Recently we have seen the emergence of citizen-led community initiatives and civic enterprises, taking over governmental tasks in providing public services in various sectors, such as energy, care, landscape maintenance, and culture. This phenomenon can be explained by a renewed interest in community, place, and ‘local identity’; the erosion of the welfare state; the privatization of public services; a re-emergence of the social economy; and tensions between ‘bottom-up’ initiatives and the changing role of the state. The co-production of governments and initiatives can potentially result in a shift from government-led to community-led planning. This, however, raises questions about their innovative potential, the democratic consequences, and the potential roles of governments in enabling these societal dynamics. This article discusses these issues theoretically, illustrated with empirical examples from Portugal, the Netherlands, and Wales, in a context of uncertainty regarding the future of the traditional European welfare state.
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