SELFCITY – Collective governance, innovation and creativity in the face of climate change

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How does self-organisation provide options to be better adapted to the impacts of climate change?


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We are interested in the options for change that fall between options led by governments and options that are provided by the market.


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The project will create space for activists to identify capacity building needs and for the research team to work with activists to fill these needs.


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What are the opportunities for change that depend upon where you live?


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How might self-organised responses at a local scale work towards broader societal change?


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Reflective and reflexive learning is one of the processes by which we can move to a new agenda of a harmonious existence under changing environmental conditions.



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Collective governance, innovation and creativity
in the face of climate change

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SELFCITY (funding authority JPI Climate) will explore the processes of self-organisation that underpin ‘community-led’ project-based responses to climate change in three countries across Europe.  Self-organising is one of the three inter-linked processes (along with market-led and state-led mechanisms) that will underpin any pragmatic and innovative transition to an ‘adapted’ urban environment that is closer to being carbon neutral and that may be resilient in the face of changing (climate-induced) weather patterns.  Whereas there has been work on market-led and on state-led initiatives, we understand less well the ways in which civil society constructs sometimes alternative and sometimes complementary ways of addressing climate change.

Building on existing research on adapting the built environment, urban neighbourhoods and facilitating energy transition, the project will combine social researcher-led work with participant action research to explore, record and enhance the ways community activists are organizing innovative, creative and pragmatic climate change responses in their communities (of place and of space).

It will set out how the ‘problem(s)’ of climate change are conceptualized both by these activists/practitioners and by the community members they work with.  The project will create space for activists to identify ‘capacity-building’ needs and for the research team to work with activists to fill these needs.  Through these reflexive activities both academic and practitioners team will tease out the tensions and potentials of the inter-relation of everyday knowledge and technical knowledge on climate challenge responses.  Not only does this project analyse the tensions in these forms of knowledge creation within a given national context, but it uses the device of cross-national comparison to help participants break out of culturally implicit (and fixed) constructions of both the climate change problem and the opportunities for change.

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  • SELFCITY uses the concept of self-organisation as a framework to allow the team to engage conceptually with issues of social norming, social learning and social transition within communities.
  • Self-organisation is a process by which the social relationships that characterise loose networks are institutionalized through the definition of mutual interests, positions and relations (OSTROM 1990; MAYNTZ 2006).
  • Trust based on individual relationships is, thus, transformed into trust in the collective. Enhanced cooperation as “collective intentionality” (SEARLE 2010) or a “collective we” (WINTERGERST 2014) allows for differentiation and specialisation within the collective which strengthens the potential for developing key interests through ‘grass-roots’ action (CASTELLS 1983).


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  • To better understand the process(es) of self-organised response(s) to climate change challenges through articulating the discourses of self-organisation co-constructed with the change agents who have supported and framed these localised transitions.
  • To distinguish between discourses associated with neighbourhood adaptation in the self-organised work of communities in GB, GER & NL.
  • To explore the importance of national context in the unfurling of self-organised strategies to face up to the climate change challenge(s) through the examination of case study localities in Germany (University of Bayreuth –and KlimaKom), Netherlands (University of Groningen) and the United Kingdom (University of the West of England).


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  • To test, document and facilitate the evolution of self-organised transition in localities (around energy transition and building community/place resilience) through the identification of training & capacity training needs by the community organisers themselves testing factors of success & barriers.
  • To construct materials that will support on-going reflexive processes of change in communities seeking to respond to the climate change challenge by the change agents who are part of this project.


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Structuring questions for the empirical component

  • What are the non-financial (and non-instrumental) conditions under which ‘initiatorsof self-organised action decide to engage with the issue of climate change and energy transition?
  • Does the collective framing device (government scheme, local government, community development, alternative radical movement) influence the ways in which the climate change challenge is conceptualised within the self-organised grouping?


