Duration: September 2022 until August 2025

Funded by: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Partners: Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography (IfL), University of Applied Sciences Zittau/Görlitz, Institute for Social Innovation (ISInova), Centre for Rural Development (SLE)

Innovations play a crucial role in the future viability of cities and regions as drivers of societal transformation processes. Current findings from the literature show that understanding the economy, technology, and growth as drivers of innovation fails to capture the transformation capacity of societies. This is because research underestimates the significance of sustainable and public welfare-oriented thinking and acting for transformation. Moreover, despite their potential for managing transformation processes, these modes of action are insufficiently addressed in innovation research.

The project focuses on transformative capacities to address the research gap. Transformative capacities describe the ability of societies to initiate and shape transformation processes. The study focuses on four peripheral, rural regions without a substantial economic center.

The project answers the following research questions:

  1. What characteristics distinguish transformative from traditional innovation systems, and which components determine the societal innovation capacity for shaping transformative change?
  2. How can these components be captured and assessed, and how do they shape and differ in “structurally weak” regions?
  3. How are actors and institutions connected to these components, what is their understanding of innovation, transformation, and regional development, and what values, narratives, practices, and forms of organization do they share and pursue?
  4. Which spatial and temporal innovation patterns and dynamics of transformative innovation systems can be identified, and what role do endogenous and contextual factors play in the regions?

To answer the research questions, ATRAKTIV follows a theory-driven, comparative case study approach using quantitative and qualitative social research methods.

Duration: October 2022 until March 2023

Funded by: German Foundation for Engagement and Volunteering

Partners: innova eG, IDZ e.V., ZiviZ gGmbH

In the last two decades, citizens’ cooperatives have established themselves as a new form of organization for civic engagement. Compared to a classic cooperative, a citizens’ cooperative aims to contribute to the community. This is a relatively new field of research at the interface of cooperatives and civil society. So far, the literature lacks clear consensus on which measures are aimed at and taken up by citizens’ cooperatives regarding engagement-promoting infrastructure.

The research project aims to link existing engagement-promoting infrastructures more closely with civic organizations. Moreover, the project seeks to determine to what extent civic organizations can be considered engagement infrastructures. The study examines which offers of engagement-promoting infrastructures were available to and used by the civic groups during their founding and development. Additionally, the study analyses which specific needs of the Civic Groups could not be covered by engagement-promoting infrastructures. Data will be collected through a survey (ZiviZ) and expert interviews in six case study regions.

The findings from the survey will be used to identify relevant support services for citizens’ cooperatives, existing needs, and potential for further support measures in infrastructures that promote engagement. In addition, the influence of existing support services on the founding and development of citizens’ cooperatives will be investigated. The findings will lead to a practical guide for engagement support infrastructures, which will be published at the end of the project.

The results were presented to interested practitioners and the professional public in a transfer workshop at the conference “Mit Bürgergenossenschaften den ländlichen Raum entwickeln” (Developing Rural Areas With Citizen Cooperatives) in Loccum from 25-26 May 2023 (


DSEE-Study (Short-Version)

DSEE-Study (Full Version)

Digital, state-of-the-art agribusiness education for farmer led enterprises in the agri-food value chain

Duration: November 2019 until April 2022

Funded by: European Commission

The specific objectives of our project are the following: to design and develop a European curricula for higher education focusing on cooperative business models in the agriculture sector; to provide education that is necessary for agriculture students to further work as leaders, managers, staff, consultants, members of co-operative enterprises in the agriculture sector; to include the use of open, digital multi-disciplinary learning; to promote excellence in teaching and skill development through the training of academics from participating higher education institutions in the field of cooperative business models in the agri-business sector; and to exchange good practices in new and innovative pedagogies of related topics.

The main outputs are:

  • a set of 14 case studies gathering best practices related to farmers/producers cooperatives in the involved countries (Romania, Spain and Germany), in different sectors, fruit and vegetables, dairy, livestock etc. and with different functions marketing, credit, insurance, procurement, etc.;
  • videos capturing business models and management practices of cooperative enterprises:
    • Film on the cooperative sector in Romania
    • Film on the cooperative sector in Almeria (Spain)
    • Film on the cooperative sector in Germany
  • teaching materials on agricultural economics, management, legal and institutional aspects and public policies.

