Community-led initiatives in Germany

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Transition in Germany

Main page: Transition in Germany

In May 2018, the German Transition Network website lists 150 initiatives.[1]

As of May 2018, 32 active local initiatives in Germany have voluntarily self-registered on the international initiatives page on the Transition Network website.[2]

Data collected annually from the German Transition Hub's website and reported in an academic study led by Giuseppe Feola at Reading University suggest the first local initiatives appeared in Germany in 2009, and indicate that numbers have increased steadily, but at a declining relative rate, in subsequent years:[3]

Numbers of Transition initiatives in Germany by year
Year Number of Initiatives % increase on previous year
2009 <10
2010 19
2011 31 63%
2012 57 61%
2013 87 53%
2014 107 23%

The data used by the Reading University team suggest that the geographical distribution of local initiatives in Germany is strongly clustered, with large numbers in and around Berlin and some other major cities and much sparser distribution across most of the rest of the country.[4]

The German Transition Network is actively organized in a coordination circle, working groups and through the in 2014 registered non-profit association ‘Verein Transition Netzwerk e.V’. It´s main aims are to increase the exchange between initiatives (website, newsletter, national network meetings), to link activities to the international Transition Network and to promote the Transition Movement. [5]

Permaculture in Germany

The in 1983 founded association Permakultur Institut lists 55 permaculture projects in Germany.[6]. The Permaculture Institute, an ECOLISE member, is organised sociocratically, aims to inform the public, offers trainings, cooperates with other organisations and public institutions and connects to european and international permaculture associations. Since 2003 the Permaculture Academy is part of the association, offering the Diploma of Applied Permaculture.[7]

Ecovillages in Germany

The 2014 Eurotopia Directory of Communities and Ecovillages in Europe lists 180 communities, ecovillages, settlements, cohousing projects in Germany. [8] The database of the Global Ecovillage Nework contains information on 45 ecovillages and projects[9] and Ecobasa refers to 30 communities in Germany.[10]

13 ecovillages are organized as official members of GEN-Germany.[11] The registered association ‘GEN Deutschland e.V’ works towards increased networking, changing the political framework and supporting existing and forming communities. Sociocratically organized, GEN Deutschland operates in 5 circles in line with the 4 dimensions of sustainability (ecology, economy, social, culture) and administration / communication.[12]

GEN-Germany is part of the Baltic Ecovillage Network (BEN), an association connecting projects around the Baltic Sea which is operated by a board of 11 board members from its different membership countries.

GEN-Germany is also a full member of GEN-Europe, the European branch of the Global Ecovillage Network.


The German Ecovillage Movement shows a long and rich history with established communities like Lebensgarten Steyerberg (founded 1984 with currently 120 adults and 40 children) [13], ZEGG (founded 1991 with currently 95 adults and 15 children) [14] or Sieben Linden (founded 1997 with currently 100 adults and 14 children) [15] and an alive network with new projects like Schloss Tempelhof (founded 2010 with currently 100 adults and 45 children) [16] or Nature Community (founded 2014 with currently 50 adults and 15 children). [17]

Community Energy in Germany

According to the German Federal Statistical Office, 33.1% of the gross electricity production in 2017 came from renewable energy sources, while 37% still came from coal and 11.6% from nuclear energy.[18] The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, states 36.2% coming from renewable energy sources in 2017 with the majority from wind energy.[19]

The German Energiewende (energy transition) “consists of ambitious targets for renewable energy, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reductions, together with support through Feed-in Tariffs (in place since 2000) and other policies, and a phase-out of nuclear power”.[20] It aims for 60 percent of the gross final consumption of energy and 80 percent of the gross electricity consumption to be from renewable energies in 2050.[21] The public support for the Energiewende is high[22] which is attributed to the high involvement of citizens as investors, providers, owners or otherwise active participators of the Energiewende[23] and “there is also strong policy and widespread public support for community ownership of renewable energy generation, with approximately half of the installed capacity under some form of community ownership as of 2012”.[20] According to Claudia Fruhmann and Nina Knittel, half of the renewable generation in Germany is community owned.[24]

In 2016 there were an estimated 1.747 community energy companies (42.8%) and energy cooperatives (54.6%) in Germany, dominated by wind (43.21%) and photovoltaic (42.61%) energy. The majority are located in Bavaria (21%), Schleswig-Holstein (18.5%), Lower Saxony (17.2%) and North Rhine-Westphalia (14.6%).[25] 850 energy cooperatives are organized within the co-operative federation for German Co-operatives and the Federal Office of Energy Cooperatives gives a voice to the energy cooperatives in the national political debate.[26]

According to the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the future lies in a decentralized supply structure: “ The nature of our energy supply system is changing from a system reliant on conventional, centralised large power stations, to a decentralised structure with numerous smaller power generation systems. As the transformation continues, regional and municipal distribution networks must change too. The trend is towards smart grids that connect producers, consumers, storage facilities, and network structures”.[27]

