Innovación social y desarrollo territorial. Estudio de casos en áreas rurales de España y Escocia

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Social innovation expands the contemporary paradigms of territorial development in rural areas, defining the dynamics of transformation in social relations as innovation rather than just a means of introducing innovations in local communities. It sets stronger emphasis on innovations that improve social competitiveness and social development. Through the reconfiguration of social relations between actors, rural communities devise new initiatives that build social capital, which will help them to adapt to external changes and become more resilient. This thesis is motivated by two main aspects: a) the need to improve the categorisation of social innovation from a territorial perspective; and b) the need to consider social innovation specifically in rural contexts. The state of the art is grounded on two theoretical blocks: territorial development and social innovation. Both merge into a third block applied to rural areas. The main research question that accompanies us throughout the entire research is as follows: ¿what are the key elements in the emergence and development of social innovation in rural areas? Two more specific research questions are also incorporated regarding the narratives of social innovation in rural areas and the intensity of this phenomenon: ¿What kind of narratives are present in social innovation in rural areas and how do actors influence them? ¿What are the factors underlying the emergence and development of radical and incremental social innovations in rural areas? In order to answer the above research questions, this thesis provides an analytical framework (TerriSI) that allows us to identify the main elements involved in social innovation, the components and functions of social innovation narratives, and the distinction between radical and incremental processes of social innovation. TerriSI is applied to five initiatives (the case studies) in two study areas (Ibiza-Formentera, in Spain; and the parish of Birse, in Scotland). A set of qualitative techniques are used to collect and analyse data from almost 60 face-to-face interviews. The thesis characterises each initiative in depth, capturing their social innovation narratives as well as classifying them in accordance to the radical and incremental framework. It also analyses and discusses five main topics: i) the needs and opportunities that motivate social innovation processes in rural areas, ii) the role of the territorial context, iii) the evolving nature of social innovation, iv) the role of the public sector, and v) the relevance of local actors, leadership and conflict in socially innovative processes In the conclusion, key elements in the emergence and development of social innovation in rural areas are highlighted: i) the combination of need and opportunities; ii) the endowment of territorial capital; iii) the participation of public actors; iv) the incorporation of local facilitation actor, neutral actors and an intermediate logic; and v) the construction of “strong” collective leadership. The thesis also provides some ideas to support social innovation in rural areas, future lines of research as well as some reflections on social innovation, rural areas, the COVID-19 crisis and the post-pandemic scenario.
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