Local sustainability initiatives: innovation and civic engagement in societal experiments

Udo Pesch, Wouter Spekkink, Jaco Quist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
145 Downloads (Pure)


Local sustainability initiatives are studied from two scholarly perspectives: the perspective of sociotechnical innovation, which relates to the capacity of bottom-up initiatives to contribute to the development of sociotechnical alternatives; and the perspective of civic engagement which relates to the capacity of citizens to organize themselves in order to pursue community goals. This paper argues that taking both these perspectives into account overcomes the problem of being too instrumental or the problem of neglecting the role of technology and innovation in local initiatives. The perspective of sociotechnical innovation presents different types of innovation pursued by local initiatives: the creation of new technology, the application of existing technology and the development of social innovation. Furthermore, innovations might diffuse over wider society by: replication, scaling up, and translation. In turn, civic engagement may take the shape of: the strengthening of social capital, the formation of social movements, and the substitution of functions and services. The insights from literature are illustrated and qualified by applying them in the context of concrete local initiatives. Finally, local initiatives will be portrayed as social contexts that are successful in gathering actors with different motivations and world views and that may contribute to the democratization of innovation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Planning Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • civic engagement
  • local sustainability initiatives
  • societal experiments
  • sustainability transitions
  • Sustainable innovation

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