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

Project details

Full project title: Collective governance, innovation and creativity in the face of climate change (SELFCITY)

Project duration: January 2015 - December 2017

JPI Climate (UK Sponsor - ESRC)

Project reference: 71108

Project Leader for SPE: Professor Rob Atkinson

Other UWE Bristol researchers:

Research partners/collaborators:

  • University of Bayreuth (Lead Partner - KlimaKom), Germany
  • University of Groningen, The Netherlands
  • UWE Bristol, United Kingdom

Project summary

The SELFCITY project will explore the processes of self-organisation that underpin community-led project-based responses (in terms of both adaptation and mitigation) to climate change in three countries across Europe. Self-organising (i.e. the ways in which communities organise themselves) is one of the three inter-linked processes (along with market-led and state-led mechanisms) that underpin any pragmatic and innovative transition to an adapted urban environment that is closer to being carbon neutral and that may be more resilient to the challenges resulting from changing (climate-induced) weather patterns.

It will set out how the problem(s) of climate change are understood both by 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 interactive and reflective activities the academic and practitioners teams will tease out the tensions and potentials of the inter-relation of everyday knowledge and technical knowledge on climate challenge responses. This project also uses 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.

Key outputs

  • Atkinson, R, Dörfler, T, Hasanov, M, Rothfuß, E and Smith, I (2017) Making the case for self-organisation: understanding how communities make sense of sustainability and climate change through collective action, International Journal of Sustainable Society, Vol 9, No 3, pp 193-209.
  • Atkinson, R, Thomas Dörfler and Eberhard Rothfuß) Self-organisation and the co-production of governance: The challenge of local responses to climate change, Politics and Governance, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 169-179 DOI: 10.17645/pag.v6i1.1210.
  • An improved understanding of the processes of self-organisation disseminated through academic journals and conferences; but also a change agent workshop in each country to be specified by the change agents.
  • A virtual handbook produced in three languages and produced on a DVD for dissemination by the change agent organisations outlining lessons in being self organised. This will include blog-related materials (edited where necessary) and a catalogue of training resources.
  • Policy reports on the value and implications of facilitating self-organisation in response to climate change.
  • Two PhD trained students (through Bayreuth and Groningen).
  • Climate change practitioners that have developed personally through their engagement with and training received through the SELFCITY project.

Key findings

  • 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 the three countries.
  • 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).
  • 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 and capacity training needs by the groups/community organisers themselves testing factors of success and perceived 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.

Project contact

For further information about this project, please contact Professor Rob Atkinson (

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