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  • What are the (threshold) conditions under which moments of initiation move to a process of localised transition? Does this relate to individual (charismatic) ‚champions‘ or a shared conception of leadership?
  • How does the process of implementation change the localised discourse(s) of climate change action/inaction?
  • Can these processes of change be organised’/facilitated from outside the locality/community/neighbourhood? If so how?



Phase 1 by July 2015

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Principal Investigators

[ivan_image_block ivan_bg_img=”343″ heading=”University of Bayreuth” c_id=”.vc_1437733875177″ ico=”university”]The University of Bayreuth was founded 1975 and is a hub of international and interdisciplinary research and one of few German universities with a cluster of excellence which is called “Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies” (BIGSAS). SELFCITY is strongly linked to the Research Center BayCEER which addresses global change issues.
The Department of Geography is dealing with cross-cutting themes as sustainable regional and urban development, human-environment interaction and political ecology. A further focus is spatial qualitative social research and participatory methods.[/ivan_image_block][ivan_image_block ivan_bg_img=”345″ heading=”University of the West of England ” c_id=”.vc_1436180482126″ ico=”university”]The University of the West of England (UWE) is one of Britain’s most popular universities and the largest provider of higher education in the Southwest of England. The UWE is committed to using academic knowledge and skills to offer practical solutions.
The Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environment (R. Atkinson and S. Hall) is a multi-disciplinary group of researchers interested in the planning, design, use and governance of places at different scales. The Bristol Economics Research Cluster (I. Smith) cluster brings together a diverse range of knowledge and research backgrounds to deliver pragmatic solutions and high quality analysis backed up by academic rigour.[/ivan_image_block]
[ivan_image_block ivan_bg_img=”344″ heading=”University of Groningen” c_id=”.vc_1435399366035″ ico=”university”]The University of Groningen is one of the oldest universities in the Netherlands (founded in 1614) as well as one of its largest. The Department of Spatial Planning and Environment has a research agenda concentrating on the relationships between institutional innovation and spatial transformation.
The team is focusing on urban regions in transition, civil initiatives and resources and flows.[/ivan_image_block][ivan_image_block heading=”KlimaKom e.G.” c_id=”.vc_1437733677707″ ico=”users” ivan_bg_img=”535″]

KlimaKom is a registered co-operative for consultation of municipalities, which developed as a spin-off 2010 from an established enterprise. KlimaKom works out strategies and action plans for climate protection and energy transition in German municipalities, counties and regions with participative methods, integrating local citizens, experts, utilities and political/administrative representatives.


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  • Transnational (north-south) work on urban self-organisation
  • Urban and regional governance and development
  • Social inequality and exclusion
  • Online-Ethnography and Action Research.


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  • Transformations of space and place and coevolving institutional and self-organisational environments.
  • New opportunities for intervening in physical and social structures to enhance quality of life.
  • Interventions to result dynamic interactions between various physical factors, social factors, institutional actors and community stakeholders
  • Designing democratic, political and policy processes to improve social wellbeing.


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  • Cross-national work on sustainable urban regeneration
  • Urban governance and community participation
  • Urban social exclusion and European urban and spatial policy
  • Participatory Action Research


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KlimaKom e.G.” icon_style=”normal” c_id=”.vc_1435401093867″ main_css=”background-color:#578861;background-color-hover:#006238;” icon_css=”color:#ffffff;” title_css=”color:#ffffff;” content_css=”color:#ffffff;” ico=”recycle”]

  • Energy transition and climate protection, regional value chains and effects for urban
and rural development
  • Transformational processes and management concepts for sustainable regional
  • Transition town movements and juridical aspects of post-fossil urban development.
  • Stakeholder Management and Citizens Participation


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The researchers

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Eberhard Rothfuß is Professor for Social- and Population Geography at the University of Bayreuth. His research … [more]

