Learning, transformative action, and grassroots innovation: Insights from the Spanish energy cooperative Som Energia

Victoria Pellicer-Sifres, Sergio Belda-Miquel, Ivan Cuesta-Fernández, Alejandra Boni
Energy Research & Social Science

Grassroots innovations for sustainability are attracting increasing attention in academic, activist and policy debate. Although there is a recognition of their transformative potential, very little research has specifically been conducted on how transformative perspectives, strategies and actions emerge. This paper explores the role of learning in promoting transformative strategies towards sustainability. We develop a heuristic framework connecting ideas from social learning literature and Strategic Niche Management and address the case of Som Energia, the first renewable energy cooperative in Spain. Our results found that micropolitical and macro-political factors are drivers that influence the emergence of first- and second-order learning. In turn, this learning moulds three different strategies proposed by this grassroots initiative, namely: commercial, social, and em-powering strategies. Our results give insights to illustrate that, in order to develop radical transformative changes towards sustainability it is not enough to merely scale-up the regime (commercial strategy) or make sustainable and social proposals (social strategy), unless these aims are achieved through an empowering process that transforms our current values and relations (empowering strategy)