Partners: University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Bucharest (Romania), Solidarity Lab (Asociatia Laboratorul de Solidaritate) (Romania), University of Almeria (Spain)

Please visit the project’s official website to find out more about its results:

Development of strategies to promote the transfer of scientific research results to rural areas

Duration: June 2017 until May 2020

Funded by: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Innovations and the production of new knowledge are predominantly associated with urban areas, which are also given priority support. However, not urban but rural areas dominate the landscape in Germany and are equally relevant for the country’s sustainable future and competitiveness. However, the creation of equal living conditions in rural areas is hampered by economic, structural and geographical challenges. Many rural communities are particularly affected by demographic change. On the other hand, rural areas have a wide range of endogenous potentials that have so far been insufficiently exploited and researched, especially through networks and coalitions of regional actors along economic and social relations. 

The BMBF-funded research project “Broadening Horizons – Changing Perspectives” analyses needs, conditions and obstacles for knowledge and technology transfer in rural areas and develops measures and recommendations for action for the promotion of region-specific social and technical innovations in cooperation with local actors. In addition to the Division of Economics of Agricultural Cooperatives of the Humboldt- Universität zu Berlin (HU), the Fraunhofer Center for Responsible Research and Innovation (CeRRI), the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography (IFL), the Institute for Social Innovation e.V. (ISInova), as well as the Fraunhofer Institute for Scientific-Technical Trend Analyses (INT) are involved in this interdisciplinary project.

The HU sub-project, entitled “Innovation via interfaces”, is dedicated to the role of cooperatives in discovering and disseminating innovations in rural areas. For this purpose, existing research results will be analysed, empirical data will be collected and analysed by means of a systematic qualitative case comparison (QCA) in order to identify necessary and sufficient conditions for a successful knowledge and technology transfer. Besides gaining new insights into innovation processes and networks, the aim is to create a more complex understanding of innovation and thus to reassess the potential of rural areas.

Partners: Fraunhofer Center for Responsible Research and Innovation (CeRRI), Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde (IFL), Institut für Sozialinnovation e.V. (ISInova),  Fraunhofer Institut für Naturwissenschaftlich-Technische Trendanalysen (INT)

Contact:  Prof. Dr. Markus Hanisch

Team: Katrin Martens (Verlinkung), Anke Wolff (Verlinkung)

Project Publications:

Wolf, A., Martens, K. (2019): Innovation durch Kooperation – Das Genossen-schaftsmodell im Fokus. In: Schroth, F., Schraudner, M. (Hrsg.): Horizonte erweitern, Perspektiven ändern: Ländliche Räume als Innovationsräume verstehen und fördern, S. 25 -35.

Does electrical power produced by cooperatives have a higher value?

Duration: November 2011 until July 2015

Funded by: DZ BANK-Foundation

In many co-operative sectors, the number of new enterprises is declining. Due to consolidations even the absolute number of cooperatives is declining. One sector, however, is resisting this trend and is recording high growth rates in capital, members and newly founded companies – the energy cooperatives.

In research, energy cooperatives are often viewed in isolation from other forms of organisation. This leads to the fact that the question of the comparative advantage of the cooperative compared to other forms of organisation and from the point of view of the members and potential customers is not or only insufficiently asked. There are no analyses on how potential new members of energy cooperatives evaluate the benefits of cooperative energy. We try to close this gap.

We investigate why people choose to purchase electricity from a cooperative and even become owners of their electricity supplier. The project uses choice experiments to investigate the benefits of individual governance mechanisms of the cooperative for electricity customers. In addition to the scientific questions, another focus of the project is the derivation of recommendations for action for policy and practice.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Markus Hanisch

Team: Jakob Müller, Jens Rommel und Julian Sagebiel

Project Publications:

Höfer, H.-H.; Rommel, J. (2015). Internal governance and member investment behavior in energy cooperatives: An experimental approach. Utilities Policy 36, 52-56.

Müller, J. R.; Dorniok, D.; Flieger, B.; Holstenkamp, L.; Mey, F.; Radtke, J. (2015). Energiegenossenschaften: Das Erfolgsmodell braucht neue Dynamik. GAIA, Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society 24(2), 96-101.

