Cases and Policies
Handbooks of Research on Clusters series
Edited by Charlie Karlsson
Chapter 21: The Role of Civic Capital and Civic Associations in Cluster Policy
David A. Wolfe and Jen Nelles 1 Introduction A broad range of academic and policy-related research has adopted the cluster concept as a practical tool to inform local economic development policy. The concept has been used to analyse the factors that contribute to the relative success enjoyed by diﬀerent regions and localities, as well as provide a framework to guide policy makers in the design of local initiatives. Much of this literature suggests that the beneﬁts of clustering are linked to advantages that ﬁrms derive from proximity to other ﬁrms in related and supporting industries, as well as to the beneﬁts from having privileged access to extraeconomic resources located close to the cluster (Asheim, Cooke and Martin, 2006). These additional resources include a strong local research infrastructure, specialized training institutions, focused support services, such as legal and accounting, access to a suﬃcient supply of necessary capital and supportive government policies, especially at the regional and local level. Closely related to these extraeconomic resources is the presence of an institutionally ‘thick’ set of local actors who provide dynamic leadership for the cluster, both in terms of facilitating the kind of inter-ﬁrm linkages that accelerate the ﬂow of knowledge among cluster-based ﬁrms, as well as promoting the policy interests of the cluster to relevant levels of government. However, the exact nature and role played by local civic associations and civic actors is more often the subject of anecdotal comments than the object of detailed analysis, and the...
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