The Diffusion of Social Innovation in an Urban Governance Context: The Case of Urban Community Gardening in Copenhagen

Lavinia Meriggioli & Sara Nardi

Student thesis: Master thesis


As a result of public governance paradigm shifting towards the empowerment of citizens for the co-creation of solutions to complex societal problems and grassroots initiatives emerging as a response to failures of local governments to tackle societal problems experienced in the city, recently literature has investigated the intersection between literature urban governance and social innovation. The purpose of this research is to contribute to such recent body of knowledge by investigating the nature of collaborative governance arrangements between local government actors and social innovators for the production of public value. More precisely, we research the way urban governance arrangements between state and non-state actors can be designed as to facilitate the diffusion of a social innovation. To this end, we will use a methodological approach that constantly combines existing theory with qualitative primary data retrieved from in-depth interview and secondary data contained in public municipal documents. Urban community gardening initiatives in the city of Copenhagen, taken as a case study of social innovation, illustrates that collaborative governance arrangements themselves may not suffice to support the diffusion of a social innovation at a city level and that specific challenges may require a different focus of collaboration (e.g. hands on activities vs political activities) from the side of the local government or a different collaborative governance design. On the basis of literature on social innovation, network theory and public governance, enriched by our empirical investigation, we elaborate a framework which identifies variables that come into play when analyzing governance arrangements among social innovators and state actors in an urban context. Specific to our case study, we find that lack of resources and formal policy support are strictly connected and in turn impair the development of capabilities necessary for diffusion, as well as the institutionalization of social innovation. On the other hand, networks of actors and their social capital are found to partially compensate for lack of resources and policy support and we recommend that they should be leveraged further for the diffusion of social innovation at the city level. Another significant element that can be leveraged for the diffusion of social innovation in the city is its contribution to the city branding.

EducationsMSc in International Marketing and Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2018
Number of pages182
SupervisorsKarl-Heinz Pogner