Governing Grassroots Innovations: Exploring the Dynamic Interplay between Ecovillages and Governmental Actors at the Local Level
There is a growing understanding that grassroots innovations (GIs) play a crucial role in driving sustainability transitions, offering promising solutions to address pressing environmental and social challenges. They serve as hotspots for the (further) development and dissemination of sustainable innovations, contributing significantly to local and regional sustainability efforts. One exemplary manifestation of GIs is the ecovillage. Ecovillages, to various extents, deliberately adopt alternative lifestyles and distance themselves from mainstream society. Despite their efforts towards self-organization, ecovillages often remain influenced by mainstream societal structures, particularly through governance and policies, which can either support or hinder their sustainable initiatives.
The main focus of this Ph.D. project is to explore the interactions between ecovillages and governmental actors. On the one hand, the study seeks to understand how the dynamics of governance and policy frameworks influence the diffusion activities of ecovillages. On the other hand, it investigates how ecovillages’ sustainable innovations translate into actionable policies.
To address these research questions in 36 countries, the study adopts a mixed-methods approach including interviews, a survey, and ethnographic observations.
Despite the recognition of GIs' significance in sustainability transitions, the specific interactions between ecovillages and governmental actors have not received adequate academic attention. This research aims to bridge this gap in the current understanding of the relationship between grassroots innovations and policy frameworks. The study's position at the nexus of sociological sustainability research and policy studies further enriches its potential contributions to the field.
This thesis is part of the research project EVIST – “Ecovillages as incubators for sustainability transitions: What boundary-bridging arrangements facilitate the diffusion of innovations in different settings?”, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Jens Köhrsen
Co-Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Manfred Max Bergman
Lasse Kos is a PhD Candidate in sociology at the University of Basel. His PhD project is part of the research project Ecovillages as Incubators of Sustainability Transitions (EVIST). He started his academic journey with a study in cultural anthropology & development sociology at the University of Amsterdam. Subsequently, he completed an interdisciplinary social science master in Global Studies at the University of Wroclaw and the University of Leipzig. His research interests center around the topic of the multiscale governance of sustainability transitions. Within the wider scope of the EVIST research project, he is particularly interested in the mutual influencing relationships between the diffusion of grassroots initiatives’ sustainable innovations and the different governance frameworks that are in place.
Centre for Religion, Economy and Politics (ZRWP)
University of Basel