29]


  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 21st 2018
  5. accessed on June 21st 2018
  6., accessed on June 21st 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.
  8., accessed on June 21st 2018
  9. Wurfel, M. (Ed.), 2014. Eurotopia: living in community : directory of communities and ecovillages in Europe. Würfel, Sieben Linden
  10., accessed on June 21st 2018
  11. Accessed on May 24th 2018
  12. Accessed on May 28th 2018
  13. 13.0 13.1, accessed in June 21st 2018
  14., accessed in June 21st 2018
  15. Accessed on June 11th 2018
  16. Accessed on June 4th 2018
  17. Accessed May 28th 2018.
  18. Andy Goldring, personal communication, May 2nd 2018.
  19. Accessed June 4th 2018
  20. Accessed on June 15th 2018
  21., accessed on Jun 2015 (before changing project eligibility
  22. Rede Convergir. Accessed May 28th 2018.
  23. Accessed on June 18th 2018
  24. Accessed on June 11th 2018
  25. Troisi, R., di Sisto, M. & Castagnola, A. "Social & Solidarity Economy as Development Approach for Sustainability (SSEDAS) - Final Report. (2015)
  26. 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.
  28. "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"
  29. 29.0 29.1 Volz, P., Weckenbrock, P., Cressot, N. & Parot, J., 2016. Overview of Community Supported Agriculture in Europe