Towards an Understanding of the Economies of Neighbourhoods and Communities
Edited by Maarten van Ham, Darja Reuschke, Reinout Kleinhans, Colin Mason and Stephen Syrett
Chapter 12: Co-production or counter-production? The struggle of Dutch community enterprises with local institutions
In the continuing aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, many European countries are implementing austerity measures and cuts in public policy, alongside longer trends of welfare state retrenchment. To mitigate these trends, governments are putting more emphasis on active citizenship. Citizens are supposed to take responsibility and organize themselves to fill in gaps left by spending cuts in health care, education, employment and neighbourhood governance. Active citizenship is currently perceived as a viable alternative to state-based welfare provision. While not necessarily restricted to poor areas, community enterprises (CEs) in the Netherlands respond to these changes by providing services or other benefits that are crucial to the well-being of residents in deprived neighbourhoods. Inspired by British CEs, residents in Dutch cities are trying to set up community enterprises, but they face huge challenges. The transition from ‘subsidy-dependent’ resident committees to entrepreneurial, independent community-based enterprises with a sound business model is fraught with difficulties. This chapter provides an account of emerging Dutch CEs, based on a panel study with repeated interviews. The analysis reveals strong tensions between community-based, entrepreneurial activism and the responses of local professionals. While the interviewed professionals claim to strive for co-production, the responses of their institutions are more that of ‘counter-production’, as they struggle to find a healthy balance between ‘letting go’ of bottom-up resident initiatives and ‘fitting’ them into existing practices and routines.
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