Mapping Communities of Practice Towards Sustainable Production and Consumption
Presented at the 1st Global Research Forum on Sustainable Production and Consumption conference, Rio de Janeiro, June 9, 2012
This paper explores the challenge of mapping the many practices and approaches aimed at achieving sustainable production and consumption (SPC). Over the past forty years an expanding spectrum of actions and ideas has evolved in response to the social and ecological impacts of unsustainable production and consumption systems. These actions range from consumer boycotts and street protests to eco labels and education campaigns; from innovations in technology and product design to social experiments in community living. These practices are also often tied to dedicated research and analysis to understand the problem and to identify alternative paths forward. The challenge of mapping these actions and paths involves not only assessing the variety and spread of SPC practices around the world but considering the values, interpretive frames and political/cultural contexts shaping these practices. Altogether we have a population of practices, organizations and communities of practice engaged in a collective project aimed at transforming the global economic system. This project is not only difficult to achieve but a challenge to map. A key unit of analysis is the social network; another is the community of practice. Navigating a path through this complex landscape, not to mention locating potential allies and identifying obstacles, calls not only for maps but the sharing of knowledge and experience about the territory. This paper examines some possible schemas and tools to help with this task.