The 'Ecosystem' of Community Action

The Transition Animal is a thinking tool developed by the Transition Network to help groups reflect upon their function. In this session, I wish to push the metaphor a bit further.

I will present a ‘taxonomy of species’ of grassroots initiatives, trying to capture the breadth of the different structures, sizes, growth patterns and modes of functioning of community action groups. I will also explore the ‘ecology’ of grassroots action: how community initiatives respond to the constraints & opportunities of their particular ‘niche’. I will finally argue that community-led action could be a ‘keystone species’ for transition to the future we want.

I will be drawing on findings from TESS (Transitions to European Societal Sustainability), an EU-funded research project examining community-based initiatives throughout Scotland, Finland, Romania, Italy, Spain and Germany. The project aims to evaluate initiatives’ impact, particularly on greenhouse gas emissions, and understand how they grow and become successful.

The session is designed to let permaculture activists reflect on and discuss the place they occupy in the ecosystem of community action. Hopefully, the framework may also interest scholars in the field of transition as a useful thinking tool. Finally, I am looking for comments and suggestions to improve the framework as we develop it into a training programme in the final year of the TESS project.


Permaculturist. Academic. Musician. Dreamer. Gardener. Dancer.

I am a young researcher at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeenshire. I enjoy research that engages in a reflexive dialogue with society on the practical and conceptual challenges of (un)sustainability.

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