Scaling impact of grassroots initiatives for sustainability within food policy councils
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As civil societies increasingly acknowledge sustainability challenges, sustainability transition (ST) studies have investigated more and more the role of grassroots organisations in triggering scalable change. Attempts to frame such topics have focused particularly on the innovative contribution of grassroots innovations and developed analytical models to identify their scaling strategies. More specifically, upscaling, out-scaling, and capture models have been developed. However, as effective outcomes have proven to be hard to identify, ways in which grassroots organisations exert influence at a larger scale are still under investigation and needing of more empirical application. The current study employs the aforementioned models, integrating them with another diverse body of literature on social movements and constituent power. Consequently, the notion of grassroots initiatives for sustainability (GISs) is used as an umbrella term to avoid constraining the scope to specific theoretical paradigm, and leaving the doors open for unexplored contributions. The units of analysis are GISs scaling through food policy councils (FPCs) in two city-regions: Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Lucca, Italy. By conducting an Event-Structure-Analysis (ESA), the research reconstructs the history of the formation of the FPCs with particular attention to GISs’ roles. The aim is ultimately to discover how GISs scale their impact through platforms fostering interactions among multiple stakeholders. The results show that GISs exerted remarkable influence by taking different and evolving roles over time. Primarily alternating collaborative, activist and strategic tactics, depending on the context and institutional support. Although in various forms, the role of the political agency of grassroots initiatives proves essential for GISs' scaling in both case studies, suggesting a necessity to integrate more political conceptualizations into ST research. Considering these results, the present research finally proposes a nuanced interpretative spectrum integrating and reformulating the above-mention models, with specific emphasis on the political contribution of GISs.