Unlocking Lock-in Conditions for Social Change: Social Innovation in Sharing Public Space

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    Societies require full integration of the potential of civil engagement and collective action of societal actors in forms of social innovation that advances creativity in problem solving. Social innovations is here understood as new forms of resolving societal problems advanced by organized civil societal groups in collective efforts and practices in interaction with other actors business, state, foundations etc. This paper offers reflections based on the results of a large EU project the ITSSOIN.eu project that investigated impacts of Third Sector as Social innovation in a variety of areas. For this paper the empirical relevant area is environmental sustainability in Cities. The empirical work therefore has a spatially-based city character. The project included a cross-country/city comparison of examples of social innovation activities in cities of four European countries in this area. The specific aspect of sharing space in cities investigated was the City’s social innovativeness in sharing space for bicycle use. Sharing city space is a widespread stream of innovation in environmental sustainability of significance in most European cities and around the world. However, the promotion of bicycle use and sharing space for bicycle mobility is still receiving different degrees of success and failure across cities globally given the strong dominance of motorized forms of moving across the world. The methodological approach traced the practices, influences and narratives of the social innovation to share space in four European cities. The project collected, the who?, what?, and how? of the processes leading to the present stated status of the stream of innovation for each city. The analysis followed a process tracing methodology and produced a thick story for each city, which traced the evolution of the forms of social innovation, and identified moments of contention, within which the influence of the actors and the type of narratives that are produced over time became apparent. The picture that emerged from each city highlights a dynamic interplay of the actors in processes and practices that together contribute to the emergence of distinctive and new narratives, and the presentation of new claims that exposed the needs for new materials/designs and phenomena. The analysis of the narratives and claims emerging converged and accumulated over time contributing to the formation of a new value system supporting the sharing of space. This in condensed form was followed and traced within each city as a form of impact of the social innovation under study. The four European cities are Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Milan and Bruno. In the comparative analysis, Copenhagen emerged as the city with the most vibrant stream of innovation in sharing space for bicycling of the four cities. The case of Copenhagen demonstrates effectively the unlocking force toward social change that can be in great part linked to the forceful narratives and claims presented by actors or generated in the actors’ interplay. It also demonstrated the possibility of formation of new values and norms that have supported over time the sharing of space. The other three cities, Frankfurt, Milan and Brno illustrated circulation of fewer social innovative narratives and lock-in forces playing against sharing space. The empirical work comparing between cities offered opportunity to relate to a more analytical review of dynamic relation among actors re-creating the civic space, such that over time, a new value system constituted of the meanings, practices, services, materialities, institutionalizations, agencies, civil and uncivil claims, opportunities, and new services simultaneously coalesce creating feedback loops that could positively reinforce, but also in many cases, undercut –locking in/un-locking the value system of sharing and the innovativeness of the experience of sharing space for bicycling. The aim of this paper is therefore to deepen the analysis taking departure from this empirical work contributing to the discussion of how these practices of social innovation to share space succeed (or failed) in introducing new societal values and norms and creating ‘new imaginaries’ for progressive social and environmental change; also how the practices could be linked to the provision of not just trips in the form that are typical of transport debates, but as social instrument in some of the observed cases sharing space for bike use provided just new experiences and new services outside a ‘market’ logic. Finally the discussion will contribute to analyze to what extent these social innovative practices could be seen as extending (or not) ‘coping mechanisms’ for socio-economic exclusion in times of austerity, demographic changes and environmental crisis of the late capitalistic societies.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2017
    Publication statusPublished - 2017
    EventSASE 29th Annual Conference 2017: What's Next? Disruptive/Collaborative Economy or Business as Usual? - Universite Claude Bernard Lyon 1, Lyon, France
    Duration: 29 Jun 20171 Jul 2017
    Conference number: 29


    ConferenceSASE 29th Annual Conference 2017
    LocationUniversite Claude Bernard Lyon 1
    Other29th SASE Annual Meeting
    Internet address

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