Grassroots innovations can have unforeseen but important political dimensions that go beyond their immediate communities said Dr Mari Martiskainen from the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand when she presented a paper at the second international Sustainable Consumption Research and Action Initiative (SCORAI) conference, “Transitions beyond a consumer society”, on 15 June 2016 in Maine, USA.
The conference paper, titled “The politics of grassroots innovations“, takes the view that grassroots innovation and community action such as civil society-led networks and initiatives that aim to address the sustainability of food, energy and transport, can have political dimensions that go beyond their immediate communities. Grassroots innovations, such as community energy projects, community gardens, food networks and car sharing clubs are often driven by social good, rather than by pure monetary motives, and they provide active spaces for both innovation and sustainable consumption.
By using an example of UK community energy initiatives addressing fuel poverty, the conference paper argues that while present-day grassroots innovations can appear less explicitly political than their 1970s predecessors, for example, they do represent a form of political participation. Today’s community initiatives for instance make more use of commercially available components rather than DIY equipment, and often rely on government funding. Furthermore, instead of being counter cultural, such initiatives are often distinctively practical and geared towards local community concerns.
Martiskainen has co-authored the conference paper together with Dr Eva Heiskanen, Research Director at the Consumer Society Research Centre, University of Helsinki, Finland.