Müller, J. R.; Sagebiel, J. (2015). Machen Genossenschaften Ökostrom wertvoller? Zeitschrift für öffentliche und gemeinnützige Unternehmen 38(2-3), 226-237.

Rommel, J.; Sagebiel, J.; Müller, J. R. (2016). Quality Uncertainty and the Market for Renewable Energy: Evidence from German Consumers. Renewable Energy 94, 106-113.

Sagebiel, J.; Müller, J. R.; Rommel, J. (2014): Are Consumers Willing to Pay More for Electricity from Cooperatives? Results from an Online Choice Experiment in Germany. Energy Research & Social Science 2, 90–101.

Yildiz, Ö.; Rommel, J.; Debor, S.; Holstenkamp, L.; Mey, F.; Müller, J. R.; Radtke, J.; Rognli, J. (2015). Renewable Energy Cooperatives as Gatekeepers or Facilitators? Recent Developments in Germany and a Multidisciplinary Research Agenda. Energy Research & Social Science 6, 59-73.

New perspectives at the interface between civic engagement and social entrepreneurship

Duration: September 2015 until March 2019

Funded by: Herbert-Quandt-Foundation

The research project examined cooperatives as a promising organizational model for the provision of services of general interest, especially in rural areas. The project provides a theoretical and empirical contribution to explain the current development of community-based organizations in the areas of social services, local government and infrastructure. The aim is to identify existing needs for action as well as appropriate measures to support the emergence and development of these cooperatives.

At the interface between engagement research, social enterprise research and cooperative science, the research project is dedicated to the question of the extent to which civic engagement in the provision of social and community services in the form of cooperatives can prove to be a viable and sustainable organizational model. The aim is to make a theoretical and empirical contribution to the analysis of such cooperatives that are dedicated to social and communal tasks. The potential of these enterprises to jointly achieve economic and social goals and thus to act as infrastructures for the long-term commitment of civic engagement will be analysed. The advantages and disadvantages of the cooperative organization for the commitment and promotion of civic engagement are analyzed and recommendations for policy and cooperative management were formulated.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Markus Hanisch

Team: Marleen Thürling (

Project Publications:

Hanisch, Markus/Thürling, Marleen (2020): Genossenschaften stärken das Gemeinwesen, LandInForm – Magazin für Ländliche Räume, Ausgabe 1.20, Internetquelle:

Thürling, Marleen (2020): Sozialgenossenschaften als gemeinwirtschaftliche Unternehmen: Begriffsbestimmung und Typologie, Zeitschrift für öffentliche und gemeinwirtschaftliche Unternehmen (im Erscheinen).

Thürling, Marleen (2018): Genossenschaften für das Gemeinwohl, PerspektivePraxis 4/2018. URL:$FILE/Genossenschaften_fuer_das_Gemeinwohl.pdf

Thürling, Marleen (2019): Zur Gründung von gemeinwesenorientierten Genossenschaften – Eine vergleichende Regionalanalyse, Zeitschrift für das gesamte Genossenschaftswesen (ZfgG) 69(2): 85–116.

Funded by: European Commission

Duration: December 2010 until November 2012

The imbalances in bargaining power between the contracting parties in the food supply chain have drawn much scholarly attention but have also been closely examined by policy makers. The European Commission is committed to facilitate the restructuring of the agricultural sector by encouraging the creation of voluntary agricultural producer organisations. DG Agriculture and Rural Development has launched a large study, “Support for Farmers’ Cooperatives” (hereafter: SFC), to provide background knowledge that will help farmers organise themselves in cooperatives as a means to consolidate their market orientation and so generate a solid market income.

