Ecovillages as Incubators for Sustainability Transitions (EVIST)

Ecovillages are regarded as real laboratories of sustainable change. Ecovillages are communities in which people develop novel forms of social, ecological, economic and cultural sustainable practices. The emerging innovations can provide important impulses for the broader society and drive sustainability transitions.However, the diffusion of these innovations is accompanied by diverse challenges. One key challenge is the often occurring difference between the lifestyles, values and worldviews of ecovillagers and mainstream society. While this difference can facilitate the development of sustainable innovations within ecovillages, it hinders their diffusion into the communities' social environment.

This research project explores these challenges using the concept of "boundary work". From this perspective, the difference between ecovillages and mainstream society is understood as a symbolic boundary that renders the exchange of ideas difficult. In order to disseminate innovations, social arrangements (e.g. intermediary organizations) are needed to bridge this symbolic boundary without dissolving it. 

The project examines ecovillages in different world regions. It explores which social arrangements enable the dissemination of ecovillages’ innovations, and under which social conditions this is more likely to occur. The results of this project will shed light on the innovation potential of ecovillages, and the project can provide knowledge about successful strategies for the local dissemination of sustainable innovations by grassroots initiatives. 

The project is being conducted under the direction of Prof. Dr. Jens Köhrsen at the Center for Religion, Economics and Politics (ZRWP) at the University of Basel. The team consists of Dr. Rebeca Roysen, Lasse Kos and Nadine Brühwiler.