Over the past week, the TESS team of researchers working on the analysis of the critical factors behind the success of community-based initiatives (CBIs) produced a final report. This qualitative work is an outcome of our in-depth study of the processes and conditions favouring the emergence, consolidation, institutionalization, and growth of initiatives, together with their contribution to social and environmental justice and ability to incorporate or promote new technologies and business models. It is based on interview and observation data from 14 CBIs as well as survey data from 50 CBIs in Spain, Italy, the UK, Germany, Finland, and Romania.
Starting with the most original success factors related to CBIs’ emergence, they can be clustered into the following categories: a vacuum in the socio-political field, aspirations for economic and political autonomy, a shared history of social organization on community level, and supportive, or non-constraining, institutional environment. The success factors driving CBIs’ persistence and survival can be summarized into: the presence of a diversity of aspirations, an adaptive organizational structure, a diversity of political and income generation strategies, as well as strategic and targeted collaborations with public institutions. Our results also reveal that some community-based initiatives opt over time for maintaining a (small) size that allows for more participative forms of operation and a higher degree of flexibility, expanding their impact and ideas through replication. Others choose to grow in membership, activity and income. For this reason, initiatives’ success is also defined as growth and replication. If initiatives decide to grow, the factors contributing to their successful up-scaling are linked to CBIs’ capacity to undertake structural changes, deal with conflicts and value clashes, renovate members and leaders, and maintain a ‘healthy’ level of dependence from governmental institutions.
CBIs’ success is also defined in TESS as dissemination of new technologies and business models. The latter most often takes place in the form of innovative models for organising work and enterprises, raising funds, and delivering services. Our data shows that technological advancement is mostly occurring in the domain of energy, with solutions for decentralized, local and renewable heat and electricity provision put in place. Last, but not least, success in TESS is also understood as achieving social and environmental justice. Overall, our research indicates that CBIs’ location in multicultural neighborhoods, ability to create working places, and their willingness to contribute to the struggles of marginalized groups enhance their inclusion of socially vulnerable groups. On the other hand, when CBIs are confronted with restricted resources and institutional or logistical support and with exclusive, paternalistic and colorblind discourse and communication style within the CBIs, they are less likely to benefit historically marginalized groups and achieve socio-environmental justice.
Read the full report here.