Partners: Jos Bijman, Wageningen University, The Netherlands, Constantine Iliopoulos, Agricultural Economics Research Institute, Greece, Krijn J. Poppe, LEI Wageningen UR, The Netherlands, Caroline Gijselinckx

HIVA – Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, Konrad Hagedorn, George W.J. Hendrikse, Rotterdam School of Management Erasmus University, The Netherlands, Rainer Kühl, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany, Petri Ollila, University of Helsinki, Finland, Perttu Pyykkönen, Pellervo, Economic Research PTT, Finland, Ger van der Sangen, Tilburg University, The Netherlands   

Contact:  Prof. Dr. Markus Hanisch (E-Mail)

Team: Dr. Julian Sagebiel, Dr. Jens Rommel, Malte Müller


Hagedorn, K.; Hanisch, M. (2014): The Emergence and Role of Farmers’ Cooperatives in Central and Eastern European Countries: A comparative case study analysis. In: Laurinkari, J.; Schediwy, R.; Todev, T. (Eds.): Genossenschaftswissenschaft zwischen Theorie und Geschichte. Festschrift für Prof. Dr. Johann Brazda zum 60. Geburtstag. Europäischer Hochschulverlag, Bremen, 589-619.

Boevsky, I.; Hanisch, M.; Sagebiel, J. (2012): Support for Farmers’ Cooperatives; Sectoral Case Study Report, The role of post socialist production cooperatives in Bulgaria. Wageningen: Wageningen UR.

Hanisch, M., Müller, M. (2012): Support for Farmers’ Cooperatives; Case Study Report, Ownership and control rights transformations: The evolution of the Deutsches Milchkontor GmbH. Wageningen: Wageningen UR.

Hanisch, M.; Müller, M.; Rommel, J.; Sagebiel, J.; Karikallio, H.; Pakarinen, S.; Pyykkönen, P. (2012): Support for Farmers’ Cooperatives; Sectoral Case Study Report, Coop effect on price stabilization in the dairy sector. Wageningen: Wageningen UR.

Hanisch, M.; Rommel, J. (2012): Support for Farmers’ Cooperatives; Transnational Case Study Report, Producer Organizations in European Dairy Farming. Wageningen: Wageningen UR

The potential of cooperative associations and consumer collective action for stabilizing food and energy –supply in the Greater Hyderabad Agglomeration

Funded by: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Duration: November 2008 until June 2013


The Sustainable Hyderabad Project (SHP) was a collaborative research effort and has over the course of its implementation generated knowledge towards improved understanding of the problems of climate change and energy efficiency in the complex transformation process that Hyderabad is undergoing (Hagedorn and Zikos 2013). It has further identified strategies and potentials to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and vulnerabilities of various supply systems and social groups to climate change impacts.

The project part titled: The potential of cooperative associations and consumer collective action for stabilizing food and energy supply in the Greater Hyderabad Agglomeration (KONGENO) was designed to ensure that aspects of collective organization, coordination and cooperation would be given sufficient room in both analytical steps and practical projects. The goal was that Work Package 4 (Cooperative Strategies) would identify existing cooperative practices, organizations respective laws and cooperative routines in Hyderabad and analyse their value for climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies and then inspire the agendas of other project parts to take those into consideration.

Work Package 7 (Cooperative Institutions and Governance Structures) was meant to analyse the extent to which problems of important stakeholders in the climate change process could be solved by implementing collective action based projects in The Greater Hyderabad Agglomeration. The idea was to put some of the findings of the analyses to test by means of pilot projects, collect experience with their implementation and draft policy briefs. Apart from practical implementation of the lessons learnt from analysing collective action institutions and organizations, a focus of Work Package 7 was to deliver state of the artmethods for evaluation and make results of collective action projects measureable.

Partners: Albert-Ludwids-Universität Freiburg, Nexus Institut fürKooperationsmanagement und inderdisziplinäre Forschung GmbH, Potsdam Institut für Klimafolgenforschung e.V.

Contact: Prof. Dr. Markus Hanisch

Team: Reinhold Wilhelm, Dr. Jens Rommel, Dr. Jennifer Meyer-Ueding, Dr. Zakir Hussain, Julian Sagebiel, Nina Osswald, Saikumar Bharamappanavara, Sophia Opperskalski, Malte Müller

Project Publications:

Bharamappanavara, S.; Kumar, N. (2014): Targeting the Poor for Rural Development–Review of International Experience on Microcredit Programmes. Journal of Global Economy 10(3), 177-190.

