Social Innovations and Regional Development: Impressions from II. RurAction Spring School

Georgios, Nicolaos, Clara, Anya and Sune during the ESRs facilitated data workshop

From the 11th to the 14th of March the RurAction Spring School on “Social Innovations and Regional Development – Possibilities and Limits of Intentional Change” was held. This event was organised by Prof. Lars Hulgård and held at the Department of People and Technology at Roskilde University in Denmark. It was well attended by ESRs, academics and social entrepreneurs. We are particularly thankful to have had Prof. Linda Lundgaard Andersen, co-director of the Centre of Social Entrepreneurship, in attendance. As always, this mix of academics and practitioners stimulated interesting discussions surrounding the topics of social innovations and rural development. The four-day event included two keynote speeches by Frank Moulaert. One about the history of social innovation thought and practice, and the second about how innovation lost its social character. There was also a very interesting keynote speech by Silvia Ferreira about how public policy can act as a facilitator or barrier for social innovation.

Possibly the most beneficial aspect of this spring school was the active participation of the ESRs. Each ESR had ample time and freedom to present different aspects of their research and receive feedback from the academics, practitioners and fellow ESRs. Supplementary to this, there was an ESR facilitated data workshop. The workshop stimulated a conversation between ESRs, academics and practitioners by jointly analysing data collected through recent field work. Smaller groups discussed excerpts from interviews, field notes or quantitative data. The outcome of this workshop was twofold: firstly, it opened dialogue between practice and academia. Secondly, it created a forum where practitioners were exposed to the practices of research and thus, they added a valuable contribution towards the interpretation of the data.

In order to break up the repetitiveness of the lecture hall setting there was an excursion to Freetown Christiania which included a very informative presentation from Ole Sønderby Pedersen. Employed as a planner by Freetown Christiania, Ole was able to give us a unique insight into the history and decision making process of the intentional community. The area is a former military barracks and is now a self-governing society within Denmark. Located within Copenhagen, Freetown Christiania was founded in the 1970s when a group of citizens took over the unused property to create a playground for the local children. The experience showcased the complexity of planning social innovation in a democratic, self-governing commune.

The recent spring school had a varied schedule which benefitted greatly from inputs from both academics and practitioners. We appreciate the valuable contributions from all participants and are greatly appreciative of the work done by Prof. Lars Hulgård in organising such a successful event.

Barraí Hennebry