[/ivan_testimonial][ivan_testimonial image_id=”177″ q_style=”boxed-left” c_id=”.vc_1435337287315″ author=”Thomas Dörfler” desc=”University of Bayreuth” img_css=”width:100px;height:100px;”]

Thomas Dörfler is Interim-Professor at the Department of Sociology at the Ruhr-University of Bochum and … [more]

[/ivan_testimonial][ivan_testimonial image_id=”369″ q_style=”boxed-left” c_id=”.vc_1436257357325″ author=”Erik Bertram” desc=”University of Bayreuth” img_css=”width:100px;height:100px;”]

Erik Bertram studied geography at the University of Bonn and University of Bristol. His master’s dissertation … [more]

[/ivan_testimonial][ivan_testimonial image_id=”178″ q_style=”boxed-left” c_id=”.vc_1436178989131″ author=”Sabine Hafner” desc=”KlimaKom e.G.” img_css=”width:100px;height:100px;”]

Dr habil Sabine Hafner is lecturer at the Geographical Institute, University of Bayreuth. In her PhD … [more]

[/ivan_testimonial][ivan_testimonial image_id=”181″ q_style=”boxed-left” c_id=”.vc_1436179001566″ author=”Nina Hehn” desc=”KlimaKom e.G.” img_css=”width:100px;height:100px;”]

Dr Nina Hehn is lawyer and authorized representative of KlimaKom since 2011. She studied law in … [more]

[/ivan_testimonial][ivan_testimonial image_id=”172″ q_style=”boxed-left” c_id=”.vc_1436258224506″ author=”Rob Atkinson” desc=”UWE Bristol” img_css=”width:100px;height:100px;”]

Rob Atkinson is Professor at the Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environment and his resear … [more]

[/ivan_testimonial][ivan_testimonial image_id=”201″ q_style=”boxed-left” c_id=”.vc_1436258282385″ author=”Ian Smith” desc=”UWE Bristol” img_css=”width:100px;height:100px;”]

Dr Ian Smith is a Senior Lecturer working in the Bristol Economics Research Cluster … [more]

[/ivan_testimonial][ivan_testimonial image_id=”245″ q_style=”boxed-left” c_id=”.vc_1436258312980″ author=”Stephen Hall” desc=”UWE Bristol” img_css=”width:100px;height:100px;”]

Dr Stephen Hall is a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for SPE. Hall’s research interest … [more]

[/ivan_testimonial][ivan_testimonial image_id=”174″ q_style=”boxed-left” c_id=”.vc_1436179076644″ author=”Justin Beaumont” desc=”University of Groningen” img_css=”width:100px;height:100px;”]

Dr Justin Beaumont is Assistant Professor in the Department of Spatial Planning & Environment at … [more]

[/ivan_testimonial][ivan_testimonial image_id=”186″ q_style=”boxed-left” c_id=”.vc_1436179060998″ author=”Chris Zuidema” desc=”University of Groningen” img_css=”width:100px;height:100px;”]

Dr Chris Zuidema is Assistant Professor in Spatial Planning at the Department of Spatial Planning and … [more]

[/ivan_testimonial][ivan_testimonial image_id=”180″ q_style=”boxed-left” c_id=”.vc_1435337515003″ author=”Mustafa H. Hasanov” desc=”University of Groningen” img_css=”width:100px;height:100px;”]

Mustafa Hasanov is a geographer by soul, geographer and planner by education. His research interests … [more]

[/ivan_testimonial][ivan_testimonial image_id=”361″ q_style=”boxed-left” c_id=”.vc_1436179045396″ author=”Ferdinand Stenglein” desc=”Research associate” img_css=”width:100px;height:100px;”]Ferdinand Stenglein studied Geography at the Universities of Bonn and and
Hong Kong. His diploma dis… [more][/ivan_testimonial][/ivan_carousel]

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The rate of people living in cities is growing.


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The rate of people living in cities is growing.


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The rate of people living in cities is growing.


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