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Impact of Social Innovation on Sustainable Development of Rural Areas

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2020) | Viewed by 32371

Special Issue Editors

Dep. “Territorio e Sistemi Agro-Forestali” Università degli Studi di Padova, Italy
Interests: social innovation in rural areas; multilevel governance and environmental network governance; forest policy and economics; evaluation methods, tools and indicators; participatory approaches in tourism development
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Institute for Regional Development – EURAC Research Viale Druso, 1 / Drususallee 1, 39100 Bolzano / Bozen - Italy
Interests: social innovation in rural areas; socio-spatial transformations in rural society; sustainable territorial development in rural and mountain areas; spatial analysis and GIS
European Forest Institute, St. Antoni M. Claret, 167, 08025 Barcelona, Spain
Interests: forest policy and economics; social innovation in rural areas; governance and social capital; management of natural resources; innovation in agriculture and forestry
Dep. “Territorio e Sistemi Agro-Forestali” Università degli Studi di Padova, Italy
Interests: social innovation in rural areas; social capital; evaluation methods, tools and indicators; environmental network governance
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In recent years, international organizations have increasingly embraced social innovation as a means for addressing several social, economic, and environmental challenges which neither the market nor public policies can solve. Examples of these challenges in rural areas are population ageing and migration, loss of economic activities, increasing poverty and social exclusion, growing economic inequality, loss of biodiversity, and the reduction of services and welfare.

Numerous studies have provided evidence demonstrating how social innovation might be considered as an alternative way of responding to specific social needs or broader societal challenges by mobilizing people’s creativity, promoting an innovative and learning society as well as supporting social dynamics in order to foster technological innovations.

Despite these positive premises, very little is known regarding what works best nor how social innovations impact and determine the sustainable development of rural areas across the world.

This Special Issue invites contributions from different disciplines to address questions related to the environmental, social, economic, and institutional outcomes and impacts on the sustainable development of rural and marginal areas that are determined by social innovation initiatives. We welcome papers that analytically, theoretically, conceptually, empirically, and methodologically explore these issues by providing direct and/or indirect evidence for producing the observed positive or negative effects. Potential contributors are welcome to contact the Guest Editors to discuss the proposed submissions. The submission deadline is 31 December 2020.

Prof. Laura Secco
Dr. Elisa Ravazzoli
Dr. Elena Górriz Mifsud
Dr. Elena Pisani
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

