Join Arjan van Dorsselaer's Scientific Reading Group

Succeeding the kick-off event in June, Arjan van Dorsselaer wrote to the platform with a proposal for setting up a reading group. The proposal is open to all members of our community and can be read below. Are you interested in joining the reading group? Please email Arjan van Dorsselaer ( 


Dear members of the Bottom-up Initiatives for Societal Change Platform,

Following up on the discussion we had during the kick-off event, I would like to elaborate on the idea of starting a scientific reading group for all those interested in the topic of bottom-up initiatives for societal change. What became clear during our conversation on initiatives was the different connotations that each discipline has with this subject, which consequently influences the type of organization we study.

When looking at it from a business/economics perspective, the topic of debate seems to center around ‘social enterprises’, which as a domain studies firms that “conduct business with an embedded social drive” (Gupta et al., 2020, p.209). In its focus, social entrepreneurship varies from traditional entrepreneurship as it considers creating social value as the primary mission of a company rather than accumulating private economic benefits. From a public administrative or governance perspective, one seems to focus more on organizations that aim to create public value. Here, the debate centers on ‘community-based initiatives’ as “a form of self-organization in which citizens mobilize energy and resources to collectively define and carry out projects aimed at providing public goods or services for their community” (Igalla, Edelenbos, van Meerkerk, 2019, p 1176). When contrasting this type of bottom-up organization with the social enterprise, it can be noted that the market-driven approach seems to come less to the fore. Other disciplines seem to fill in the gaps surrounding these grassroot approaches by adding dimensions to it. Where geography adds a spatial component studying, for example, ‘rural social enterprises’ and sociology emphasizes the collective aspect by studying ‘community enterprises’ or ‘commons’, innovation studies mainly considers how sustainability is achieved through ‘technological niches’ and ‘socio-technical regimes’.

In this proposal, I therefore want to suggest setting up a reading group that comes together once every 4 or 5 weeks, where various articles on bottom-up initiatives for societal change will be read and discussed. Every meeting will build on two disciplines for approaching the aforementioned concept from multiple perspectives with the aim to broaden and challenge our current understanding of the topic. To make this reading group more accessible and doable for all researchers, I suggest organizing lunch sessions, so it does not take up too much time in everyone's full calendars.

Warm regards,
Arjan van Dorsselaer