This shift towards decentralization was supported by the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) first introduced in 2000 in which “small investors were given an incentive through feed-in tariffs for new renewable power installations, guaranteed for 20 years”.[23] While a steady increase in community energy can be noticed since 1995, a significant increase can be seen between 2008 and 2014.[25] The reform of the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) in 2014 includes the transition to an auction system for most technologies and has lead to “considerable uncertainty” within the energy cooperatives.[28] As Lars Borchert puts it: “for the small-scale producers – private households, farmers and cooperatives – whose production has so far been seen as the backbone of German clean energy, the new regulations has lead to uncertainty over future investments”.[23] An article by Sören Amelang of Clean Energy Wire states that “the new rules give corporate projects an unfair advantage over cooperative ones” but sees “one possibility to secure a role for cooperatives in the future might be participation in large commercial projects”.[29]

Solidarity Economy in Germany

Main page: Solidarity economy in Germany

Community Food Production in Germany

Main page: Community Food Production in Germany

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in Germany

According to URGENCI, the International Network for Community Supported Agriculture, the first CSA initiatives in Germany where started in 1988 and estimates a total of 92 existing CSAs and 100 CSAs in formation providing for up to 25.000 eaters in 2015. The CSAs are organized in the in 2011 registered, national association Solidarische Landwirtschaft e.V.

There has been a remarkable and growing interest in CSA from consumers and producers, as well as from the media, science and politics. (...) In 2009, the first German CSA, Buschberghof, received a national award from the Ministry of Agriculture for the development and successful implementation of its economic system“.[30]

Initiatives & projects

  • Foodsharing is a German online exchange platform for preventing food waste in Germany, Austria and Switzerland with 200.000 registered members and 3000 participating companies.
  • "Food policy councils are starting to emerge in Germany. Volunteers in Berlin and Cologne are working hard to set them up in their regions, in order to establish networks of urban and rural areas, promote regionally grown and seasonal food and place food and agriculture on the political agenda. The Berlin food policy council is well connected through meetings and multi-stakeholder workshops with the various stakeholders of the process".[31]



According to a report on cooperatives published by the German Cooperative and Raiffeisen Confederation (DGRV), the cooperative idea dates back to 1847 and in 2014 “The cooperative organization is by far the largest business organization in Germany in terms of membership. Currently, 19.4 million individuals are members of a cooperative under the roof of the DGRV, not including the members of housing cooperatives which are not affiliated to the DGRV. Statistically this means that one in four citizens in Germany is a member of a cooperative”.[32]

Slow Food Germany

Founded in 1992, Slow Food Germany now has over 13,000 members organized more than 80 convivia, which host hundreds of events annually. Slow Food Youth Germany has about a dozen active local groups. (…) The annual Slow Food fair in Stuttgart draws thousands of visitors every spring”. [33]

MONNETA - Money Network Alliance

Monneta educates, supports and raises awareness for alternative monetary systems. [34] Regiogeld e.V. – German Regional Currencies Association lists 30 active regional currencies across Germany. [35] with the Chiemgauer in Southern Germany being the largest. [36]

In 2011, a national study found 73 local currency (Regiogeld) projects in Germany. [37]


Map of people, events, projects and groups as well as interactive forums around Degrowth [38]

Collaboration with Local Government

Position of German Advisory Council on Global Change on the role of transition towns and ecovillages

In 1992, the German federal government set up the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) as an independent, scientific advisory body.[39] WBGU acknowledges the role of ecovillages and transition towns as change agents and continuously advocates the support of projects and initiatives:

Structure-focused top-down strategies (such as regulations and incentives) should be deployed where the greatest possible effect on the reduction of resources and energy consumption can be expected (in north-western Europe this would be the areas of mobility or interior heating). To make use of existing potential to develop conscious, solidarity-based lifestyles, G20 countries should also support top-down approaches as well as bottom-up processes in ‘ecologically minded milieus’. Although their ecological footprint is still fairly large, these milieus often have the resources required to be effective through strategic consumption or targeted divestment. In this sense, G20 governments should support ‘pioneers of change’ (WBGU, 2011) and the socio-ecological innovation they are proposing and propagating (e.g. actors in the collaborative economy, eco-villages and transition towns; WBGU, 2014a).[40]
An ever-growing proportion of the world’s population is developing value systems which attach central importance to the protection of the natural environment. Change agents pioneering the transition to a low- carbon society are now embedded in all sectors of society. They are developing and testing practical options for a sustainable society and are thus helping to make new visions a reality. Initially operating as niche players, change agents can gradually increase their impact and in many countries, their positions even have secured majority support (Figure 2). Policy-makers should acknowledge this trend, and show much more courage when it comes to making decisions in favour of climate protection.[41]

Case Studies

  • Sieben Linden Ecovillage - analyzing regional effects of sustainable model settlements.[43]

Intersections and Interactions


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  31. 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.
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