Sagebiel, J.; Kimmich, Ch. (2014): Building local capacities to improve the quality of electricity for agriculture and to enhance energy efficiency. In Mahrin, B.: Capacity Development: Approaches for Future Megacities, Research for the Sustainable Development of Megacities of Tomorrow, Vol. 5. Jovis Verlag: Berlin, 38–46.

Sagebiel, J.; Rommel, K. (2014): Preferences for Electricity Supply Attributes in Megacities: Policy Implications from a Discrete Choice Experiment of Private Households in Hyderabad, India. Energy for Sustainable Development 21, 89–99.



Bharamappanavara, Saikumar C. (2013): Growth and Outreach of Self Help Groups Microcredit Models in India: A Literature Insight. International Journal of Social and Economic Research 3(1), 1-14.

Bharamappanavara, Saikumar C., Mundinamani, S.M., Kiresur, V. R., and Naik, B.K. (2013): Resource use efficiency and constraints Faced by the Farmers in the Tank Commands: The Case of North Eastern Karnataka (India). Journal of Rural Development 32(3), 311-320.

Hasanabadi, M. S.; Bharamappanavara, Saikumar C., Handigol, J. A.; Basavaraj, H. (2013): Analysis of risks involved in onion crop (allium cepa) production and marketing by crop insured and non- insured farmers. SAARJ Journal on Banking & Insurance Research 2(3), 76-83.

Kimmich, Ch.; Sagebiel, J. (2013): Peri-urban linkages: Improving energy efficiency in irrigation to enable sustainable urban transition. In Eltrop, L.; Telsnig, T.; Fahl, U.: Energy and Sun: Sustainable Solutions for Future Megacities. Research for the Sustainable Development of Megacities of Tomorrow, Vol. 1. Jovis Verlag: Berlin, 37-46.

Sagebiel, J.; Kohler, F.; Rommel, J.; Goyal, V. K. (2013): Governance of Solar Photovoltaic Off-grid Technologies in Rural Andhra Pradesh: Some Implications from the Field. In Eltrop, L.; Telsnig, T.; Fahl, U.: Energy and Sun: Sustainable Solutions for Future Megacities. Research for the Sustainable Development of Megacities of Tomorrow, Vol. 1. Jovis Verlag: Berlin, 27-36.


Hanisch, M.; Rommel, J.; Müller, M. (2012): Variation in Farm Gate Milk Prices and the Cooperative Yardstick Revisited: Panel Evidence from the European Dairy Sectors. Paper Presented at the 52nd Annual Conference of the German Society of Economic and Social Sciences in Agriculture (GeWiSoLa), September 26–28, 2012, Hohenheim, Germany.

Hanisch, M.; Sagebiel, J. (2012): Support for Farmers’ Cooperatives; Sectoral Case Study Report, The role of post‐socialist production cooperatives in East Germany. Wageningen: Wageningen UR.



Bharamappanavara, Saikumar C., Hasanabadi, Mallikarjun S., Handigol, Jayashree A., Yeledalli, R. A. (2011): Alternative Model For Crop Insurance – A Case of Onion Crop (Allium Cepa). Journal of European Economy, Vol. 10: 66-78. Special issue, 2011, Publication of Ternopil National Economic University, ISSN 1684-906X.

Bharamappanavara, Saikumar C. (2011): Farming Systems in the Tank Commands in North Eastern Karnataka (India): An Economic Analysis of Jala Samvardhane Yojana Sangha Managed Tanks. Saarbrücken: Lambert Academic Publishing.

Bharamappanavara, Saikumar C.; Hanisch, M.; Shetty, N.K.; Kumar, P.N.O. (2011): Self-Help Group Microcredit Delivery Models In Karnataka (India): An Econometric Study of Factors Influencing Performance. International Journal of Microfinance Institutions 1(1), 90-101.

Bharamappanavara, Saikumar C. (2011): Self Help Group Organisations in Hyderabad Megacity (India): Study of Institutions and Governance, Credit, Incentives and Collective Action. In: German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) (ed): Conference Proceedings “Future Megacities in Balance”, Young Researchers’ Symposium, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Vol. 66. October 9-10, 2010, Essen.

