About the project

Project plan

SIAMESE aims to obtain an overview of socially innovative climate and sustainability experiments in Austria and to better understand the reasons for their emergence and development. Building on this, the project designs an intermediary platform for the generalisation of transformative knowledge and the routine implementation of transformative projects. Accordingly, the core questions are:

  • Which outstanding socially innovative climate & sustainability experiments exist in Austria and how can they be comprehensively described and classified?
  • What contexts, capacities and resources have enabled/favoured these experiments?
  • How can these findings be used for urban and regional governance?

In order to answer these questions, the project undertakes four steps that build on each other:

Socially innovative climate experiments in AT:

Based on scoping interviews with experts, a screening and an online survey, relevant recent experiments are collected and systematically processed according to descriptive criteria. The resulting overview serves as a showcase for good practice in social innovation in the climate field and at the same time allows the selection of exciting interventions for the following case study analysis.

Contexts & Drivers of Experiments:

Five selected experiments will be examined in more detail with regard to their context of emergence. In this way, the conducive/obstructive territorial and political-institutional conditions for the development of transformative projects will become visible. The analysis focuses on the role of specific knowledge and imaginaries for actors’ actions and the relevance of geography and space for socially innovative experiments.

Social Innovation & Social Change:

The genesis of the five initiatives is discussed in detail by means of innovation biographies. Their (non-)intended effects on structural and cultural dimensions of social change will be examined with the help of qualitative indicators and insights for goal-oriented transformation paths and approaches will be derived.

An intermediary actor:

SIAMESE, together with experts, is developing an intermediary hub that will henceforth link actors, skills and resources to promote transformative projects. This hub is based on the SIAMESE research results and the Steering Board’s knowledge of support needs in policy and practice.

Analysis dimensions

Practical and organisational

“How does social innovation shape climate governance?”

Experiments are discussed primarily in terms of their effect. The genesis of the experimental process itself, on the other hand, is often neglected. SIAMESE focuses on the social innovation process, the associated level of action and interaction, the process of knowledge production and learning, as well as the reproducible success factors.


“What role does “context” play in the emergence and development of experiments? Innovation in Climate Governance?” 

The question of scalability of solutions is also a question of framework conditions and development-critical drivers. SIAMESE therefore examines the political-institutional space of action, territorial specificities and implicit and explicit knowledge about socio-ecological-technological trajectories that constitute the context for the emergence and development of concrete experiments.


“How do experiments contribute to social change?”

Often, climate experiments have an impact beyond climate protection and adaptation on other social spheres such as health, wealth and quality of life. SIAMESE looks specifically at these contexts and highlights such far-reaching approaches to promoting transformative change in the course of the discussion on the generalisability and routinisation of experiments. 

Key terms


put innovative solutions for climate protection, climate change adaptation and sustainable development into practice on a test basis and in (partly) protected settings in order to try out their function, practicability and effectiveness in real social settings. A number of characteristics describe such experiments: they are limited in time and place, risky and open-ended, critical of established, unsustainable system states (>radical) and a form of learning-by-doing. Based on the literature, SIAMESE distinguishes three basic types of experiments:

  1. Governance experiments in which novel instruments and governance mechanisms are tested ad hoc in practice (e.g. citizens’ councils and participatory budgets).
  2. The experiment as a transdisciplinary and transformative research method that develops and tests technical, social or nature-based solutions in a co-creative way (e.g. the experiment “self-driving bus” in the real laboratory “Automatic City”).
  3. The experiment as a civil society project that tries out alternative social practices bottom-up and/or with activist means (e.g. food cooperative).

SIAMESE assumes, contrary to the frequently encountered attitude, that social innovation can play an important role in all types of experiments and therefore explores all three.


in SIAMESE they are defined as a multi-stage, iterative innovation process (ideally: idea ‘ intervention ‘ embedding ‘ impact). Social innovation seeks to respond to concrete social needs by changing social configurations (i.e., roles, resources, practices, interactions). This may include:

  • The development of new business models (e.g. citizens’ solar power plants).
  • The establishment of new control approaches (e.g. climate councils)
  • The change of roles (e.g. the citizen as prosumer)
  • Shifting hierarchies, power relations and access to resources
  • The change of actions & everyday practices (e.g. the switch of private households to sustainable modes of transport)