Fundació Catalunya Europa RE-CITY

Neighborhoods and cities, focus of social innovation. Conference with Frank Moulaert and Marisol García


Social innovation to fight against inequalities is pointed to create processes and actions that prepare the citizenship, generating new relations on social, sustainable cooperation and fair. Social innovation focuses on people as a change engine and developpement and it's in the cities (as an urban and collective space) where social transformation is possible. 


The neighborhoods and cities are the engine of social innovation, a phenomenon that is an amalgam of processes to increase solidarity, democracy and well-being. This is explained by professors Frank Moualert (University of Leuven) and Marisol García (University of Barcelona) specialists in this phenomenon and who lead at the Palau Macaya the V Session of the Cycle "Combatre les Desigualtats: el Gran Repte Global" organized by the Foundation Catalunya Europe.

Moulaert argues that current social innovation can only be understood from a historical perspective. It is a prior phenomenon even to technological innovation. During the eighteenth century, for example, social innovation was considered revolutionary, with a significant negative connotation in the England of that century, while his French contemporaries looked on favorably.

Currently, the social innovation paradigm proposed by Moulaert includes the use of redistributive mechanisms to combat inequalities and ensure good levels of democracy. The neighborhoods and cities are the propitious places that allow the organization of movements that can lead social innovation practices, taking into account that the most successful experiences are those that manage to create synergies between the business world, the political world and the social world.

That is why Moulaert has been very critical of neoliberalism and has considered it an "individualist and incapable of managing public resources" ideology. The Belgian professor also bets on fiscal measures that do not favor the richest and that allow to assure a good level of welfare state.

One of the key concepts of the Moulaert paradigm is the so-called bottom-linked, that is, the existence of a permanent dialogue between government and civil society that allows an improvement of democracy and prioritizes human needs over other interests. It is in this context that the Integral Development Areas also appear, which incorporates aspects such as the social economy or community governance, with a special interest in the cultural sector and artisanal production. This type of organization promotes social creativity, especially among small and medium organizations with the ability to pool economic and social resources in order to generate a sustainable economic activity.

In this sense, social innovation puts the focus on the local world to favor more cohesive societies through a variety of expressions that take into account aspects as diverse as democracy, human dignity or the management of financial resources.

To know more: Frank Moulaert et al. "Social innovation as a Trigger Transformation"


Frank Moulaert is a professor of territorial planning at the Department of Architecture, Urban Planning and Territorial Planning of the Catholic University of Leuven, and chairs the Center for Research in the Leading Cities and Areas of Louvain. He is also a visiting professor at the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape at the University of Newcastle.

Moulaert has initiated a series of research and development projects on social innovation in territorial development. He has published extensively on issues related to globalization, institutionalism, territorial innovation, social economy, social polarization, social exclusion, the integral development of the area, regional development, European governance and networks socioeconomic Other areas of interest include evolutionary theory and ecology of natural parks. He speaks fluent in 6 European languages and has published several works in the Dutch, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish languages.

Most of his recent work reflects a growing focus on urban development, as well as on the institutional dynamics of social innovation and social exclusion that imply the need to include cultural dynamics, artistic activities and organizations and associations of the social economy in the field of social policy and planning.

Marisol Garcia is a professor of Sociology at the University of Barcelona, studied Contemporary History, Geography and Anthropology. At the University of Hull he studied sociology and received his doctorate in 1984. His scientific work focuses on cities, citizenship, urban social justice, identity, governance and social innovation.

He has participated as coordinator of the Spanish research teams in the coordinated action Katarsis Growing Inequality and Social Innovation: Alternative Knowledge and Practice in Overcoming Social Exclusion in Europe within the sixth Macro Program.Also to the Social Polis project: Social Platform in Cities and Social Cohesion of the seventh Macro Program.