Social Capital and Rural Development in the Knowledge Society
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Social Capital and Rural Development in the Knowledge Society

Edited by Hans Westlund and Kiyoshi Kobayashi

Social capital is often considered a key factor for local development. This book analyzes the role of social capital for rural areas’ survival and development in the current age of metropolitan growth – an era in which urban is the norm and where rural areas must adapt to this new situation and build innovative urban-rural relations.
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Chapter 10: What can local policies do? An activity theory analysis of municipal support to local innovations

Cecilia Waldenström


In Nordic countries, the municipal organization has long since had a broad responsibility for securing the welfare of the inhabitants in its territory (Lidström 1996). However, as national development policies have shifted, the ability of municipal organizations to be conducive to local development and innovation has become even more important. Today’s national and EU development policies put increasing emphasis on regional and local territorial development initiatives. Concurrently, partnerships in which actors from different sectors of society participate have been increasingly introduced in both rural and regional policy-making. Municipal collaboration with actors from other social spheres is thus becoming all the more common and expected. This was reflected in a Nordic research project on the roles of the municipal organization for local innovations (Aarsæther 2004). The project was prompted by earlier studies indicating the importance of local government for innovations, especially in peripheral regions (Aarsæther and Baerenholdt 2001). Building on an institutional approach, society was depicted in the project in terms of three activity spheres: the private business sphere, the public sphere and the civil society sphere, each of them following their own logic or rationality (Aarsæther and Suopajärvi 2004). Local innovations could occur in each of these spheres, and could also be the result of interlinkages between the three spheres.

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