Grassroots Innovations

Sign on a door that says workshop.

Grassroots Innovations is a growing collection of projects analysing grassroots innovations for sustainable development. Whilst everybody, it seems, is committed to sustainable development, not everybody is practising or seeking sustainable development in the same way. There is something qualitatively different between, say, a community supported organic vegetable box scheme and the range of organic products sold at a supermarket. Or a locally controlled renewable energy scheme compared to an offshore wind farm operated by a multinational utility company. In each case, the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development are traded-off differently. They are practising quite different kinds of sustainable development.

Our projects understand ‘grassroots innovations’ as initiatives whose networks of activists and community organisations are innovating bottom-up solutions for sustainable development; solutions that respond to the local situation and the interests and values of the communities involved. In contrast to conventional, incremental green reforms, grassroots initiatives seek to practice deeper, alternative forms of sustainable development.

Our research explores the ways in which grassroots initiatives seek to practice sustainability. It assesses the potential relevance of grassroots innovations as a source of mainstream innovation for sustainable development. Our work addresses:

  • The way grassroots initiatives provide different interpretations of sustainable development in practice.
  • Benefits that these practical interpretations of sustainability might provide compared to mainstream government and business reforms.
  • The degree to which grassroots initiatives can actually provide a source of ideas for mainstream innovations. In other words, the scope of interaction between grassroots niches and mainstream reforms.

See also our related project on Grassroots innovations: historical and comparative perspectives.

STEPS member working on the project: Adrian Smith

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