Unleashing or domesticating the vitality of citizens' initiatives? The paradoxical relationship between governments and citizens' initiatives in the energy transition

Vivian Visser*, Jitske van Popering-Verkerk, Ellen Minkman, Arwin van Buuren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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In their quest to create vital cities, West European city governments stimulate citizens to self-organize in citizens' initiatives. This trend it accompanied by conflicting scientific and governmental discourses: on the one hand, citizens' initiatives are praised for giving ‘power to the people’, on the other hand, citizens' initiatives are understood as mere ‘tools’ to roll-out government policies. By adopting a critical-constructive perspective, this study sets out to better understand the paradoxical attitudes of local governments toward the potential of CIs for stimulating urban vitality. We do so by uncovering patterns that explain the opening and closing of spaces for citizens to develop their initiatives. To this end, we conducted an in-depth case study into the relation between the local government and citizens initiatives in the energy transition in Rotterdam (the Netherlands). Our findings reveal that a configuration of different explanatory mechanisms leads to the ‘domestication’ of initiatives, which jeopardizes their unique transformative potential that can contribute to the vitality of cities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104300
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project https://www.openaccess.nl/en/you-share-we-take-care Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Citizens' initiatives
  • Community initiatives
  • Energy transition
  • Governmentality
  • Invited space
  • Self-organization

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