COSIMA – Governing community-based social innovation for climate change mitigation and adaptation

Supported by funds of Austrian Climate Research Program (ACRP, 7th Call); project duration: Apr 2015 – Mar 2017

Project management: Ao.Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Helmut Haberl, Mag. Dr. Daniel Hausknost, Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Willi Haas (SEC – Institute of Social Ecology, Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt)

Project partners: Dr. Anja Christanell, Mag. Michaela Leitner, Sylvia Mandl, MSc, DI Annette Zeinlinger (ÖIN – Austrian Institute for Sustainable Development), Dr. Iris Kunze (GWN – Centre for Global Change and Sustainability, University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU), Prof. Dr. Dr. Martina Schäfer, Dr. Sabine Hielscher (ZTG – Center for Technology and Society, Technische Universität Berlin)

The main objective of the project is to analyse how community-based initiatives develop and stabilise climate change mitigation and adaptation practices and to identify policy instruments and governance mechanisms to support the development, stabilisation and mainstreaming of these practices. To be able to compare the potentials of different community-based initiatives, we chose two contrasting types: ecovillages and low carbon municipalities. Whereas ecovillages are self-organised “bottom-up” initiatives, carbon municipalities are existing municipalities that have set their collective carbon reduction goals by way of political decisions (“top-down”).

We define social innovation as novel practices which differ substantially from established or mainstream routines. They represent solutions for societal problems and have far reaching structural consequences.

To analyse the dynamics of social innovation we distinguish three phases of the social innovation process: the development phase, the stabilisation phase and the mainstreaming phase (each divided into sub-phases).

Through participatory research carried out in a series of workshops with the individual initiatives, the project will analyse the respective practices and practice networks for each stage of the social innovation process. Each phase poses specific challenges and is characterized by respective enabling and constraining structural conditions. The analysis of these challenges and structural forces is important to develop, in the last instance, appropriate policy instruments and governance mechanisms that help to overcome structural barriers and support the stabilization and mainstreaming of successful alternative practices.


case study report eco village Sieben Linden

case study report region Beeskow

Fallstudienbericht eco region Kaindorf

case study report municipality Laxenburg

case study report eco village Lebensraum

case study report eco village Pomali

Mandl, Sylvia (2016): COSIMA: Nachhaltigkeits-Studie. Klimabündnis – Zeitschrift von Klimabündnis Österreich, 2016, Nr. 02, 07.

Leitner, Michaela; Mandl, Sylvia (2016): Viele Wege führen zum nachhaltigeren Leben. Engagement von Ökodörfern und im Klimaschutz aktiven Gemeinden. sol Magazin – Solidarität, Ökologie und Lebensstil, Summer 2016, 164, 25-27.