Tag Archives: Grassroots initiative

Drome Valley: a single territory with complimentary stakeholders implementing food innovations

The territory of Drome Valley/Val de Drôme, from the Alpes to Rhone’s valley, close to Valence and Montélimart, covers 2 200 sq. m. for 54,000 inhabitants and has long been known as a nest for innovative ways of living. Since the 60s, together with an exponential arrival of neorurals in the last decades, it has seen the emergence of ecological communities such as at Les Amanins, as well as laboratories for new forms of citizens-led democracy, such as in Saillans. Its geography, climate, economy, history at the crossroads of migrations and host to the first French Water Development and Management Scheme (Schéma d’Aménagement et de Gestion des Eaux – SAGE) is not without influence in this process (the report of LPTransition on these questions is particularly enlightening). In particular, alternatives have been prominent in the food sector, and this under the responsibility and leaderships of different groups of stakeholders, some of which are presented here.

Vegetable boxes' scheme at Piegros-La-Clastre ©Eric Escande
Vegetable boxes’ scheme at Piegros-La-Clastre ©Eric Escande

 “Mini marché”: a citizens-led CSA

In the 800-inhabitant city of Piegros-La Clastre, after the local farmer, Cécile Grigoryev Anciant decided to stop delivering her weekly vegetable boxes, a citizen, Eric Escande, decided to take over the lead to collect orders from citizens interested in her weekly products. From vegetables, the scheme started proposing fruits, dairy products, meat and bread, under a snowball effect and without any particular promotion, except for the weekly distributions on the main square of the village. The scheme has been a success since the beginning, with a weekly 500-euro turnover and 130 families signed up. The voluntary aspect of it (enrolling 30 people) makes it an alternative to other paying schemes predominant in cities such as La Ruche Qui Dit Oui.

Brins de Terroir ©Marcelline Bonneau
Brins de Terroir ©Marcelline Bonneau

Brins de terroir”: local producers’ grouped selling point

Since 2008, local producers sell their products under a cooperative, Brins de Terroir, labelled under Terre d’envies, promoting collective selling points. Today, around 40 producers of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy products, preserves, drinks as well as local craftsart, occupy a former train station in Vaunaveys-la-Rochette to sell their products directly to consumers: half of them are associate producers. The contributing producers work in shift in the shop together with two employees. The strategic location and opening hours (on Sundays and bank holidays) have contributed to the success of the shop with an annual turnover of circa 850 000 euros.

“Innovative food systems”: co-created food policy

The two Communautés de communes (Local Federation of French municipalities) Val de Drôme and du Crestois et du Pays de Saillans, together with three NGOs CIVAM, AgribioDrome and Court Circuit, launched in 2015 a collaborative process to co-create the food policy of their area. A first phase (2015-2018) inaugurated the governance model of the five organisations together with initial definition of actions under three axes: awareness-raising and food outside home; transformation, distribution and logistics; networking between local stakeholders. In a second phase (2018-2019), workshops have brought together citizens and stakeholders to identify the issues that were of importance to them, seeking to move away from the initial agricultural focus to a food one. Grouping them by target groups (children, youth, elderly people, precarious groups), the work has then carried on by the types of activities that could be implemented while prioritising them. This work is also based on learnings from other experiences throughout France and Europe, with an objective to co-implement and co-monitor food actions with all stakeholders.

“BioVallee”: an NGO for the sustainability of the territory

BioVallee© is a project and trademark to make three Communautés de Communes (Val de Drôme and du Crestois et du Pays de Saillans, and Diois) a responsible, innovative and alternative rural metropole whereby sustainable development is at the heart of human, agricultural, economic and cultural activities. It seeks to conceive, identify, promote and upscale sustainable practices accessible to all via cooperation tools such as the Trademark BioVallée ©, a website, a sustainability self-assessment grid, networking of its members, thematic workshops, interviews, access to call for projects, a funding programme, an observatory and a charter. Initiated by Drome Valley ( and supported by the two others Communautés de Communes, the project has been delegated to an NGO, funded by them. Amongst its objectives, the project aims to reach 50% of organic producers and production by 2020 and 80% of organic and/or local products in collective catering by 2025, with a reduction by 50% of chemical products non organic agriculture. Even if the 230 members of the NGO who can use the Trademark are not all organic, they engage themselves to follow the principles of the charter and reach the objectives of BioVallée, in progressing towards better practices: divide by two energy consumption, using renewable energies, buying local, creating open-ended contract, using ethical funds…

Implementing social innovation at city level: learnings from Amsterdam, Gdansk and others

Getting to know Gdansk and its inhabitans and vice-versa. Source: Maciej Moskwa/TESTIGO.pl

Getting to know Gdansk and its inhabitans and vice-versa. Source: Maciej Moskwa/TESTIGO.pl

In these times of democratic crisis, Social Innovation as a baseline paradigm for city governance is more than even needed. Its power and potential for change is strong as reminds us the recent murder of the Mayor of Gdansk, Pawel Adamowicz.

