Translocal Networks of Community-Led Initiatives
Community-led (local) initiatives most often exist as parts of trans-local networks. They blend local specificity and engagement, and global connectivity (Loorbach et al., 2020). Rather than to establish linkages across national movements (e.g. Almeida and Chase-Dunn, 2018), more precisely these networks grow by replicating generalized collective action models and by adapting them in distinct local contexts worldwide“ (Feola, 2016).
Similarly to transnational movements (Almeida and Chase-Dunn, 2018), translocal networks are facilitated by the expansion of ICT networks and international organizational connections in the frame of globalization. As argued by Almeida and Chase-Dunn (2018), “the new ICTs associated with internationalization have facilitated a greater density of social movement ties among activists and issue advocacy organizations across the globe …". On the other side, global capital intensifies collective grievances across national boundaries on a variety of issues from labor and human rights to environmental destruction. These twin processes will likely sustain transnational movements and conflicts well into the future, as market-driven globalization accounts for the motivational grievances of some of the largest and most dramatic intercontinental mobilizations, such as the campaigns for global economic justice and against global warming and climate change.” (ibid., p. 201).
Community-led initiatives are expressed differently in different contexts and how they develop depends on (for example) the socio-political or cultural factors, incumbent routines and perceptions or available resources. Yet, as parts of translocal networks, community-led initiatives share certain organizational and ethical principles, narratives of change, and strategies with other local initiatives in the network either directly, or through the mediation of an international ‘hub’ – a network node that acts as coordinating organization (see below). Some of the most active and successful translocal networks of CLIs are listed in Table XX.
How Translocal Networks Empower CLIs
Translocal networks empower individuals and collectives who act towards sustainability locally (Avelino et al., 2019). Avelino et al. (2019) define empowerment as “the process through which actors gain the capacity to mobilize resources to achieve a goal” (ibid., p.3).
Researchers have identified various mechanisms through which translocal mechanisms empower CLIs. Pel et al., (2020), who studied 20 translocal networks among which many of those mentioned in Table XX, proposed that these mechanisms be clustered in two functionally similar groups, which they named (i) translocal connectivity, and (ii) discursive resonance.
In Pel et al.’s proposal, translocal connectivity includes: (a) the development of translocal “critical mass”; (b) the construction of translocal political voice; (c) the development of translocal collective identity (as materialized in brands and logos), and (d) knowledge exchange.
Loorbach et al. (2020) found evidence of some of those mechanisms being at play in translocal networks that connect local initiatives by sharing ideas, objects and activities across local contexts. Loorbach et al. (2020) for example, pointed out that local initiatives and network organisations engage in the development of manuals, websites, newsletters, trainings, courses and conferences which are circulated across the network. Feola and Nunes (2014) found similar mechanisms in a study of the Transition Network: local transition initiatives’ growth and development is linked to the combination of local–global (trans-local) learning processes which were facilitated by the transition and permaculture training offered by the network’s international hub. Similarly, Avelino et al. (2019), who studied FEBEA, DESIS, GEN, Impact Hub and Slow Food (Table XX) showed how translocal networks empower local initiatives by: contributing to their ability to relate to initiatives in other places (relatedness), pooling resources and creating alternative markets (autonomy), developing and sharing skills and expertise (competence), ; increasing access to resources and legitimacy (impact), mutually sharing and learning knowledge and resources (resilience).
The second cluster of mechanisms that was identified by Pel et al. (2020), namely discursive resonance, manifest through the circulation of (a) organizational models; (b) formats of practices; (c) framings and narratives and (d) codified knowledge on socially innovative concepts and practices. Empirical evidence of these mechanisms was found in several studies. Loorbach et al (2020) showed that translocal networking helps community-led initiatives to build advocacy coalitions beyond the local level to be able to jointly engage with national or transnational actors, such as the EU. This is fundamental to develop critical mass and political voice to directly lobby (trans-) national governments to change rules and regulations. The importance of translocal networks with respect to framings and narratives was shown by Feola (2014) for the Transition Network and for Solidarity-based Purchasing Groups in Italy, and by Avelino et al. (2019) for five international transnational networks. Avelino et al. (2019) argued that the translocal network helps local initiative to confirm the broader existence of certain shared values, whih they associate with the ‘meaning’ dimension of empowerment.
Feola and Nunes (2014) found that local initiatives of which had adopted the Transition Network’s organizational practices, as distilled by the Transition Network’s international hub in the so-called ’12 steps to transition’ transition’ (Brangwyn and Hopkins, 2008) or ‘transition ingredients’ (Hopkins, 2011), which include practices related to a wide range of aspects from internal group governance to partnership with other actors, were more likely to thrive. Thus, the Transition Network’s international hub has been capable of generalising organisational principles derived from ‘unique’ local experiences, and to translate them into applicable principles and practices which are applicable locally: generalized models and local conditions interact in unique ways and the actual dynamics of this interactions are worth further scrutiny, as they appear to determine so much of what a Transition Initiative is, does, and achieves in a particular place seem to be effective in other ‘unique’ local contexts (Feola, 2016). This circulation of skills and expertise empowers local initiatives by strengthening their competence (Avelino et al., 2019).
Replication and diffusion of initiatives
Translocal networks also facilitate the diffusion (scaling out) of community-led initiatives (Loorbach et al., 2020), i.e. the replication or "emulation of local forms of collective action in other places" (Tarrow 2005:102, cited in Shawki, 2013). Feola and Him (2016) and Feola and Butt (2017) studied the diffusion of the Transition Network in Europe and found that the Transition Network’s international hub contributed to the diffusion of local transition initiatives via relational (e.g. transition training, and conferences organized by the international hub), non-relational (e.g. local initiatives as well as international hub’s books and websites), and mediated diffusion channels (e.g. through local and international movement brokers). In a study of the diffusion of the Transition Network and the Solidarity Economy Network in the USA, Shawki (2013) founds that a combination of these three types of diffusion channels (i.e. relational, non-relational and mediated) helps individuals learn about social movement ideas and bring them to their own communities. Shawki’s study also underscored that “the actors who adopt ideas and models that originated in other countries are individuals who are deeply immersed in their own communities but at the same time have a global frame of reference and look to like-minded activists and change agents in other countries for inspiration and new ideas and models that they can apply to the problems with which they are grappling in their own communities” (ibid., p. 154), and that these individuals can be viewed as proactive translators, who seek and pursue wider geographical connections, ideas and inspiration: their work is locally oriented, but their connections and frames of reference are translocal. These findings have been confirmed in later studies in Europe and worldwide (e.g., Feola and Butt, 2017; Loorbach et al., 2020).
Key moments and networks of networks
- Global Ecovillage Network (GEN)
- Transition movement
- Permaculture movement
- Foundation for Intentional Community
Food and agriculture
- La Via Campesina peasants movement
- Seed exchange networks
- Slow Food International
- Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
- URGENCI network
- World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms Willing Workers (WWOOF)
Land and housing
- Land Trusts
- Repair cafés
- Fablabs (Digital Fabrication Laboratories)
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Brangwyn, B., Hopkins, R., 2008. Transition Initiatives Primer.
Feola, G. 2014. Narratives of grassroots innovations: A comparison of Voluntary Simplicity and the Transition Movement in Italy. International Journal of Innovation and Sustainable Development, 8(3):250-269.
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