Viewpoint − Water Innovation for a circular economy: The contribution of grassroots actors

Rafael Ziegler
GETIDOS, University of Greifswald, Greifswald, Germany; rziegler@uni-greifswald.de

ABSTRACT: European policy discourse on circular economy tends to focus on innovation in relation to business and especially industry. Research suggests, however, that in order to achieve successful transitions to circular economy all social actors must be considered. Institutional pluralism and a variety of modes of provision – market, public and communal – offer a framework for research on water innovation and circular economy not limited only to markets. The paper explores such a comprehensive perspective, with a focus on grassroots innovations and their contribution to circular economy. An exploratory study of three cases of such water innovation highlights the civic, communal, and nature conservation values that these innovations advance. It also points to alternative land and water use options, along with complementary practices beyond a purely efficiency-oriented focus. For innovation policy, it suggests a focus on the support of civil networks and their coordination capacities.

KEYWORDS: Circular economy, social innovation, grassroots innovation, water ethics, water innovation, European Union