Community-led initiatives’ everyday politics for sustainability – Conflicting rationalities and aspirations for change?

Anke Fischer, Kirsty Lee Holstead, Cary Hendrickson, Outi Virkkula, Alessandra Prampolini

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    18 Citations (Scopus)


    Community-based initiatives are widely seen to play an essential role in a societal move towards a low carbon, sustainable future. As part of this, there is often an assumption that such initiatives share expectations (i.e. a guiding vision) of large-scale change and that their activities contribute to this change. Here, we ask to what extent this assumption reflects members’ own perspectives on and interpretations of the aims and ambitions of their community initiative, and what this implies for a larger vision of sustainability transitions. In doing so, we respond to calls for a better understanding of the ‘everyday politics’ of what could be seen as processes of societal transitions in practice. We conducted qualitative interviews with members of five community initiatives in Italy, Finland and the UK. In each of these initiatives, we found a range of aspirations (i.e. outcome-related aims) and rationalities (i.e. procedural guiding principles). While some of these aims and ways of working were compatible with each other, we identified three major tensions that could be found across our study initiatives. These tensions centred on (i) the degree of politicisation of the initiative, (ii) the extent to which financial aims should take priority and (iii) questions of organisational form. We interpret these tensions as conflicting expressions of larger, societal-level discourses, and argue that this diversity and resulting conflicts need to be acknowledged – both in transition research and at the practical level – to avoid co-optation and disenfranchisement.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1986-2006
    JournalEnvironment and Planning A
    Issue number9
    Early online date8 Jun 2017
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


    • Discourses
    • Expectations
    • Grassroots
    • Low carbon
    • Transitions


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