University of Sussex

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Politics of grassroots innovations

posted on 2023-06-09, 01:20 authored by Mari MartiskainenMari Martiskainen, Eva Heiskanen
Grassroots innovations have been conceptualised as civil society led networks and initiatives that aim to address the sustainability of food, energy and transport. Initiatives such as community energy projects, community gardens, food networks and car sharing clubs for example provide thriving spaces for sustainable consumption, and innovations which combine technological and social innovations. These initiatives are often driven by social good, rather than by pure monetary motives. Much of previous research in grassroots innovations has focused largely on conceptualizing such initiatives, and analysing their development as well as potential for replication and diffusion; there has been less research in the politics involved in these initiatives. This article examines grassroots innovations as forms of political engagement that have their historical footing in 1970s social movements and the desire to provide for example alternative energy options. By using an example of UK community energy initiatives addressing fuel poverty, the paper argues that while present-day grassroots innovations appear less explicitly political than their predecessors, they do represent a form of political participation. We argue that grassroots innovations such as community energy initiatives have political dimensions that go beyond their immediate communities, and that these projects, whether deliberately or unknowingly, create forms of political engagement.


Research Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand; G1020; RCUK-RESEARCH COUNCILS UK; EP/K011790/1


Publication status

  • Published

File Version

  • Accepted version

Presentation Type

  • paper

Event name

Second International Conference of the Sustainable Consumption Research and Action Initiative (SCORAI). “Transitions Beyond a Consumer Society”

Event location

University of Maine, US

Event type


Event date

15–17 June, 2016

Department affiliated with

  • SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit Publications

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