The question which appears then relates to the ways we can concretely implement and operationalise social innovation: as a paradigm and as individual and collective projects. The SIC Declaration presents a European framework to facilitate experimentations and exchanges across EU on existing practices. The Manifesto for Transformative Social Innovation provides a set of key principles enabling such practices. At a city level it does not necessarily need to be strategised: Amsterdam does have a Social innovation Strategy, Gdansk does not. And in both cities, the movement is on: conceptually and concretely.

Yet, preconditions need to be adopted. In Gdansk, for example, the late Pawel Adamowicz, had a strong vision of it: social innovation was the approach he took for governing the city, with incremental changes being embedded in the city’ policies.  As a starting point, he supported another way of addressing what appeared to be problems in the cities, for example moving from “social issues” to “social development”. Words and concepts are indeed key when dealing with everyday life in a city. And the same applies for social innovation: concepts are part of innovation and transition processes and as such, once they become mainstream, they are overused and lose their initial meaning. From social innovation to grassroots initiatives via social and solidarity economy or commons, the responsible stakeholders need to be up to date with the concepts they use in the adequate way.

Increasing the collaboration between stakeholders is another prerequisite via the adoption of integrated approaches and methodologies (e.g. triple, quadruple, quintuple helixes or the URBACT method). A key triggering factor for such collaboration appears to be the grouping of interest around a common goal, such as the application for the iCapital award 2016 in Amsterdam (won) or the European Capital of Culture 2016 in Gdansk (lost). This can then be embedded and formalized as a form of collaboration, such as the Amsterdam Social Agreement.

The city of Ixelles listens to its inhabitants on 6 march 2018

The city of Ixelles listens to its inhabitants on 6 march 2018

Getting to know each other is crucial as well, to learn each other’s realities, languages, ways of working, etc… It can start from open hearings as in Ixelles. Visits to one another (“visites croisées) and “live my life” (“vis ma vie”) were also tested in Brussels via the VILCO project. In Amsterdam, the Climate Neutral initiative, made it possible to collaborate with a fragmentation of the city geographics and split responsibilities.

Social innovation is a transversal way of addressing not only “problems” but our daily lives by trying out new ways and approaches. It is about on-going experimentation as a prerequisite to ensure a societal transition for a more resilient society. More resilient socially, economically, environmentally, culturally, … and this both at the individual and collective levels. As such, those promoting social innovation should also apply it for themselves. Within the administration, in addition to individual empowerment and accountability, as in the case of the calls for project for civil servants in Turin, it also means being open to innovative civil servants’ profiles (e.g. psychologists, NGOs, journalists in Gdansk) and experimenting with new forms of governance (e.g. Citizens’ Panels in Gdansk, plethora of participatory budgets). We need to identify our own individual roles in this. And these need to be adapted to each given cultural and economic contexts.

This is an approach that can be developed and strengthened by empowerment, capacity-building, inspiring, while shifting paradigm. More difficultly, it requires new ways of evaluating actions and policies. And even to question the rationale for such an evaluation.

2019-02-25 14.44.31

These reflexions emerged from the workshop the last event of the SIC project in Amsterdam on 25 February 2019, where we discussed the way(s) the SIC Declaration could be implemented in Amsterdam.

 

Research and civil society: joining forces for addressing societal issues meaningfully

Interview with Lionel Larq , General Delegate of ALLISS , on 29 August 2018 in Paris, 9th .

I met Lionel Larqué in March 2018 when the Scientific Committee of the VILCO – a project which dealt with cooperation between public authorities and citizens in the context of a research and experimentation project funded by the Co-Create programme of Innoviris – which I contributed. His interventions prompted me to meet again to discuss his experience of collaboration between research and civil society and vice versa. Here are some notes of this discussion.

