Keywords: grassroots innovation, transition movement, voluntary simplicity, narratives, Italy, socio–technical systems, STS, resilience, sustainability, sustainable development, grassroots networks, ethics, innovation empowerment
Narratives of grassroots innovations: a comparison of voluntary simplicity and the transition movement in Italy
Grassroots innovations (GI) are promising examples of deliberate transformation of socio–technical systems towards resilience and sustainability. However, evidence is needed on the factors that limit or enable their success. This paper set out to study how GI use narratives to empower innovation in the face of incumbent socio–technical regimes. Institutional documents were comparatively analysed to assess how the narratives influence the structure, form of action and external interactions of two Italian grassroots networks, Bilanci di Giustizia and Transition Network Italy. The paper finds an internal consistency between narratives and strategies for each of the two networks. The paper also highlights core similarities, but also significant differences in the ethical basis of the two narratives, and in the organisations and strategies. Such differences determine different forms of innovation empowerment and expose the niche to different potentials to transform incumbent regimes, or to the risk of being co–opted by them.