Growing Grassroots Sustainability Groups: Understanding the Mobilisation of Community-led Action in Haringey, London

Marshall, Anastasia (2018). Growing Grassroots Sustainability Groups: Understanding the Mobilisation of Community-led Action in Haringey, London. PhD thesis The Open University.



With the transition to a more sustainable society high on the agenda of academia and policymakers, ‘community’ is advocated as having an essential role in delivering behaviour change. Run by small collections of residents, grassroots sustainability groups have emerged as a means of mobilising citizens and other stakeholders in their locale. Explorations of the groups tend to coalesce in narrowly thematic literatures focusing on a single type of activity, such as community energy, gardening, or the Transition Movement. Participants in these initiatives identify with the environmental movement, and therefore this thesis explores grassroots sustainability as a social movement. It contributes to the understanding of this mobilisation through an ethnography of neighbouring groups engaged in different sustainability-related activities in a London borough. They include a group promoting renewable energy, a group involved in nurturing community space, urban food and well-being, a group experimenting with urban food and seeding other community projects, and a group engaged in communal foraging. The groups were networked together across the borough and involved in networks and collaborations at various scales to support their mobilisation. The theoretical approach utilises a social practice framework directed by insights from the social movement theory, demonstrating the utility of applying social practice theory both to complex bundles of social practices and to social movement enquiry. The thesis explores individuals’ motivations and participation temporalities, the practices performed to encourage participants through stages of participation, the mobilisation practices in physical and virtual spaces, and those which extend the groups’ influence. Culturally each group differs, with practice performance unique in each. However, common ingredients are found to contribute to the groups’ longevity: a practice-change-oriented sustainability, which supports a journey of experimentation, nurtures conviviality, and which is characterised by collaborative leadership. These ingredients help explain how and why grassroots sustainability groups continue to mobilise.

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