Urenio Watch Watch: Innovative Cities & Regions

Social Innovations in Urban Development and Planning

Struggling with Innovations  This conference at the Leibniz Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning, 7 and 8 November 2013, will discuss social innovations and conflicts in urban development and planning in the light of multiple challenges and conflicts that cities are facing today. For the organisers, social innovations are new lifestyles, new ways of organisation, and new regulations which offer better solutions than previous practices. Although social innovations cannot always be differentiated empirically from accompanying technological or economic ones, analytically they are to be seen as an independent phenomenon. Technological and economic innovations alone cannot provide solutions; social innovations are just as important. In this context, the conference addresses the following issues:

First, an important objective of the conference is to discuss conceptual approaches to social innovation and its specificities in comparison to other innovations. The session “Social Innovations ‘“ Concepts’ therefore includes contributions addressing the following questions:

  • What are characteristics of social innovations? What do we know about the originating contexts, genesis and development of social innovation processes as opposed to technological or economic innovation? What role does communication play in social innovation processes?
  • What are important concepts theorising (social) innovations? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • How are social innovations, conflict and spatial development interrelated?

A second objective is to shed light on innovative ideas and practices initiated by top down actors. Session 2, “Social Innovations Planned Top-Down’, accordingly approaches the following questions:

  • What kinds of “innovative’ ideas and practices are developed by actors of urban policy, planning and administration in order to face the multiple challenges of cities? In how far do these actors speak of “innovative’ practices by themselves?
  • With what kinds of conflicts are the actors confronted in their institutional contexts and how do they address them?
  • What kind of approaches and tools do they develop to break down crusted structures and to initiate novel ideas in policy, planning and administration?
  • What are the conditions for the implementation of new ideas, what are reasons for failing social innovations on the top-down level?

Thirdly, along these lines, the session “Social Innovations Initiated Bottom-Up’ will analyse impulses for innovation as well as potentials for conflict for bottom-up urban development:

  • How do creative people, social entrepreneurs, or ‘“ simply ‘“ citizens engage with the concerns of urban life? How do they rethink and use space in novel ways?
  • How do they reflect “the new’ and in how far can the semantics of innovation be seen to play a role?
  • What kinds of action and network strategies do they develop? How do they deal with the heterogeneity of civil society’ s actor constellations and the plurality of interests?
  • What kinds of conflicts arise here, how are they negotiated?

Not least, tensions and conflicts emerge between bottom-up initiatives and top-down policies. Often such tensions lead to blockages preventing innovative projects from being implemented ‘“ 3 be they top-down or bottom-up initiated ‘“ that could have had beneficial effects for spatial development. Session 4 (“Innovative Ideas in the Area of Conflict between Bottom-Up and Top-Down’) aims to examine these tensions:

  • How do conflicts arise and how do the conflicting actors relate their different logics, interests and visions for spatial development?
  • What kinds of communication and coordination processes take place between them, and what are the implications for potentially innovative ideas and practices?
  • Which power dynamics can be observed and how do these shift for what reasons? How are innovation and power interrelated?

Overall, the aim of the conference is to focus on the practices, the structural conditions and the reflexivity of social innovations in urban development and to systematically consider the role of conflicts.

Dr. habil. Gabriela B. Christmann,
Dr. des. Kerstin Falk and Dipl.-Soz. Anika Noack
Leibniz Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning (IRS)
Flakenstraße 28-31
15537 Erkner (near Berlin), Germany
Phone: +49(0)3362-793-299; email: christmann@irs-net.de

Jan-Hendrik Passoth
Technical University of Berlin
Department of Sociology
DFG Graduate School “Innovation Society Today’
Fraunhoferstraße 33-36
10587 Berlin, Germany
Phone: +49(0)30-314-27305; email: passoth@soz.tu-berlin.de

More on the  Conference website
and the Programme