'At some point it has been enough' - Processes of perceived failure of citizens initiatives

Elisabeth Bulder, Prof.dr. T. Haartsen, Erzsi Meerstra-de Haan, Sabine Meier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Citizens’ initiatives are believed to be a suitable alternative approach to service provision, especially in rural areas where services and facilities are under pressure because of depopulation and the decentralization measures of the state. To date, research has mainly focused on successful examples of these types of initiatives, revealing which factors influence success and how success can be facilitated. However, understanding the process of failure is equally important in order to provide the needed support and to increase the chances of success. This paper specifically focuses on citizens’ initiatives that are perceived by their initiators to have failed. This study adopts an integral approach, not only focusing on failure factors but also considering failure as a process. Within the literature, six obstacles to the success of citizens’ initiatives were identified based on studies of success. Three case studies on failed citizens’ initiatives in the Northern Netherlands revealed three themes in the process of perceived failure: interactions with governments and institutions, appropriation and personal investment. We also conclude that the process of perceived failure is dominated by a discrepancy of scale because citizens’ initiatives operate on the local level, yet they depend on and must interact with governments and institutions that operate at the regional level.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSociologia Ruralis
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Nov 2019


  • citizen initiatives
  • success
  • northern netherlands
  • failures


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