25 pages, 468 KiB  
Article
What Are the Impacts of Social Innovation? A Synthetic Review and Case Study of Community Forestry in the Scottish Highlands
Sustainability 2021, 13(8), 4359; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13084359 - 14 Apr 2021
Cited by 16 | Viewed by 3170
Abstract
In a context of political and economic austerity, social innovation has been presented as a solution to many social challenges, old and new. It aims to support the introduction of new ideas in response to the current urgent needs and challenges of vulnerable [...] Read more.
In a context of political and economic austerity, social innovation has been presented as a solution to many social challenges, old and new. It aims to support the introduction of new ideas in response to the current urgent needs and challenges of vulnerable groups and seems to offer promising solutions to the challenges faced by rural areas. Yet the evidence base of the impacts on the sustainable development of rural communities remains scarce. In this paper, we explore social innovation in the context of community forestry and provide a brief synthetic review of key themes linking the two concepts. We examine a case of social innovation in the context of community forestry and analyse its type, extent, and scale of impact in a marginalized rural area of Scotland. Using an in-depth case study approach, we apply a mixed research methodology using quantitative indicators of impact as well as qualitative data. Our results show that social innovation reinforces the social dimension of community forestry. Impacts are highlighted across domains (environmental, social, economic, and institutional/governance) but are mainly limited to local territory. We discuss the significance of those results in the context of community forestry as well as for local development. We formulate policy recommendations to foster and sustain social innovation in rural areas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Social Innovation on Sustainable Development of Rural Areas)
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24 pages, 4424 KiB  
Article
Impacts of Social Innovation on Spatiality in Mountain–Lowland Relationships — Trajectories of Two Swiss Regional Initiatives in the Context of New Policy Regimes
Sustainability 2021, 13(7), 3823; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13073823 - 31 Mar 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2354
Abstract
This article places the topic of “social innovation” in the context of the paradigm shift of the 1980s. This shift from Fordism to post-Fordism has led to a weakening of the model of the European welfare state. Social innovation has become an instrument [...] Read more.
This article places the topic of “social innovation” in the context of the paradigm shift of the 1980s. This shift from Fordism to post-Fordism has led to a weakening of the model of the European welfare state. Social innovation has become an instrument to promote regional self-responsibility and entrepreneurial activity by local authorities. The concept of social innovation has become widespread among various disciplines and controversially used by them. Referring to regional and corporate success stories based on the commitment of grassroots movements and civil society has its shortcomings, as the new spatiality regimes show increasing disparities. The article shows the different lines of conflict in the discussion about social innovations and makes suggestions for the specification and delimitation of the concept. Using two case studies on social innovations from mountain regions of Switzerland, based on standardized interviews, including the results of a social network analysis, the article distinguishes between adaptive and transformative social innovations. The adaptive social innovations analysed did not result in changing the inferior position of the regions; however, they prevented even greater destabilization by mobilizing the dynamic actors in the valley to work together. This is helpful for ensuring that the urban majority continues to show solidarity with the population in rural and mountain areas. The constructive interaction between public, private, and civil society institutions is seen as the key factor of social innovation in the European peripheral areas to which most mountain areas belong. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Social Innovation on Sustainable Development of Rural Areas)
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21 pages, 3157 KiB  
Article
Possible Actors in Local Foodscapes? LEADER Action Groups as Short Supply Chain Agents—A European Perspective
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 2080; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13042080 - 15 Feb 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2387
Abstract
In recent decades, alongside industrialized agriculture and food-supply systems, an alternative, network-based framework has evolved supporting local development, social innovation and sustainability objectives. Short supply chains are in the focus of the new era. At the same time, from the 1990s a new, [...] Read more.
In recent decades, alongside industrialized agriculture and food-supply systems, an alternative, network-based framework has evolved supporting local development, social innovation and sustainability objectives. Short supply chains are in the focus of the new era. At the same time, from the 1990s a new, bottom-up, spatially bound rural development method, the Liaison Entre Actions pour le Development de l’Economie Rurale (LEADER) approach, has arisen. The purpose of this study is to examine the involvement of LEADER local action groups in the management of alternative food systems in Europe. After a literature-based, detailed theoretical review, a quantitative analysis concerning the content of the official websites of action groups was conducted. A local product promoting quantitative index was created from the qualitative characteristics of the sites. From the collected data, using basic statistical analysis and thematic mapping connections were searched between local action group general characteristics and their short supply chain support activities. The results indicate notable national differences between Western and Eastern European and Mediterranean LEADER groups, supporting previous literature. It may be concluded that local action groups as potential hubs of social innovation, can be crucial actors in local foodscapes, mainly in less developed areas where other non-profit or for-profit organizations are unable to manage supply chains. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Social Innovation on Sustainable Development of Rural Areas)
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27 pages, 14638 KiB  
Article
Can Social Innovation Make a Change in European and Mediterranean Marginalized Areas? Social Innovation Impact Assessment in Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, and Rural Development
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 1823; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13041823 - 08 Feb 2021
Cited by 27 | Viewed by 7197
Abstract
Social innovation (SI) impacts are long-term changes that affect different dimensions of territorial capital (i.e., economy, society, environment, governance) for the territory in which SI occurs. Yet, systematic empirical evidence and theoretically sound assessments of the impacts of SI are scarce. This paper [...] Read more.
Social innovation (SI) impacts are long-term changes that affect different dimensions of territorial capital (i.e., economy, society, environment, governance) for the territory in which SI occurs. Yet, systematic empirical evidence and theoretically sound assessments of the impacts of SI are scarce. This paper aims to fill the gap and assess the different aspects of SI’s impacts in European and Mediterranean areas that are characterized by marginalization processes. To assess the impacts of SI in marginalized areas, we use the evaluation framework developed within the Social Innovation in Marginalized Rural Areas (SIMRA) Horizon 2020 project and apply it to nine SI initiatives related to the fields of agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and rural development. Our findings show that SI produces cross-sectoral (societal, economic, environmental, and governmental) and multi-level impacts (on individuals, community, and society), which have improved the societal well-being, and contributed to the reduction of certain forms of marginality, mainly inside the territory in which SI occurred. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Social Innovation on Sustainable Development of Rural Areas)
