A summary of the final SELFCity workshop on 18 November 2017

In 2016 and 2017 WinACC was part of the SELFCity project, which explored grassroots responses to climate change in England, Germany and the Netherlands. Ian Smith of the University of the West of England emphasised that grassroots organisations working on climate change can be seen as the research and development departments for a better society, which is why it’s important to study them.

During the project some thirty WinACC supporters took part in a wider survey that looked at participants’ views and values on community activism, climate change and wider issues on sustainability. This was to consider how the preferences of activists and factors relating to the locality influence how groups such as WinACC emerge, continue and evolve. In the three countries where the research took place four broad types of ‘eco-activist’ were identified:

  • Eco-egalitarians combine a strong commitment to social justice with green values, especially on ‘limits to growth’.
  • Consensus builders advocate non-confrontational reform of the existing socio-political system and see synergy between economic development, environmental protection and social inclusion.
  • Community builders also have strong green values, but also have a commitment to building communities of interest and place.
  • Radical greens possess a strong ‘anti-system’ logic and aspire to challenge government, business and formal authority.

Some of the WinACC contingent straddled all four, but the ‘community builders’ and the ‘radical greens’ formed the more dominant types of activist within the WinACC network.

The researchers’ findings highlighted tensions within most of the participating groups vis-à-vis their organisation and development. A key issue here is whether one is working as part of the system or against it. These tensions are also reflected in how grassroots organisations communicate in their communities; there is a need to motivate, but the message can be demotivating.

Although there were no easy answers to these questions, participants’ left the workshop with their awareness of the operational challenges facing WinACC and other organisations enhanced. 

The powerpoint presentation that guided the workshop can be made available on request.