5.1. Main Impacts of the Nine SI Initiatives
This sub-section presents the impacts that each SI analyzed has created or is expected to create on its territory, focusing on the most relevant aspects according to qualitative information and quantitative values of the indicators (see Appendix A
, Table A1
). The values of the indicators are interpreted as follows: the higher the values, the higher the performance of the SI with respect to the indicators. SI initiatives are presented here according to the(ir) main sector of intervention: agriculture and fishery (SI initiatives WOM; CAR; VAZ, DAI; SEA), rural development (LUM; FLE; FIN) and forestry (LAG) (See Table 1
in Section 4
The Women Farmer Cooperative (WOM) in Italy responded to the need for the provision of social and care services in remote mountain valleys, and to the need for an increase in the number of professional opportunities for women farmers. The initiative’s positive social impact is the transformation of the farm into an educational place and meeting point for families in the community. This social impact is confirmed by high values of both the indicators measuring the proportion of the number of social impacts in the SI initiative which were positive (B2_soc = 1) and the level of effects on the social domain inside and outside the territory (B3_soc = 0.87). By providing a care service in the remote mountain valleys of the region and offering qualified working opportunities, the initiative has improved overall social cohesion in the wider social territorial system, as confirmed by a high value of the indicator regarding the impact on governance aspects (B4 = 0.88), and about the ability to address societal challenges (A2 = 0.82).
The cooperative Green Care on the Farm (CAR) in the Netherlands responded to the need to integrate people with disabilities in the labor market in a rural, remote area. Through the initiative and despite initial difficulties, the development of the care service on the farm has determined the start of an intensive collaboration amongst farm owners, volunteers, local government, and a regional organization of green care farms. The initiative has developed into a new business model for delivering tailor-made care services that diversifies agricultural income and determines economic development in this marginalized rural area. The positive impacts in terms of a reduction of marginalization and on the socio-economic and governance aspects are demonstrated by high values of related indicators A1, B2_soc, B2_eco, B2_ins, B4. The initiative has contributed to addressing societal challenges, as shown by the high value of indicator A2 (0.90).
The creation of the farmers’ network Vazapp (VAZ) in Italy generated impacts mainly on the social domain (B2_soc = 1 and B3_soc = 0.80), creating a positive image about local and traditional agriculture, portraying it as a sector with development opportunities for young entrepreneurs. Stakeholders clearly perceived the initiative as a “soft device” to facilitate social integration into the agricultural sector. Stakeholders perceived the high positive impacts of the SI in all domains (B2 = 1). The impacts generated by Vazapp were visible both inside and outside the territory. Inside the territory, young farmers involved in the initiative have increased their level of self-confidence, besides improving the image about their own territory (C2 = 0.70); outside of the territory the initiative has been able to inspire policy makers in defining new integrated development strategies in the agri-food sector.
The private–public partnership of dairy producer organizations and national institutions (DAI) in Tunisia has been successful in improving relationships and cooperation between the two actors. The initiative started from the government’s need to improve dairy productivity in Tunisia. Through the support of FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) in designing a horizontal process, impacts were observed in the improvement of social and economic conditions of dairy farmers, and of the areas where they are located in general, as shown by a high value of B2 (0.97). This has been achieved through the improvement of sustainable income-generating activities and by enhancing food security and social inclusion as shown by the high value of A2 (0.88).
The Box of the Sea initiative (SEA) in Greece started from the idea of developing and showcasing a financially and environmentally sustainable small-scale business model in the fishing industry. As a result, the targeted impacts were mainly social and economic, but also environmental, and outside the territory, as shown by the high values of indicators B3_soc (1), B3_eco (0.86), B3_env (0.78) and C2 (0.75). The impacts of the initiative were mainly concerning informing consumers who participate in the project, often living in urban areas, about sustainable fishing and consumption practices, as well as creating a producer–consumer relationship based on the delivery of freshly and sustainably fished sea products. The high values in B3_eco and B3_soc reflect the impacts of the project on the (fishers’) market position of actors, stabilizing their income and employment, and on the development of their cooperative spirit, which was previously lacking.
The cooperative Noidanlukko (FIN) in Finland aims to provide a forum for the discussion of key environmental and social challenges through its Information Center, Hanhikivi. Social challenges emerged regarding the nuclear power plant project at Pyhäjoki, Finland. Already in the planning phase, the nuclear project has led to the social and political marginalization of opponents of nuclear power and has divided the local community. The proponents expect major economic benefits from the nuclear power plant project while the opponents fight against perceived injustice (e.g., land acquisition by force; risks of negative environmental impacts; lack of participation opportunities). The social innovation actors (i.e., members of Noidanlukko cooperative and opponents of nuclear power) perceived that the initiative could have a high ability to reduce the social marginalization of the territory (B2_Soc = 0.90). The SI actors perceive future impacts on the environment as potentially huge (B2_env = 1.00) in that they could be able to stop the nuclear project and thus avoid (possible) negative impacts.
