A community-led transition in Europe

Across Europe, and globally, a growing number of communities are devising and implementing their own local solutions to climate change and other global challenges. These community-led initiatives are emerging in urban and rural areas, driven by a common desire among citizens to contribute to a transition in society – away from the high consumption, high polluting world of consumerism and fossil-fuels, to one that supports a more harmonious relationship between people and the planet.

Increasingly, there is a recognition that as consumers of goods and services, and as stakeholders in democratic processes, our choices and actions have a direct impact in terms of shaping the society we live in. This impact is most evident at local level, in our own communities, where the influence of individuals and small groups is proportionately higher. In a neighbourhood of a few hundred people, a relatively small group of active and committed individuals can be the catalyst for real, transformational change. Replicated in communities across Europe and across the globe, the impact could be very powerful.

This process already is underway. Studies suggest that in Europe alone, several thousand communities are currently engaged in actions with a direct focus on climate change and sustainability. Many of these communities are part of international movements, such as Transition, Ecovillages or Permaculture, and are, therefore, connected to a growing web of initiatives that is strengthening and building momentum. Others are stand alone or affiliated to regional or national networks.

In all cases, however, the emphasis is on practical actions, developed and implemented by local communities. The range of activities is extensive and varied, encompassing local food production and distribution, renewable energy and energy efficiency, sustainable mobility, sustainable construction, nature protection and more. Many initiatives are involve in testing new ideas, technologies and approaches in order to find the most sustainable and cost-effective solutions. In this way, they act as important local laboratories, piloting and demonstrating new pathways for sustainable living.

Collectively, these local, and mostly small-scale projects are having an increasingly important impact, and not just in terms of the environment, but also in terms of their social, cultural and economic benefits. By bringing together local people to work on local projects, these initiatives are also helping to strengthen community ties, build social capital, and create important local employment and enterprise opportunities.

ECOLISE acts as an umbrella network, which encompasses all of the above-mentioned movements and networks, as well as other organisations that promote and support a community-led societal transformation. The aim is to facilitate the continued expansion or scaling-up of community-led action, by promoting awareness of existing initiatives, facilitating the sharing of knowledge and information, and by highlighting and seeking solutions to identified barriers.