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15 pages, 793 KiB  
Article
Application of a Comprehensive Methodology for the Evaluation of Social Innovations in Rural Communities
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 1807; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13041807 - 07 Feb 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2063
Abstract
Despite the growing interest in social innovation (SI) in agriculture, the literature lacks validated tools for evaluating such initiatives. This paper provides an empirical application of the evaluation approach developed within the H2020 SIMRA project to a pilot experience conducted in a rural [...] Read more.
Despite the growing interest in social innovation (SI) in agriculture, the literature lacks validated tools for evaluating such initiatives. This paper provides an empirical application of the evaluation approach developed within the H2020 SIMRA project to a pilot experience conducted in a rural area of Southern Italy. The value added by this case study is the application of the five types of criteria used by the OECD for the evaluation of development programs, which are commonly referred to as REEIS: relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact, and sustainability. This experiment demonstrates the adequacy of the evaluation framework in identifying strengths and weaknesses of the initiative, according to a multifaceted perspective. The overall evaluation proves that most indicators fall under the high (48%) and medium categories (36%), and only few indicators are low (16%). The usefulness of the evaluation results is manifold. First, this evaluation highlights relevant arguments to support the communication strategy addressed at civil society, therefore reinforcing the civic engagement of the initiative, which is the distinctive feature of SI. Second, it supports project managers in addressing interventions to face emerging weaknesses. Finally, the evaluation provides factual evidence to policy makers to perform cost-effective analysis of rural development policies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Social Innovation on Sustainable Development of Rural Areas)
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22 pages, 911 KiB  
Article
Reconstructive Social Innovation Cycles in Women-Led Initiatives in Rural Areas
Sustainability 2021, 13(3), 1231; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13031231 - 25 Jan 2021
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 5158
Abstract
Social innovations can tackle various challenges related to gender equity in rural areas, especially when such innovations are initiated and developed by women themselves. We examine cases located in rural areas of Canada, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, and Serbia, where women are marginalized by [...] Read more.
Social innovations can tackle various challenges related to gender equity in rural areas, especially when such innovations are initiated and developed by women themselves. We examine cases located in rural areas of Canada, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, and Serbia, where women are marginalized by gender roles, patriarchal values, male dominated economy and policy, and lack of opportunities for education and employment. Our objective is to analyze five case studies on how women-led social innovation processes can tackle gender equity related challenges manifested at the levels of everyday practice, institutions, and cognitive frames. The analyses are based on interviews, workshops, literature screening, and are examined via the qualitative abductive method. Results summarize challenges that rural women are facing, explore social innovation initiatives as promising solutions, and analyze their implications on gender equity in the five case studies. Based on our results we propose a new concept: reconstructive social innovation cycle. It refers to is defined as cyclical innovation processes that engage women via civil society initiatives. These initiatives reconstruct the existing state of affairs, by questioning marginalizing and discriminative practices, institutions, and cognitive frames that are often perceived as normal. The new concept helps with to assessing the implications that women-led social innovations have for gender equity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Social Innovation on Sustainable Development of Rural Areas)
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19 pages, 1891 KiB  
Article
Is There a Scope for Social Innovation in Ukrainian Forestry?
Sustainability 2020, 12(22), 9674; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12229674 - 19 Nov 2020
Cited by 17 | Viewed by 3359
Abstract
Social innovation is recognised for its potential to turn societal challenges into opportunities and develop sustainable solutions for people and nature. We identify and examine challenges that Ukrainian forestry is facing and apply an “action arena” conceptual approach to explore whether and how [...] Read more.
Social innovation is recognised for its potential to turn societal challenges into opportunities and develop sustainable solutions for people and nature. We identify and examine challenges that Ukrainian forestry is facing and apply an “action arena” conceptual approach to explore whether and how social innovation can enhance the sustainable development of forestry. We develop a framework to analyse the reconfiguration of social practices by using research methods that focus on the use of documentation of the institutional contexts and interviewing forest policy experts, as well as stakeholder evaluation of the challenges and ways forward for Ukrainian forestry. We apply the Q-method to identify stakeholder attitudes and examine the role of people in the reconfiguring of social practices and promoting sustainable development of the forest sector. Implications for changing the rules of the game and institutional perspectives on forestry are identified, with examples of social innovation initiatives presented. Results show that to emerge, develop, and be transformative, social innovation must have supporting institutional conditions to create new norms, rules, and social practices. Relevant stakeholders need to envision alternative futures, reshape places, and become more actively engaged in decision-making processes. We identify the key directions for changing the rules of the game and the opportunities that social innovation has to offer. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Social Innovation on Sustainable Development of Rural Areas)
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28 pages, 3261 KiB  
Article
Social Innovation, Societal Change, and the Role of Policies
Sustainability 2020, 12(18), 7407; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12187407 - 09 Sep 2020
Cited by 24 | Viewed by 4936
Abstract
Political frameworks and policies have a strong influence on the institutional ecosystem and on governance patterns, which in turn shape the operational space of civil society initiatives. This article aims to explore the social and institutional conditions and policy initiatives that foster or [...] Read more.
Political frameworks and policies have a strong influence on the institutional ecosystem and on governance patterns, which in turn shape the operational space of civil society initiatives. This article aims to explore the social and institutional conditions and policy initiatives that foster or hinder social innovation and the pathways leading from social innovation to institutional change through to actual impacts on policies and political frameworks, in order to understand how policymakers can encourage and enable social innovation. The article builds on an extensive empirical background to develop a heuristic model to facilitate decision making for a policy environment propitious for the emergence of social innovation. The resulting model sets up a triadic configuration of (i) a committed core of key actors, (ii) the benevolent shadow of hierarchy represented by public actors, and (iii) multifunctional and malleable intermediary support structures for a successful development of social innovation initiatives. The model is discussed and validated by reference to three in-depth case studies from differing institutional settings. We conclude that policy should recognize that social innovation will achieve most when the triadic relationships between the state, intermediary organizations, and local actors are working together synergistically. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Social Innovation on Sustainable Development of Rural Areas)
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