3 years ago

Lost in Mainstreaming? Agrifood and Urban Mobility Grassroots Innovations with Multiple Pathways and Outcomes

Gerardo Marletto, Cécile Sillig

Publication date: April 2019

Source: Ecological Economics, Volume 158

Author(s): Gerardo Marletto, Cécile Sillig


Grassroots innovations provide a significant contribution to sustainability transitions. They differ from other innovations as they originate in civil society and are mostly inspired by ideological values. In the literature on grassroots innovation there is no systematic analysis of most prominent processes at supra-local and global scale, including mainstreaming. Mainstreaming is often characterized by ideological conflicts between actors that bring along different interpretations and divergent practices of the same grassroots innovation.

Longitudinal global scale case studies of six agrifood and urban mobility grassroots innovations are provided in order to answer to two research questions that are not considered by the literature: 1) What factors underlie the generation of multiple grassroots innovation pathways? 2) What is the relationship between the dynamics of each pathway and its outcome?

The comparative analysis of Fair Trade, Organic, Veganism, Carsharing, Cycling and Shared Space highlights recurrent patterns between their dynamics and outcomes. Bifurcations resulting in multiple pathways are systematic and are always linked to mainstreaming. With reference to outcomes, a trade-off is observed between the congruence with original values and the level of empowerment. If compared to big firms, the involvement of institutions into mainstreaming results in less pronounced trade-offs and greater empowerment.

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