The Third Joint EU Cohesion Policy Conference 2020, “Maximising the Opportunities for Cohesion Policy in Challenging Times”, will take place on 11-13 May 2020 in Zagreb. LDnet has proposed a Special Session on “Social Innovation and Local Development for an inclusive green local economy”
Over the past few years, the awareness towards climate change has grown. Much of the discussion has been led by civil society activists with politicians often being dragged reluctantly to the negotiating table to make political commitments which are long in the future while doing little now to reduce emissions and transition to a low carbon economy.
The European Commission has announced the Green Deal in December 2019. We also note the Commission’s ambition to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals in the European Semester and to focus on economic policy coordination. Cohesion Policy represents a major opportunity to help Member States to speed up their response. But while regions can make a valuable contribution, already, spontaneous citizen-led movements calling for immediate action have been flourishing all-over the world: Greta Thunberg’s School strikes and Fridays for Future, the Extinction Rebellion are just the most famous and visible example of this. Behind the headlines, civil society movements, activist groups, avant-garde designers, planners and entrepreneurs are at work to promote a more sustainable way of living, and to trigger substantial change in individual behaviour.
From the point of view of social innovation and local development, an interesting question to explore would be to what extent can such widespread, environmentally-friendly behaviour impact on local development and the quest towards low (or zero) emission urban agglomerations? How can the existing experience of social innovation within CLLD practice across rural, urban and fisheries areas as well as the contribution by Urban Innovative Actions be redirected towards creating more inclusive and green local economies?
If we start from the assumption that such new behaviours would naturally generate new needs in the population, new services and new products would be increasingly required, ultimately opening new business opportunities and creating new jobs.
All of these would have to undergo a number of essential requirements, most of which related to the “local” dimension, and the “zero kilometre” approach. Innovation here cannot simply settle with finding new, “greener” tools and strategies to feed and reproduce an old economic model. Rather, the new season of innovation is calling for ground-breaking, bold initiatives capable of bringing about positive environmental change and climate mitigation, together with socio-economic well-being, redistribution of resources and greater equality among citizens. Ultimately, the success of a given initiative will not be measured by the “business as usual” quantitative indicators such as GDP; rather by a set of collectively-defined qualitative indicators reflecting community and individual well-being.
This session intends to explore, by linking academic and a practitioner points of view, the potential of these emerging forms of social innovation in local development to achieve cohesion policy goals, and in particular to bring Europe closer to the citizen by generating positive sustainable development at the micro local level across different types of territory – urban, rural, mountains, coasts and islands.
The session will be introduced and will be coordinated by Peter Ramsden, LDnet Vice President. It will take the form of a panel discussion and there will be plenty of opportunities for interaction with other session participants. Panellists include: Mirna Karzen, President of the social innovation lab in Croatia; Laura Secco, Associate Professor, University of Padova; and a representative of an UIA city.
Confirmation of the session and names of panellists expected on 23 March 2020.