2018-08-29 20.45.18A trained oceanograph, Lionel Larqué has a PhD in physics and political science, and is an activist and actor of popular education since the 1980s. He was successively   : Federal Commissioner for Cultural affairs at the national Léo Lagrange Federation, Deputy Director of the French Association of Small Hustlers (2003 -2012), founder and leader of the Global Forum sciences and democracy (2007-2013), founder of the European Network YPSSI and coordinator  of “Youth, Science, Europe   During the French presidency of the European Union (2008), initiator and executive secretary of the Alliance Sciences Société ( since 2012), co-director of the book “Science, it looks us” (2013). Continue reading

Being a citizen professional or a professional citizen?

Two years ago, I launched a citizen initiative in a park close to where I live. My motivations were to act as a responsible and engaged citizen – as I had been working on this field for quite some time – and to experiment moving from a passive attitude to an active one: the park seemed to be abandoned from the City Council, it looked really dodgy and I became scared of going there to throw away my compost. After having read the book on the Incredible edible, I thought to myself that I could maybe become an actor of change. That was the beginning of a personal transformation, learning about what makes citizen activism possible and pushing city administrations to evolve. Continue reading

Que pensent les acteurs publics et les initiative citoyennes des moyens d’améliorer leur collaboration ?

La collaboration entre autorités publiques et initiatives citoyennes ne fonctionne pas bien. Pourtant, elle peut s’améliorer. D’entrée de jeu, le ton de l’atelier « gouvernance » organisé par l’équipe du projet VILCO dans cadre des Rencontres des initiatives citoyennes durables à Bruxelles du 13 mai 2017 au BEL est donné.

Pensez-vous que cette collaboration puisse s’améliorer?

Pensez-vous que cette collaboration puisse s’améliorer?

Pensez-vous que la collaboration entre acteurs publics et initiatives citoyennes fonctionne bien?

Pensez-vous que la collaboration entre acteurs publics et initiatives citoyennes fonctionne bien?

C’est à travers des dynamiques locales que les autorités publiques, régionales et communales, et les initiatives citoyennes établissent des modalités de coopération qui cherchent à augmenter la résilience de la ville. Malgré le score sévère du premier baromètre, les participants présents ont d’abord présenté de nombreux exemples de modalités de collaboration qui fonctionnent. Continue reading

Exploring the conditions for shared urban spaces with high human value


This was the topic of the first Forum Camping organised by Yes We Camp , as a deep immersion at les Grands Voisins in Paris from 14th to 15th June 2017, day and night. Project holders, makers, artists, researchers, experts, public institutions from all around France and beyond exchanged on what makes a space move from being “public” to being “common”.

How come some spaces bring about a sense of legitimacy, welcoming feeling and invitation? Which systems can combining freedom and trust, to provide space where we are allowed to test, expand and open ourselves to others? What are the ingredients enabling to learn from one another and reduce the boundaries between social groups? These were some of the questions that guided our exchanges during those two days Continue reading

What can cities learn from the participatory democracy experience of Saillans?

In 2014, a group of citizens of Saillans – 1 200 inhabitants in Drôme, France – concerned about acting directly for their city, and in the light of increased well-being, presented themselves, apolitically, for the mayorship of the city. They won the elections and paved the way for a new type of city governance. They particularly sought to address two main caveats in the traditional way city councils and city governance in general work: on the one hand the Mayor and the deputy mayors’ appropriation of all the city power;  on the other, the low participants of inhabitants,  merely asked to express themselves through elections once every 6 years.

The city governance focuses on three main pillars: Continue reading

Goodwill as a vector of social innovations

tod-cover-for-web-pagesPam Warhurst and Joanna Dobson’s book on the Incredible Edible was my holiday book last summer. The wealth and details accounting for stages, encountered difficulties and envisaged solutions soon appeared to be a crucial case to analyse and try and understand the dynamics behind citizens’ movements which seek to improve the world.

Throughout the world, the Incredible Edible movement  represents groups of citizens planting in towns and in walking areas, giving free access to herbs and plants to all. These are sometimes rich and beautiful gardens, inviting walker to help themselves, sometimes they seems abandoned. Some people complain about the fact that planting next to the road or in wheels is unpretty and worst for health than products from (conventional) agriculture.  All in all, it launches debate and acts for (re) action. Continue reading

Upscaling social innovation or the process of maintaining grassroots initiatives

spiral-of-innovation1

The Spiral of Innovation ©R. Murray, J. Caulier-Grice, and G. Mulgan.

“Upscaling social innovation” is the main concern of all those dealing with the need to operate a transition towards a more sustainable society. How do we ensure that social innovations are maintained and do not fade in time? How can they be supported in their expansion? Should they grow? Should they be replicated? How can new initiatives emerge while learning from the others, but without reinventing the wheel? Continue reading