Where to meet?

Clarion Congress & Hotel, Io


Manfred PERLIK

Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern/Switzerland (CDE) and

Laboratoire Pacte, Université de Grenoble/France

Wettsteinallee 80, CH-4058 Basel, manfred.perlik@cde unibe.ch

Topic: Social Innovation in mountain areas: The adaptive and the transformative approach


Subsequent to changed regimes of value adding since the 1980s towards continuous technological innovation, social relations are pushed to be innovating too. Social innovations are becoming a key issue for organizations and territories to remain competitive.

There is a broad range of interpreting SI. The main difference of understanding probably consists (a) what is really “new “ and it is (b) contested whether SI should have a normative component to promote emancipative development goals. In the majority of cases, especially also in the view of the European Union, SI is seen as an instrument of adaptation to achieve economic competitiveness. In this sense, mountain regions specialize according specific demands of the lowlands: In the global North mountain regions fulfill mainly functions of leisure and multilocal residences, in the global South and certain parts of North America prevails the extraction of raw materials. We estimate this development as problematic under criteria of sustainable development. Therefore, it is important to discuss definition and character of SI in mountain areas. Especially it should be differentiated between adaptive SI and transformative SI.

In this presentation, we want to show that a transformative approach is necessary to reduce territorial disparities under aspects like spatial justice, social cohesion and the UN-Sustainable Development Goals.

We present two case studies, which represent one rather adaptive and one rather transformative approach. They base on qualitative and quantitative interviews done within the European research project Horizon 2020 “Social Innovation in Marginalized Rural Areas (SIMRA) and within the research network “Foreigners in the Alps” (FORALPS).

(a) The case study of a small tributary valley (Val Lumnezia) to the Anterior Rhine in the canton of Grisons in Switzerland is an example of an initiative of civil society, trade and crafts association, environmental NGO and political institutions. All worked together to maintain population and jobs in the valley by searching alternatives to failed investments in mass tourism in the 1980s. The protagonists of this initiative anticipated the changes in regional policy very early and found a different trajectory, oriented on agriculture and small-scaled tourism. In this sense, they can be regarded as rather adaptive to upcoming trends. Although they reached to be better visible on the national level and to slow down the process of depopulation, they could not turn their peripherality at all. Was this a failed initiative? No. The initiative reached a better cooperation among the villages in the valley. The valley has become visible on the national level and the New Regional Policy did not come out as bad as once it was expected. These achievements were more than could be expected as with its small basis the initiative did not/could not touch the global processes of economic change.

(b) The second case study treats the welcoming practices to host new migrants in an Alpine valley in the Lombardy, Northern Italy. This example is seen as a much more transformative SI. The initiative has achieved a certain success concerning population and jobs. But in the overall trend in this case study does not differ so much compared to Val Lumnezia. So what is the difference for the qualification as a transformative SI?

We argue that it is the different context. In the Lombardy case, people who welcome migrants are acting against a new xenophobic mainstream in many European countries. In this sense, the initiative is part of a larger movement, which does not aim to build regional development on exclusion and isolationist development strategies. Implicitly or explicitly, they try to change such strategies.

As concluding remarks, the presentation draws a bundle of ideal-typical trajectories for social innovation derived within SIMRA.




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