The global economic and financial crisis has aggravated social problems in disadvantaged urban areas, intensifying the dynamics of urban segregation. Despite the global nature of the crisis, its consequences and the initiatives to combat it vary locally from place to place. Aiming to foster new and effective responses to the current crisis in Europe, this project will compare social initiatives developed at neighbourhood level in Spain and USA, two countries where the effects and the national policies against the crises have moved in opposite directions. We can observe how local social innovation experiences are democratically emerging from below as alternative responses to manage the consequences of the current global crisis. However, the resilience capacity of disadvantaged neighbourhoods to face the crisis is not the same everywhere. This research project is concerned about those factors explaining the geographical variability of local responses to the global crisis. Drawing upon a comparative case study analysis of social innovation experiences at neighbourhood level in New York and Barcelona, this research project aims to go further on the understanding of how social change happens amidst scarcity. Understanding social innovation as a socio-ecological process, we will deal with the traditional tensions between structure and agency to explain how social change could happen and be effective. In this vein, two main analytical dimensions will be studied in depth: neighbourhood civic capacity (structure) and practices of relational leadership (agency). As a result, good practices of social innovation will be identified and new knowledge will be produced in order to understand better how neighbourhood civic capacity and collaborative leadership contribute to social innovation effectiveness and scalability.
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