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Governance and Political Entrepreneurship in Europe

Promoting Growth and Welfare in Times of Crisis

Edited by Charlie Karlsson, Charlotte Silander and Daniel Silander

The economic crisis has had severe and negative impacts on the EU over the last decade. This book focuses on a neglected dimension by examining European political entrepreneurship in times of economic crisis with particular emphasis on EU member-states, institutions and policies. The main focus is on the role that the political entrepreneur can play in promoting entrepreneurship and growth. It is argued that the political entrepreneur and political entrepreneurship can positively influence the conditions for entrepreneurial activity and business.
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Marc Parés, Sonia M. Ospina and Joan Subirats

Bushwick is a neighbourhood suffering a huge gentrification process. It has a dominant and longstanding low-income Hispanic community, which is being displaced by newcomers. As a result, the neighbourhood is divided in two social groups. In this context and under the conditions of economic crisis post-2008, we see various struggles for social innovation: efforts to stabilize employment for the low-income, action to stem the tide of housing displacement (aggravated by stagnant and falling incomes) and struggles to integrate the neighbourhood’s major constituencies to keep the neighbourhood whole – as one Bushwick rather than two. It has not been easy for Bushwick to deal with gentrification effects. A former political machine – engaging the New York State Assemblyman for the area and a big traditional non-profit – has constrained any other social initiative. However, Bushwick is starting to evolve. It is precisely Bushwick’s community that, through building networks and experimenting with new ways of doing, is leading this emerging process of social change.

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Marc Parés, Sonia M. Ospina and Joan Subirats

This chapter focuses on the agential dimension of social innovation. Realizing that governments would not solve the post-crisis aggravated community problems, social organizations – as has traditionally happened – responded with creative solutions to their constituents’ new landscape of scarcity. To better understand how things are getting done in these organizations, this chapter challenges leader-centred traditional understandings and proposes instead highlighting the collective nature of leadership. What type of leadership practices did participants in these organizations use to make their work more resourceful? How did they transform individual efforts into collective achievements that produced social transformation? How did the leadership work in these organizations help community members bring their voices into the public debate as they engaged in contestation, public deliberation and action, as agents of change and active protagonists of collective problem solving? Three types of leadership practices, which will be empirically analyzed in our case studies, are introduced and described: unleashing human energies, bridging difference and reframing discourse. Finally, the chapter reflects on the relationship between the work of collective leadership, the identified leadership practices and democracy.

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Marc Parés, Sonia M. Ospina and Joan Subirats

In this chapter we discuss the effects of the Great Recession in the US and Europe and outline the key responses developed at the macro and micro levels, exploring how social innovation has become a powerful response to evolving social challenges within communities. We also justify our claim that communities matter for fostering social change from below, and then introduce Barcelona and New York as the two cities that host the innovative efforts we chose to highlight in our selected case studies.

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Marc Parés, Sonia M. Ospina and Joan Subirats

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Marc Parés, Sonia M. Ospina and Joan Subirats

In this chapter we review lessons from the socially innovative initiatives discussed throughout the book. These are deconstructed and categorized along several dimensions. The four case studies are used to analyse the global–local relations prominent in the post-recession environment, and the responses that have emerged to cope with this new context. On one hand, we focus on the so-called ‘zone effect’ to examine how neighbourhood features determine both resilience and responses. On the other hand, we analyze the leadership practices that are evident in those initiatives. We finally conclude that a multi-scalar and comprehensive combination of three strategies – community capacity building, the development of democratic leadership practices and bottom-linked socially innovative initiatives – is required for social innovation to become a real driver of social change.

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Marc Parés, Sonia M. Ospina and Joan Subirats

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Marc Parés, Sonia M. Ospina and Joan Subirats

Being geographically and institutionally embedded, social innovation has proven to be context-dependent. Social innovation does not emerge anywhere or at any time; not all communities produce the same type of socially innovative initiatives, nor to the same degree. This chapter draws upon the Urban Studies literature on the influence of neighbourhood characteristics on the life chances of individuals to better understand how and why social innovation emerges. We introduce some approaches and concepts, such as ‘civic capacity’, related to how historical and geographical context might enable or constrain community responses that arise from below. At the same time, neighbourhood resilience is explored as a useful approach to understanding the geographies of social innovation. The chapter concludes by raising several questions that will be empirically addressed through our case studies.

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Marc Parés, Sonia M. Ospina and Joan Subirats

Nou Barris Nord is a segregated neighbourhood that has not overcome its vulnerability. It has been hit extremely hard by the effects of the Great Recession. To really understand what has happened in the area we should not focus on how the crisis has affected it (unemployment, foreclosures and so on) but on how these neighbourhoods were transformed prior to the crisis. The real estate bubble multiplied its urban segregation as a result of a huge demographic replacement, and the poorest population in Barcelona became concentrated in this urban area. The social fabric of Nou Barris Nord was fragmented and its social capital declined, while civic capacity evolved into a general mistrust and hostility between neighbourhood associations on the one hand and the City Council on the other. In this context the emergence of socially innovative responses to problems is not easy. When initiatives flourish, the lack of coordination and collaboration with public authorities hinders their potential social impact. However, we also found in Nou Barris Nord a story of struggle based on the neighbourhood’s tradition of collective action. Neighbours, neighbourhood associations and other community-based organizations have clearly responded to recession effects through solidarity and resistance.

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Marc Parés, Sonia M. Ospina and Joan Subirats

Sants is a traditional working-class neighbourhood. With its character of a small town within a city, Sants has retained a strong sense of belonging among its residents and its social organizations. The area has accumulated the experience of numerous historical struggles and an extremely high level of political activism has developed. Social innovation in Sants is not something new. It is not a response to the post-recession situation in the area, but rather the result of a tradition of collective action from below that is historically rooted, diverse and politicized. Thus, in Sants we can see a tradition of cooperativism, self-management and self-organizing. This is a tradition of alternative action flourishing in the local civil society, which is both distinct from the state and outside of the market. After the Great Recession, new initiatives emerged that have merged old and new grassroots movements and have taken advantage of all the knowledge accumulated through older initiatives in the area. Moreover, the neighbourhood is home to an economically precarious but culturally important class of young, well-educated, politicized people with ideas that go beyond the mainstream. This class of people is playing a significant role in developing some of the social responses.