Social movements and citizens’ initiatives: Geographies, power relations, and determinants of success and impact


Dr. Carol Richards, Queensland Univ. of Technology, Australia

Dr. Robyn Mayes, Queensland Univ. of Technology, Australia

Prof. Michael Woods, Aberystwyth Univ., Wales, UK

Prof. Dirk Strijker, Univ. of Groningen, the Netherlands

Dr. Koen Salemink, Univ. of Groningen, the Netherlands


Carol Richards and Dirk Strijker


This working group seeks to encourage critical debate and scholarly collaboration around the geographies, determinants, and impact of social movements and initiatives in rural areas.

A wide range of social movements and citizens’ initiatives play an ever more important role in rural areas, varying from very much locally based initiatives (e.g. managing a village hall) to more globally inspired mobilizations around controversial and ideological topics (e.g. GMOs, palm oil, animal welfare). A common feature in these initiatives and movements, however, are the urban-based discourses which dominate both popular narratives and policy considerations, revealing a complex urban-rural political context.

Developments around rural social movements and initiatives show that some are more successful than others, some regions seem better equipped to start initiatives, and some themes allow for a more prominent mobilization of actors. It appears that the complexity of the tasks, and the competences and perseverance of the organizers, are important determinants for success. There is some evidence that other determinants also play a role, such as the type of objectives, scale, and power of the various actors. Most importantly, though, a common conclusion is that further research is needed to fully grasp and unpack these phenomena.

In this WG we are looking for papers focusing on the geographies of initiatives and movements, and on determinants of success, especially those focusing on the actors involved and power constellations. Initiatives and movements discussed could cover the fields of resource extraction, agricultural practices, (public) service provision, energy, maintenance of public spaces, local economic development, etc. Papers can be exploratory, works in progress, empirical and/or theoretical.


A traditional format of a presentation followed by Q&A is proposed. Presenters may use PowerPoint, or not, or explore alternative ways to engage the audience in their research as they see fit.