Success and failure of grassroots innovations for addressing climate change: the case of the Transition Movement
Feola, G. and Nunes, R. (2014) Success and failure of grassroots innovations for addressing climate change: the case of the Transition Movement. Global Environmental Change, 24. pp. 232-250. ISSN 0959-3780
To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2013.11.011
Grassroots innovations emerge as networks generating innovative solutions for climate change adaptation and mitigation. However, it is unclear if grassroots innovations can be successful in responding to climate change. Little evidence exists on replication, international comparisons are rare, and research tends to overlook discontinued responses in favour of successful ones. We take the Transition Movement as a case study of a rapidly spreading transnational grassroots network, and include both active and non-active local transition initiatives. We investigate the replication of grassroots innovations in different contexts with the aim to uncover general patterns of success and failure, and identify questions for future research. An online survey was carried out in 23 countries (N=276). The data analysis entailed testing the effect of internal and contextual factors of success as drawn from the existing literature, and the identification of clusters of transition initiatives with similar internal and contextual factor configurations. Most transition initiatives consider themselves successful. Success is defined along the lines of social connectivity and empowerment, and external environmental impact. We find that less successful transition initiatives might underestimate the importance of contextual factors and material resources in influencing success. We also find that their diffusion is linked to the combination of local-global learning processes, and that there is an incubation period during which a transition initiative is consolidated. Transition initiatives seem capable of generalising organisational principles derived from unique local experiences that seem to be effective in other local contexts. However, the geographical locations matter with regard to where transition initiatives take root and the extent of their success, and ‘place attachment’ may have a role in the diffusion of successful initatives. We suggest that longitudinal comparative studies can advance our understanding in this regard, as well as inform the changing nature of the definition of success at different stages of grassroots innovation development, and the dynamic nature of local and global linkages.