Using action research to evaluate (and empower) grassroots movements’ role in socio-technical transitions – a methodological approach
How are grassroots community movements involved in socio-technical transitions and infrastructure changes? Grassroots movements have many barriers to driving changes within institutions for sustainable infrastructure. Many of these movements are trying to tackle wicked problems, but struggle to challenge socio-technical issues of power, politics, or institutions embracing dissent.
In addition, planning and socio-technical transitions, in addressing wicked problems, may further exacerbate inequalities of urbanisation and climate change. Thus grassroots movements have a strong role (and motivation) in trying to change this outcome, as do research activists.
There are many gaps in literature that could address this using action research. For example, practice-based solutions to socio-technical transitions, the role grassroots movements play within a multi-level perspective, highlighting transition tipping points, or the institution/community movement relationship. By performing action research with the London Cycling Campaign and two of London’s local borough groups (Westminster and Islington), this research applies an underutilised methodology.
The methodology engages with the immediate struggles of grassroots movements challenging institutions’ power, providing practice-based solutions to the movements participating in socio-technical transitions. In addition, it actively explores how theory informs practice and practice can inform theory.
Image: electric trams, Gothenburg, Sweden. Credit: Alicia G. Monedero / Shutterstock.