Handbook on City and Regional Leadership
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Handbook on City and Regional Leadership

Edited by Markku Sotarauta and Andrew Beer

In this timely Handbook, people emerge at the centre of city and regional development debates from the perspective of leadership. It explores individuals and communities, not only as units that underpin aggregate measures or elements within systems, but as deliberative actors with ambitions, desires, strategies and objectives.
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Chapter 13: Universities and place leadership: a question of agency and alignment

Liliana Fonseca, Lisa Nieth, Maria Salomaa and Paul Benneworth

Abstract

There is increasing interest in the question of how different stakeholders develop, implement and lead regional upgrading processes with the concept of place leadership emerging as one response to this. Simultaneously, universities face growing expectations that they will contribute to regional development processes - often through their collaborative relationships with other regional stakeholders. But universities are complex in terms of their internal and institutional structures, which undermines their capacities to enact coherent place leadership roles. We seek to understand how strategic leadership in universities can contribute to innovation and regional development in the context of the fundamental institutional complexity of universities. We address this through a qualitative, explorative case study comparing six European regions where universities have sincerely attempted to deliver place leadership roles. We identify that the elements of agency and alignment are vital in that: firstly, university leadership has to align with regional coalitions on the one hand and internal structures on the other hand, and secondly, this leadership must give give individuals agency in their regional engagement activities.

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