Rommel, K.; Sagebiel, J. (2011): Nachhaltige Entwicklung von Megacities am Beispiel Südindien – Was können Einspeisetarife dazu beitragen? In H.-G. Servatius, U. Schneidewind, D. Rohlfing (eds.): Smart Energy. Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 431–451.

Rommel, K.; Sagebiel, J. (2011): Can consumer preferences help to design Feed In Tariffs? An Investigation from a Choice Experiment in India. Paper presented at the International Conference of the IAEE, 19-23 June 2011, Stockholm, Sweden.

Sagebiel, J. (2011): Comparing the latent class model with the random parameters logit: A choice experiment analysis of highly heterogeneous electricity consumers in Hyderabad, India. Paper presented at the International Choice Modelling Conference, 4-6 July 2011, Leeds, UK.

Sagebiel, J. (2011): Consumer Preferences for Improvements of Power Supply Quality – Results from a Choice Experiment in Hyderabad, India. In: German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) (ed): Conference Proceedings “Future Megacities in Balance”, Young Researchers’ Symposium, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Vol. 66. October 9-10, 2010, Essen.



Bharamappanavara, Saikumar C. (2010): The Performance of Microcredit Organisations. A Comparative Perspective. (University Meets Microfinance 3). Stuttgart: ibidem.

The Role of Rural Institutions and their Governance for Agriculture-Led Development 

Funded by: BMZ and IFPRI

Duration: May 2007 until January 2008

The overall goal of the project is to improve the livelihoods of poor households in rural areas by improving the provision of services that are essential for agricultural and rural development. The purpose of the project is to provide policy-relevant knowledge on strategies that empower the rural poor—men and women—to participate in local governance, demand the services they need, and hold service providers accountable. Research for this project will be conducted in four countries: Uganda, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan and India. The project will cover the economic and social services that allow the rural poor to make use of agricultural innovations, become integrated into markets, benefit from the rural transformation and improve their well-being. The project will analyze the role that governance reforms such as decentralization, local leadership, collective action and social learning can play in improving quality and access of the poor to rural services, taking the political dimension of these reforms into account. Special attention will be paid to the role of collective action among farmers in form of associations, producer organizations, cooperatives and self-help groups. The outputs include analytical tools and empirical evidence on strategies to improve local governance and service provision for sustainable agricultural and rural development. Gender-disaggregated governance indicators that measure the performance of rural service provision will also be an output. The project will build capacity among participating institutions such as NARS through training and collaborative research.

Partners: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Contact: Prof. Dr. Markus Hanisch (E-Mail)

Team: Prof. Dr. M. Hanisch, Dr. Johanna Speer, Dr. Nana A. Kwapong, Dr. Wibke Crewett, Dr. Susanne Müller


Speer, J.; Hanisch, M. (2014): ¿Puede la gobernanza participativa superar asimetrías de información en los mercados rurales? Un estudio de caso de dos municipios guatemaltecos (Can Participatory Governance Overcome Information Asymmetries in Rural Political Markets? A Case Study of Two Guatemalan Municipalities). Política y gobierno 21(1), 127-158.

Kwapong, N. A.; Hanisch, M. (2013): Cooperatives and Poverty Reduction: A Literature Review. Journal of Rural Cooperation 41(2), 114-146.


Basurto, X.; Speer, J. (2012): Structuring the Calibration of Qualitative Data as Sets for Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA). Field Methods 24(2), 155-174. Wageningen: Wageningen UR.

Kwapong, N.A.; Ilukor, J.; Hanisch, M.; Nkonya, E. (2012): Making Rural Services Work for the Poor: Micro-level Evidence from Rural Uganda. World Rural Observations 4(1), 3-11.

Meyer-Ueding, J. (2012): Improving Autonomy in Indian Cooperatives: The Hyderabad Experience. Journal of Cooperative Studies 45(3), 32-42.

Meyer-Ueding, J.; Meyer, M. (2012): Social capital as an effective means against medical exploitation: What civil society can do. Asian Journal of Research in Social Sciences and Humanities 2(12), 23-36.

Speer, J. (2012): Participatory Governance Reform: A Good Strategy for Increasing Government Responisveness and Improving Public Services? World Development 40(12), 2379-2398.