Local collective action for sustainability transformations: emerging narratives from local energy initiatives in The Netherlands

Mustafa Hasanov*, Christian Zuidema

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The phrase “local collective action” is increasingly being used to describe how civil society engages with, and acts upon, sustainability transformations. While existing research has framed local collective action as an outcome of creating a shared agenda on a local level, there have been calls for exploring the diversity of ideas, motives, and ambitions people have when they join local energy initiatives. This article aims to identify the diverse attitudes towards local collective action envisioned by those who engage in local energy initiatives. We use Q methodology to analyze people’s perceptions of the local collective action they are engaged in and how those perceptions could manifest in different pathways for sustainability transformations. Forty-seven statements reflecting various approaches to local collective action were sorted by people engaged in various local energy initiatives in the northeast of the Netherlands. Based on the analysis, we distinguish four factors—Localism, Facilitation, Orchestration, and Radical Transformation—that express the diverse aspirations, motivations, and rationales associated with local collective action in local energy initiatives. The findings emphasize that for those engaged in local energy initiatives (LEIs), local collective action means navigating among different assumptions, values, and transformation processes, which often oscillate between guiding principles that emphasize “getting things done” and “creating a pleasant atmosphere”. We argue that these four factors can serve as a starting point for developing local collective action strategies to help local communities and authorities unpack possible tensions, confrontations, and conflicts concerning local energy initiatives. These findings point out that while local energy initiatives rely on people’s energy and enthusiasm, practitioners and governments should be cautious while embracing their ambitions and values.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2397-2410
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number6
Early online date12 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • Energy transition
  • Local collective action
  • Local energy initiatives
  • Sustainability transformations
  • The Netherlands


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