In the public debate, sustainable innovations are mostly associated with urban contexts, whereas rural areas are rarely seen as potentially creative sites. In contrast to this widespread suggestion, however, recent studies show that rural communities can also play a pivotal role in generating sustainable solutions. Yet, the transformative potentials of villages often remain socially limited to pioneers’ personal networks and spatially restricted to insulated places. In this context the question arises of how rural communities in transition to sustainability can overcome their island-status to develop transformative potentials. In order to answer this question, we take the example of Heckenbeck, a village located in southern Lower Saxony (Germany), as a case and examine the social interactions and networks that exist between local sustainability niches and the socio-technical regime. By applying socio-technical transition theory in a multi-scalar perspective, our study illustrates how a group of niche actors has accomplished to effectively transform the local regime by spreading their ideas among their fellow village members and to put pressure on the regional regime by using windows of opportunity created in the socio-technical landscape to build multifaceted social networks to various sectors of society. The case provides lessons learnt and discusses possibilities and limits to transfer these lessons to other contexts.
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