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green identity entrepreneur

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Franklin, A. and Dunkley, R. (2017). Becoming a (green) identity entrepreneur: learning to negotiate situated identities to nurture community environmental practice. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 49(7), 1500-1516.


green identity


About the Recipe



Here is a draft thoughtleadership article in the style of The Atlantic, based on the findings and insights from the research paper:

Rethinking Community Environmentalism:

The Power of Local Identity and Green Entrepreneurship

As concern over climate change rises, policymakers and activists have increasingly looked to harness the power of community action to drive environmental progress at the local level. The prevailing assumption has been that promoting a strong "green" identity - getting people to see themselves as environmentalists - is key to motivating communities to adopt sustainable practices.

However, a recent study of community environmental projects in Wales challenges this conventional wisdom. The research, led by Alex Franklin of Coventry University and Ria Dunkley of Cardiff University, found that overtly "green" messaging and branding can actually turn many people off, making them less likely to engage in community initiatives.

Instead, the most successful projects were led by savvy "green identity entrepreneurs" - individuals skilled at downplaying environmental language and aligning initiatives with existing community interests and identities. For example, one leader reframed an energy saving project as a friendly neighborhood competition, tapping into the social fabric of the community. Another emphasized remote rural communities' need for affordable energy as a matter of survival, rather than climate change.

Franklin and Dunkley argue this demonstrates the complex, evolving and place-specific nature of identity. People's willingness to engage in environmental action depends on how it is situated within the "bundles" of identities and practices that make up the community. Pushing a one-size-fits-all green identity fails to resonate.

The researchers advise policymakers to empower grassroots leaders as green identity entrepreneurs, supporting them in grounding environmental practices in local needs, interests and attachments. Measuring projects' success also needs to account for their full range of community benefits, beyond just carbon reduction.

These findings highlight the importance of focusing on practices, not just individual values and behaviors, in driving social change. Identity shapes engagement, but it emerges from the bottom up, as skilled leaders knit environmental action into the community fabric. Standard "green" appeals from on high will always struggle to motivate - it takes identity entrepreneurship to sustainably shift mindsets and lifestyles.

As we grapple with the climate crisis, Franklin and Dunkley's work is a promising reminder that the most powerful solutions may sprout from the grassroots. By cultivating green identity entrepreneurs and letting local identities lead the way, we can foster an environmentalism that endures.

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