The Centre on Social Movement Studies


TRANSFORM – Driving Transformative Environmental Governance


Lorenzo Zamponi and Martina Lo Cascio



The TRANSFORM project will investigate how civil society actors drive change towards transformative environmental governance. Current scholarship claims that such a change is a crucial element to improve our responses to climate change, biodiversity loss and the host of daunting challenges these pose. This viewpoint is shared by key actors in global environmental governance as well as civil society actors (CSAs), and all converge in underlining the need to shift away from the existing system of environmental governance rooted in understandings of the ‘environment’ as a set of resources. While emerging work on transformative environmental governance focuses on the fundamental elements that will characterise this governance model, there is less detail available about how such a transformation will come about. Although CSAs are seen as key drivers of transformative change, questions about how their actions will drive change remain.

The TRANSFORM project will unpack how different CSAs are driving changes towards transformative environmental governance by conducting multi-method, holistic case studies of actors working towards such change at multiple levels of governance. It will focus on the Italian context and investigate cases at the local, national and international levels. It hypothesises, on the basis of the emerging literature, that CSAs of different types can challenge the overarching norms that currently shape environmental governance through bottom-up paths where they encourage and enact innovative changes to social-ecological systems, and through demands for change at multiple institutional levels. After a period dedicated to conceptual work to deepen the hypothetical understanding of how transformative environmental governance may be driven by CSAs, case studies will be carried out following a participatory and multimethod approach in line with the expertise of the research units. The case studies will then be placed in complex contexts via political process and qualitative network analysis. Using the claims of the case studies as a starting point, the project will then conduct an innovative content analysis to trace transformative impacts in different sites of environmental governance.

The project follows a clearly structured research plan, organised in distinct yet complementary work packages that will allow the research team to achieve clear objectives, set out in a series of milestones, and deliver a series of academic findings in open access publications. The project will also pay attention to impacts on CSAs themselves, seeking to support them to continue driving transformative change in environmental governance, and to delivering findings in accessible ways to policy makers. Above all, the project will answer key questions about how to transform our efforts to protect the environment at a time when unique opportunities, linked to perceptions of multiple crises, are open.

Leading unit (Università di Trento): Louisa Parks (Principal Investigator) and Bartek Goldmann

SNS research unit: Lorenzo Zamponi (associate PI) and Martina Lo Cascio



Italian government (PRIN PNRR 2022)




The Far-right and conspiraciy theories from Covid to the European elections

Donatella Della Porta has researched on “Regressive movements in time of emergency” using the case of protests against anti contagion measures. Protesters pictured themselves as an abused minority fighting against some hidden and organized power. We asked Della Porta to explain why and how conspiracy theories and this kind of posturing is keen to fall for the political offer of rightwing parties.


Social movements, Coronavirus and the right to healthcare

The 2020 pandemic has brought renewed focus on public healthcare and many mobilizations both on healthcare systems and vaccine patents. What are the peculiarities of right to healthcare movements? A talk with Cosmos Lab member Stella Christou


Far right movements and the European elections

Intersections and differences among far right politica Europan parties and movments, transatlantic exchanges, the role of mobilizations at the grassroots level. An interview with political scientist Andrea Pirro


An open letter on freedom of expression and protest on Palestine by the European social movement studies community

As social movement scholars we express strong concerns about the growing trend to restrict the right of expression, critique, and protest in several countries in Europe. Signed by research centres, journals and standing groups.


CFP: Feminism as a method - Feminist Epistemologies, Methodologies and Methods in Social Sciences

International Conference 14-15 November 2024 Anastasia Barone, Giada Bonu Rosenkranz and Donatella della Porta (Scuola Normale Superiore)


CFP: Analyzing protest in the digital age. Challenges and opportunities in combining text and video sources

Organizers Donatella della Porta, Scuola Normale Superiore Swen Hutter, Freie Universität Berlin & WZB Berlin Social Science Center Place and date WZB Berlin Social Science Center, December 7-8, 2023


Journal Article - 2023

Resisting right-wing populism in power: a comparative analysis of the Facebook activities of social movements in Italy and the UK

Niccolò Pennucci
This paper aims to present a comparative study of the civil society reaction to right-wing populism in power through social media, by looking at cases in Italy and the United Kingdom.

Journal Article - 2023

Emotions in Action: the Role of Emotions in Refugee Solidarity Activism

Chiara Milan
This article investigates the different types of emotions that result from participation in refugee solidarity activism, investigating how they change over time and to what extent they explain why individuals remain involved in action in spite of unfavorable circumstances.

Journal Article - 2023

‘Love is over, this is going to be Turkey!’: cathartic resonance between the June 2013 protests in Turkey and Brazil

Batuhan Eren
This study addresses the question of why and how a protest can inspire individuals in distant countries. Taking the June 2013 protests in Turkey and Brazil as cases, it investigates the reasons why the Turkish protests were framed as one of the inspirational benchmarks by some Brazilian protesters.

Journal Article - 2023

Mutual aid and solidarity politics in times of emergency: direct social action and temporality in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic

Lorenzo Zamponi
From the spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing measures introduced created a series of social problems and needs that were partially addressed in Italy as well as in other countries by grassroots mutual aid initiatives. While many of these initiatives were strongly rooted in the Italian social movement and civil society landscape and the choice to engage in mutual aid activities was the result of long years of reflection and planning, the article shows how strongly the temporality of emergency affected the nature of these initiatives, their development and their outcomes, in particular with regard to the extraordinary number of people who volunteered and their relationship with politicisation processes.

Monograph - 2023

Populism and (Pop) Music

Manuela Caiani, Enrico Padoan
The book provides a detailed account of the links between production of popular culture to the rise of populism and contributes to studies on populism and popular culture in Italy, using a comparative approach and a cultural sociology perspective

Monograph - 2022

Labour conflicts in the digital age

Donatella della Porta, Riccardo Emilio Chesta, Lorenzo Cini
From Deliveroo to Amazon, digital platforms have drastically transformed the way we work. But how are these transformations being received and challenged by workers? This book provides a radical interpretation of the changing nature of worker movements in the digital age, developing an invaluable approach that combines social movement studies and industrial relations. Using case studies taken from Europe and North America, it offers a comparative perspective on the mobilizing trajectories of different platform workers and their distinct organizational forms and action repertoires.

Monograph - 2022

Resisting the Backlash: Street Protest in Italy

Donatella della Porta, Niccolò Bertuzzi, Daniela Chironi, Chiara Milan, Martín Portos & Lorenzo Zamponi
Drawing interview material, together with extensive data from the authors’ original social movement database, this book examines the development of social movements in resistance to perceived political "regression" and a growing right-wing backlash.

Journal Article - 2021

Learning from Democratic Practices: New Perspectives in Institutional Design

Andrea Felicetti
Drawing from literature on democratic practices in social movements and democratic innovations, the article illustrates three ways to advance institutional design in the wake of the systemic turn.

Monograph - 2021

Migrant Protest. Interactive Dynamics in Precarious Mobilizations

Elias Steinhilper
This book explores the interactions and spaces shaping the emergence, trajectory, and fragmentation of migrant protest in unfavorable contexts of marginalization.

Journal Article - 2021

Populism between voting and non-electoral participation

Andrea Pirro & Martín Portos
The article focuses on a neglected aspect of populist mobilisation, i.e. non-electoral participation (NEP), and elaborates on the extent to which populist party voters engage politically outside the polling station. While challenging common understandings of populism as inherently distrustful and apathetic, and protest as an exclusive practice of the left, the study critically places NEP at the heart of populism in general, and populist right politics in particular.