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Teilgabe Civic, cooperative, and social entrepreneurial generation of common good oriented economic infrastructure

The BMBF-funded project "Teilgabe: Civic, cooperative, and social entrepreneurial generation of common good oriented economic infrastructure" is a cooperation between Institute for Ecological Economy Research, the University of Cologne (Institute of Sociology and Social Psychology) und der University Hamburg (Department of Socioeconomics).

In nearly all societal fields, civil society initatives are emerging with new claims to participation and to shaping economic and social infrastructure, which they implement by putting new concepts into practice.
Such civil society economics structures represent three major concepts from current social-political and academic discourse: Civic engagement, cooperatives, and social enterprise. The practical engagement of citizens directed at shaping the commonwealth includes both common good oriented goals as well as economic means.

Distinct from more passive types of citizen engagement that involve participation in a community, those creative practices and contributory
inputs by engaged civil society actors generate a real contribution to shaping community – hence, civil society economic activity can be understood as „Teilgabe“ (participatory gift).

How can we assess the outcomes and products of civil society economic activity? In what way does it contribute to the generation and reproduction of common good(s)? By way of comparing different strategies and types of action, this project investigates how new forms of civil society economic activity not only provide resources and solutions to specific challenges, but realize structurally new approaches to shaping the commonwealth.

To do so, we pursue two lines of research with guiding questions building on each other: (1) Focusing on actors and action, our guiding question is: which civil society actors, organizational forms, types of action, strategies, etc. produce common goods? How can they be conceptualized, categorized, and evaluated? (2) Focusing on outputs and the shaping of structures, the guiding question is: what is it that civil society actors produce when aiming at the common good: public goods, utilities, and supply infrastructures? Is this process of creation impeded by anything, and what can foster it? How can these new institutions become durable?
The project links theoretical reflection with interdisciplinary empirical social research. It engages transdisciplinary research approaches and cooperation with field actors to survey the field of civil society economic activity, to answer the guiding questions, and to evaluate the conditions framing this activity. Ist purpose is to foster the development of common good oriented institutions focusing on cooperation and connection.

The practice oriented ambition of this project manifests in the collaboration with co-op expert Burghard Flieger, where research results will be used to lead efforts aimed at building support infrastructure, specifically an umbrella organisation, in one field of practice. Finally, the facilitation of a field-spanning event for exchange aims to help diffuse good practices across sectors.

IÖW Project Team