Community action for sustainable development is an important element of most countries’ policies for sustainable development. We welcome this growing recognition of the role of civil society in achieving sustainability objectives, but tempered with a few words of caution: First, there is very little empirical evidence to support claims that such objectives are realistic or achievable; second there is a lack of understanding about how to best harness and support the activities that are taking place; and third, existing evidence points to the need for policy support and public investment, and that effective communities may require effective states. In short, the ‘big society’ rhetoric promises a growing role for civil society, but must not be a smokescreen for community development budget cuts. Spurred on by these issues, we have developed a research agenda to deepen our understanding of these civil society processes, and their potential. Our recent research into this field, which we term ‘grassroots innovations’ examines the processes by which community-led initiatives might develop new solutions for sustainable development, and how those ideas and practices might grow and diffuse into wider society.
Read also: Grassroots Innovations