Social Impact of Collective Ownership in the Alpine Areas

Funding: FWF, EGTC European Region Tyrol-South Tyrol-Trentino, Interregional Project Network (IPN), 3rd call
Total eligible costs: € 238,220.70; IGF: € 76,772.70

Duration: Oct. 2019–Sept. 2022

Lead Partner: University of Trento, Department of Economics and Management , Ericka Costa

Coordinator (IGF): Oliver Bender


Project team (IGF): Andreas Haller, Armin Kratzer, Fernando Ruiz Peyré

This project aims to investigate the social and environmental impact of collective ownerships in the Alpine areas of the EGTC (European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation) of Trentino, South Tyrol and Tyrol. These collective ownerships manage the environment in different Alpine areas and countries, both for forested and pastured areas. They provide services to the area’s owners and communities while preserving the environment in which they are located.

These organisations have always been not-for-profit and based on a sense of belonging and mutual aid. For people living in the Alps, these forms of collective ownership represent another means of being a partial owner of the territory in which they live, helping people living in mountain areas to manage their territory and other assets accumulated during their centenary existence. In recent years, however, some problems have emerged in terms of these institutions’ corporate identity and legitimacy. The sense of belonging characterising Alpine collective ownership seems to be gradually waning, causing problems in the effectiveness of their environmental actions.

This project aims to measure the social and environmental impact of such organisations in order to deepen their current influence on local communities. The term ‘social impact’ can be defined in many different ways. We borrow from established literature in performance measurement (Arena et al. 2015) and program evaluation (Chen 2005; Patton 1986) to refer to social impact as “a logic chain of results in which organisational inputs and activities lead to a series of outputs, outcomes, and ultimately, to a set of societal impacts” (Ebrahim & Rangan 2010, 3).

The novelty of the project lies in its contribution to shedding light on the future role of Alpine collective ownerships and their social and environmental impacts. The measurement of such value is relevant in evaluating their importance, guaranteeing their future survival by legitimating their actions in their respective territories. Other studies have investigated the social impacts of other non-profit organisations, but collective ownerships have never been studied from this perspective.

From an epistemic viewpoint, the project relies on an inductive approach that will include different methods (interviews, surveys and content analysis). Social and environmental impact assessment constitutes a fundamental step in the direction of more sustainable development because it provides the possibility of evaluating organisations’ actions more comprehensively, taking into account the consequences of such actions on the environment and society as a whole.