By Luciane Lucas Dos Santos, REDPES, Portugal

RIPESS Europe will be at the core of a research project recently approved by the FCT (Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology). This is a project chaired by Ana Margarida Esteves (ISCTE-IUL, with Maria Fernandes-Jesus as co-Principal Investigator.), the colleague who will be the speaker on March 23rd at the third seminar of the RedPES-RIPESS Workshop Series on Solidarity Economy. I will be the partner institutional coordinator for the Centre for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra.


Period: From February 2nd, 2021 to January 31st, 2024
Duration: 36 months
Project Reference: PTDC/SOC-SOC/2061/2020
Principal Investigator: Ana Margarida Esteves
Research institutions: ISCTE-IUL (coordinating institution), CES-UC (partner institution)
Industrial mass production and globalized supply chains bring numerous challenges and risks. Climate change, resource scarcity, financial instability, rising economic and political polarization, and associated threats to human livelihoods require systems-based, multidimensional solutions that promote resilience from the ground up. Such solutions need to address the root cause of these issues: a paradigm of development that reduces well-being to quantitative criteria, underestimating the importance of social and ecological relationships.
Regenerative approaches to development treat natural and human processes as inherently linked. They go beyond sustainability to embrace social-ecological resilience, understood as the capacity to adapt, transform and remain cohesive in face of external pressures. Regenerative approaches to development seek to arrest and reverse both ecological degradation and loss of the cultural skills necessary for living in harmony with local environments, allowing people to form synergistic interrelationships with each other and with nature. 
EuroREGEN is an FCT-funded project chaired by ISCTE-IUL (Ana Margarida Esteves as Principal Investigator (PI)I; Maria Fernandes-Jesus as co-PI), having CES as the partner institution (Luciane Lucas dos Santos as Partner Institutional Coordinator for the CES). This project will undertake a comparative analysis of how transnational networks of autonomous initiatives working at the scale of the local community (Community-Led Initiatives or CLIs) in Europe mobilize within and across national borders and engage public institutions in order to promote favorable institutional environments for regenerative development. 
This project has two goals :
1) compare and contrast approaches to framing members’ demands, coalition-building and policy advocacy by the European hubs of the three major networks that promote a regenerative approach to development: Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), Transition Network (TN) and the Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of Social Solidarity Economy (RIPESS);
2) understand how the results of such processes are transposed to member CLIs.
Case study selection was based on a comparison of the strategic foci of these networks. GEN and TN promote bioregional approaches to regenerative transition, aligning human activities with ecological limits by making productive activities sensitive to resource limits and ecologically enriching. They do this by applying permaculture design relocalization of production and consumption and promotion of circular economies. Both networks have track records promoting horizontal diffusion of knowledge, technology and best practices among members and engaging policy actors at all levels from local to EU. The membership of GEN in Europe consists predominantly of intentional communities, while that of TN is mainly pre-existing communities of place (urban, peri-urban and rural neighbourhoods) that engage municipalities in community-led plans for a sustainability transition. RIPESS promotes economic democracy, ecological regeneration and territorial resilience by furthering the practice and institutional recognition of economic self-organisation based on commons and cooperativism. It promotes horizontal diffusion of knowledge and best practices through virtual working groups and physical meetings that aim to common action frames. GEN and TN are (since 2014) founding members of the European Network for Community-led Initiatives on Climate Change and Sustainability (ECOLISE), which provides a common platform for networking, collaboration, research, learning and policy advocacy. RIPESS has been collaborating with ECOLISE since 2018. 
This project will gather data through: archival research and document analysis, interviews with key actors, network-wide surveys, participant observation at meetings and events, and case study research on local-regional initiatives in three countries. It aims to develop a theory of political processes in the field of regenerative development and to bridge academia, practice and policymaking through both participatory research methods and outputs targeted at multiple audiences.
Keywords: regenerative development; bioregionalism; Solidarity Economy; community-led initiatives
Funding entity: FCT