Reshaping the Future: How local communities are catalysing social, economic & ecological transformation in Europe

Recently, on May 2, 2019, the first ECOLISE strategic report was launched, which counted on the collaboration of CEI-IUL researcher Ana Margarida Esteves. The researcher contributed with a section on the role of Social and Solidarity Economy in promoting a transition to sustainability. This section includes theoretical and empirical evidence on Social and Solidarity Economy in Europe.

This collaboration resulted from the participation of several elements of ECOLISE in the first edition of the International Conference “Social Solidarity Economy & the Commons: Envisioning Sustainable & Post-Capitalist Futures“; which took place at ISCTE-IUL between 21 and 23 November 2018.

The scientific report – entitled “Reshaping the Future: How local communities are catalysing social, economic and ecological transformation in Europe” – provides powerful evidence of the critical role of local community-led initiatives in bringing effective solutions to the global threats of climate and ecological breakdown. ‘The First Status Report on Community-Led Action on Sustainability and Climate Change in Europe’ draws together data from multiple sources, providing a comprehensive state-of-the-art of current knowledge regarding community-led initiatives (CLIs) across Europe.

The Executive Summary of the report can be found here.

By assessing data from many different research projects and studies we now have a much clearer picture of the current status of this emerging sector and a better understanding of the important role it has to play in the rapid transformation that is needed to avoid climate and ecological catastrophe,” says Eamon O’Hara, Executive Director of ECOLISE, the European network for community-led initiatives on climate change and sustainability. “The message is very clear – engaging citizens in local, community-level responses leads to transformative change; without such engagement, such transformation will not be achieved.

The report, which draws on academic studies, grey literature, and informal and experiential knowledge, demonstrates that communities are delivering a much broader set of benefits than technological solutions focussed only on reducing carbon emissions:

  • CLIs documented in formal research consistently demonstrate positive social benefits including increased social capital, civic participation and inclusion;
  • Economic benefits include the distribution of wealth creation, supporting local enterprise and employment creation;
  • The ecological footprints of many ecovillages and sustainable communities are a fraction of national averages, demonstrating the potential for one-planet living;
  • Engaged communities achieve significant reductions in carbon emissions due to a range of activities, including: promoting renewable energy and low energy lifestyles, enabling low-carbon mobility, and supporting local and sustainable food systems, while encouraging more plant-based diets;
  • Participation in CLIs leads to longer term shifts in lifestyle and behaviour;
  • The available data on emissions reductions and wider benefits show significant untapped potential to contribute to global climate and sustainability goals.
  • Based on the evidence assembled, the Status Report identifies seven basic preconditions for sustainable prosperity in Europe: Moving beyond growth, Nurturing commons ecologies, Eco-social regeneration, Solidarity economics, Inclusive governance, Transformative social innovation and Enabling community-led action.

The Status Report is published in cooperation with the Faculty of Science at Lisbon University. The lead authors are Tom Henfrey, Research Coordinator at ECOLISE, and Gil Penha-Lopes of the Faculty of Science, Lisbon University. The project is also being supported by many other partners and represents a new form of engaged scholarship that actively seeks to engage in the process of societal and cultural transformation.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Ana Margarida Esteves

Ana Margarida Esteves is a Research Fellow at the Center for International Studies of the University Institute of Lisbon, Iscte and Guest Assistant Professor of the Department of Political Economy of the same institution. She has a Ph.D. in Sociology from Brown University (Providence, RI, USA) where she was a Fulbright Fellow. Her research and teaching encompass the relations between the social and solidarity economy, the commons and the sustainability transition movements; synergies between nature, culture and technology; and the application of critical pedagogies, as well as strategies of non-formal education, to social mobilization and the promotion of participatory democracy. She is a founder and member of the International Editorial Committee of the journal "Interface: A journal for and about social movements" ( She is also a member the RC47: Social Classes and Social Movements of ISA - International Sociological Association and part of its editorial platform Open Movements / Open Democracy ( ). In 2020, Ana Margarida became a member of SEADS (Space Ecologies Art and Design), a transdisciplinary and cross-cultural collective of artists, scientists, engineers and activists that is actively engaged in deconstructing dominant paradigms about the future and develops alternative models through a combination of critical inquiry and hands-on experimentation.". Previous to joining CEI-IUL, Ana Margarida Esteves held teaching positions at Brown University, Universidade Federal Fluminense (Brazil), Tulane University (New Orleans, USA) and Sunway University (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia). She is a Visiting Research Fellow at Université Catholique de Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium) and Scuola Normale Superiore (Florence, Italy).

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