The Pro Val Lumnezia (LUM) initiative in Switzerland emerged from the need for young craftsmen trained outside the valley to initiate structural change in an agriculturally dominated and demographically declining Alpine valley. To increase the attractiveness of their region in a sustainable manner, the actors cooperated with regional consultants and with a nature conservation organization. The initiative succeeded in overcoming a condition of territorial fragmentation in terms of decision-making processes, and therefore in strengthening the role played by the valley within the larger canton of the Grisons. This is reflected in the high value of B4 (0.71) about improvement of governance arrangements, and a very high value of B2 (1) about the perceived positive impacts by the stakeholders.
The Réseau Urbain Neuchâtelois initiative (FLE) in Switzerland emerged from the need to increase cooperation amongst the cantonal administration of Jura and its valleys to secure the canton’s industrial profile in the long term. The main outputs of this initiative have been the creation of regional network structures linking various Jura valleys with the canton’s two largest towns, the merging of the small municipalities of the Travers valley (Val de Travers) into a single municipality, and the institutionalized cooperation amongst the main industrial companies in various sectors and the municipal and cantonal administrations. The resulting constellation and cooperation between public, economic and civil society institutions can be highlighted as the core impact of the SI. The improvement of governance arrangements by the initiative is confirmed by the high value of the indicator B4 (0.96).
The Community Forestry (LAG) in Scotland aimed to enable a community’s involvement in the ownership and strategic management of the local woodland for local development. The initiative’s positive environmental impacts can be observed in the increased environmental benefits brought about by the clearing of dead trees and the replanting of native coniferous tree species in the woodland, as highlighted by the value of indicators B2_env (1) and B3_env (0.77). Through the development of an access path to the woodland and a recreation trail, as well as by using the woodland for educational purposes, the initiative increased well-being and social benefits such as a sense of place, community cohesion and empowerment (B2_soc = 1 and B3_soc = 0.72). Although the SI has improved governance aspects in terms of community’s involvement in the management of the woodland, it has had limited impact on public administrations.
The average values of the impact’s indicators calculated for the nine SI initiative reveal some general trends. Indicator A2 shows a high average value across the nine initiatives, meaning that addressing societal challenges is at the core of SI. The average value of B1, highlighting the balance between positive and negative impacts, is quite low and positive, suggesting that SI might also have some negative impacts, which are counterbalanced by the positive ones. Indicator B2 shows high average values for the social, economic, governance domains (B2_soc, B2_eco, B2_ins). This means that the actors participating in the focus groups acknowledged high positive effects of the SI under investigation. Indicators assessing the environmental domain (B2_env) show lower values compared to other domains, meaning that SI initiatives have more impacts on the socio-economic and institutional aspects, while still aiming to achieve environmental sustainability. Finally, the initiatives generally had more impacts inside the territory than outside, as proven by the higher average value of C1 with respect to C2. The following sub-section reports on the average indicator values and on existing correlations amongst indicators.
5.2. Trends among Variables Measuring the Impacts of SI Initiatives
The correlation matrix shows the main relationships between the impact indicators (Figure 3
). The range of values obtained varies from 0 to 1. This means that the eight variables measure different aspects of impact within the SI initiatives. The main relationships are reported below.
The strongest linear positive correlation is between indicators B3 and C1 (0.86). This means the actors perceived that the level of effects of the SIs in the four domains are mainly happening inside the territory where the initiatives develop. The strongest negative correlation is between A1 and B2 (−0.39) indicating that the stakeholders perceive that an increase in the number of positive impacts on the four domains does not necessarily correspond to a decrease in marginalization problems. By comparison., indicator A1 is highly positively correlated with indicator A2 (0.59), which means that stakeholders perceive there is a relationship of mutual dependence between the capacity of the initiatives to address problems of marginality and to resolve EU societal challenges.
A positive correlation was found between the indicators B3 and B4 (0.51), showing that when actors perceived the SI initiative to have achieved high impacts in the four domains, they also perceived the initiatives to have significantly improved governance arrangements, thus generating stronger impacts at the institutional level. Indicator B3 is also highly positively correlated with B2 (0.53), indicating that both SI actors and stakeholders perceived SIs as creating positive impacts, although their perceptions differ regarding the magnitude of the effects of the initiatives.
The correlation matrix performed amongst B2 and B3 can be split into four sub-indicators which show the impacts on the four domains (environmental, social, economic and governance). As shown in Figure 4
, B2 is equally explained by the four domains, meaning that stakeholders perceive that SIs generate positive impacts on environmental, social, economic, and governance/institutional aspects. By comparison, indicator B3 is mainly explained by the economic and institutional domains. This means that the actors involved in the initiatives perceived that SIs generate higher impacts in only two domains. For both indicators B2 and B3, the economic domain is strongly positively correlated with the social domain (B3 = 0.72 and B2 = 0.9) and with the institutional domain (B2 = 0.92 and B3 = 0.55), meaning that the higher the economic impact achieved by the SI initiative, the higher its social and institutional impacts (and vice versa). Also, the social domain is highly correlated with the institutional one (B3 = 0.62 and B2 = 0.85). In both cases, the environmental domain has null or negative correlation with the other domains of the indicators.