15 SES 01, Political Point of View
Social innovation as a reinvented concept is widely used and seriously contested today. (Bradford; Phills, Deiglmeier & Miller; Pol & Ville; Mulgan et al; Nicholls & Murdock; etc.). The study of Phills, Deiglmeier & Miller (2008) is probably the most widely referred; it received more than fifteen hundred references up until now (2017). Our everyday life is surrounded by innovations; yet, interestingly enough, we do not necessarily realise them, Mulgan et al (2007) say. Technological innovations are relatively known and studies and so are the innovations in the economy. Social innovations, however (e.g. innovations in public administration, in the education or healthcare sectors remain relatively unknown. The ‘connected differences’ model of social innovation has, among others, the important element of new connections among isolated partners. Being a loosely defined concept ‘social innovation’ can be applied practically for almost all economic, social, political, cultural etc changes. Yet, Pol & Ville (2012) point out that once clearly defined, the concept is crucial to understand the mechanism of socio-economic and political changes. Nichols & Murdock (2012) explain social innovations as historical outcomes of long socio-economic processes. According to them, special phases of those processes are existing and at their turning points a series of innovations (economic, social and political ones together) pop up. Ferguson in his new and innovative analysis of the importance of social networks in the fabric of history (Ferguson 2017) argues that social networks (the ‘Market’) gave birth to innovations, while social organisations (the ‘Tower’) create stability. In the long run, though the price of stability might be the end of innovation processes.
In our earlier quests for learning regions, cities and communities (see our presentations at ECERs: Tőzsér et al 2012; Forray & Kozma 2013; Forray & Kozma 2014) we found and presented statistical backgrounds for the emerging of such regions in Hungary and the neighbouring countries. Those findings--the outcomes of an intensive 5-year long teamwork--have been summarized by research reports (Kozma et al 2015; Kozma ed 2016) and presented at ECER 2017 (Forray & Kozma 2017). Bradford however--in a Canadian working paper that overviews the then existing literature (Bradford 2003)--emphasises the importance of ‘community-based innovations’ when creating and managing the so-called ‘learning communities’: [The question is] “how local actors, in partnership with others, enhance their capacity for working towards sustainable development…” (pp V-VI). In his working paper, Bradford introduces 11 case studies from five countries showing examples of community-based innovations, their histories, outcomes, and sustainabilities. The community-based innovations cover revitalising remote communities, renewing industrial cities and developing ‘knowledge-intensive’ cities.
We apply the concepts suggested by Bradford but change the geographic space from Canada and the US to the EU, especially the EEC countries. We consider it as a second phase of our long established research interest in learning regions, cities and communities; supported by the EU and the Hungarian Government. In this second phase, we are looking for learning communities in some EEC countries in cooperation with their academic research teams and civic organisations. As a pilot, five cases of community-based innovations have been collected and are presented in this paper.
Gathering statistics and studying the necessary, relevant and available documents (e.g. local government, school and church archives, local history collections etc). help to understand the backgrounds of community-based innovations. Since innovation is a social act pursued by human actors, our leading method proved to be the asking, listening and recording of stories told by the ‘local heroes’ (‘key actors’, ‘change agents’). For the five case studies nearly 31 stories have been collected, selected and analysed. Applying this method, a) the first step is usually to figure out these actors of the local (regional) political arena. b) The second step is to collect their personal stories about the innovation (problem-solving or social change) we are interested in. A story has to be a structure and, interestingly, most stories have similar structures. The structures of the stories may dominate the stories themselves, so sometimes the stories are ‘not true’. Yet, they are true in the terms that they hold the same message about the community (if not about the innovation; we may call it the truth of the tales). c) The third step is an analysis of the story as if would be a literary product (a short novel or a drama). We look for the characteristics of the actors as they move and act in a given situation, place and time. Statistical analysis might be applied, though it is not necessary in the given context. d) The last step, of course, is a selection of accepted stories. Since stories may be in conflict with each other, we have to decide for one against the other. The storytellings have double functions. For the storyteller his / her story is a recreation of a chain of events as their happened or (usually) as they had to happen. Local history building is always an important part of the local politics. For the researcher the story is the fabric from which the reality of the local innovation emerges. Collecting and analysing local stories--as main research method--we found some common features of the community-based innovations in Hungary and its neighbouring countries (CCE countries).
a) Compared to the case studies collected and analysed by Bradford (ibid) our case studies were created in small size rural communities. They started as various cultural activities, in association with educational (school) innovations. b) Local sporting activities, events, and organisations proved to be fashionable and successful innovations by which communities tried to improve their situations. Besides sporting activities and events, cultural festivities, school and church choirs and orchestras were found as innovations against depression. c) While social innovations and community problem solving (Forray & Kozma 2013) can easily spread away in those small-scale communities, they are usually blocked by higher hierarchical levels of administration and bureaucracy. These two realms of activities are not only different but even separated from each other. One of the questions for our future research is the conditions under which those community-based social innovations can make a breakthrough.
Bradford, N. J. (2003). Cities and communities that work: Innovative practices, enabling policies. Toronto: Canadian Policy Research Networks Ferguson, N (2017), The Square and the Tower. London: Penguin Books Forray R K, Kozma T( 2013), The Fight for Revitalising a Depressed Area in Hungary (conference presentation). Istambul: ECER 2013 Forray R K & Kozma T (2014), Learning Communities in the Making (conference presentation). Porto: ECER 2014 Forray R K & Kozma T 2017, The LeaRn Project 2011-2016 (conference presentation). Copenhagen: ECER 2017 Kozma, T. (2014). The learning region: A critical interpretation. Hungarian Educational Research Journal, 4(3), 58-67 (herj.lib.unideb.hu) (05.01.2018) Kozma, T et al eds (2015) Tanuló régiók Magyarországon - az elmélettől a valóságig. Debrecen: CHERD Kozma T ed (2016) Learning Regions in Hungary. Brno: Tribun EU Publishers Mulgan, G., Tucker, S., Ali, R., & Sanders, B. (2007). Social innovation. Working paper. http://www.eureka.sbs.ox.ac.uk (05.01.2018) Nicholls A., Murdock A. (2012) The nature of social innovation. In: Nicholls A., Murdock A. (eds) (2012) Social Innovation. London: Palgrave Macmillan Phills, J. A., Deiglmeier, K., & Miller, D. T. (2008). Rediscovering social innovation. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 6(4), 34-43. Pol, E., & Ville, S. (2009). Social innovation: Buzz word or enduring term?. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 38(6), 878-885. Tőzsér Z et al 2012, From Lifelong Learning to Learning Regions (conference presentation). Cadiz: ECER 2012
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