Individual Paper: Participatory action research: the (only) way to enhance urban sustainability toward a degrowth society
Raising number of grassroots initiatives offers alternatives to the mainstream economic system all around the world e.g. solidarity economy initiatives, social entrepreneurships, social innovations, etc. These initiatives often experiment informal and solidarity economy, direct democracy, participatory decisions making by questioning development, technology, meaning of work and power relations in an ecologically conscious way.
While being precursor of a new degrowth utopia however, they have to coexist with the dominant market centered economic system. Moreover to guarantee their long term sustainability they often have to adapt their operation and activities to the dominant system. This often leads to trade-offs between social, environmental, political and economic goals, and market logic can overrule their intentions to create an alternative, ecologically sustainable and just society. To maintain the transformative characteristic of such grassroots initiatives, recent researches call for reflectivity among these actors to reveal challenges, contradictions or even unintended consequences (Lemaitre – Helmsing, 2012; Tranzit, 2017).
Participatory action research offers tools for such self-reflection by connecting theory and practice. This papers aims to present a mutual journey of five members of an open collective who engaged themselves in a co-operative inquiry. This open collective called Cargonomia, being a cooperation between environmentally and socially conscious social entrepreneurships operates as a food distribution and cargobike-sharing point in Budapest, Hungary. It also offers an open space for community and educational activities related to degrowth, well-being, ecology and sustainable transition while experimenting an alternative and democratic way of organizing economic activities through reciprocal and solidarity relations.
The process of the co-operative inquiry aimed to explore the socio-economic and ecological context, and contradictions of the collective, and to identify its resilience mechanisms occupying "new innovative niche" within a dominant surrounding regime. During this participatory inquiry the members of the collective analysed diversity of activities and the main drivers behind them through the lenses of the substantive economy (based on Polanyi, 1957). The research revealed the main characteristics which assist Cargonomia to survive and provide a critical edge that includes the seeds of an alternative system.
Start time: 11:30
Room: ABF (Lilla sallen)
Track: Organisational and Organising Practices