Self-organising and climate change activism

Self-organising is a way of doing things in civil society. Often there is an expectation that communities groups sort out their own affairs when market-based actors or government can’t or won’t engage. Responding to climate change has increasingly fallen upon civil society to produce low carbon ways of living (as a common pool resource) because of its inherent complexity.

The SELFCITY project, with partners in the Netherlands and Germany, looked at what it means to ‘produce’ a low climate impact society within local communities and how to transition to a low carbon society without depending on either government action or a market-based solution.

The project worked with two community-based groups (one in Winchester and one in Keynsham, Somerset) who were keen to explore new ways of motivating and organising activists in their communities. The research team helped these groups identify what they were doing well in trying to achieve a low carbon community in their areas, and what was working less well. With the research team’s help, the action learning groups identified ‘networking’ and ‘motivating new activists’ as development themes and set up a workshop dedicated to addressing these issues. Through the reflective practice, the groups have revised their strategies for working with other local groups.

The project has allowed activists the space to think about what they need to do and, and has emphasised the range of motivating factors for individual activists, and how it takes time for a common aim to emerge from self-organising groups. These common aims or identifying common pool resources (a low carbon community) requires activists to talk and reflect on what they’re doing and ultimately this is the resource that is under-prioritised.

So the outcome of the project has been a clearer strategy when co-operating with other community groups. The SELFCITY team is now developing resource materials for other community groups working on climate change-related issues.

One of the group participants noted, "Thank you very much for all the effort you put in to WinACC last year. Your research was very timely for our organisation and it served a very useful reflective purpose. I learnt a lot about WinACC and where it needs to develop".

Find out more about the SELFCITY project.

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