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Digital first? Communities second? The role of policy-makers and the social economy in redesigning and innovating the management of common goods in the digital era

Erdmuthe Klaer, REVES Network

Smart specialization has become a mantra for local/regional development. Digitalisation is part of it. Many perceive it as a key element for economic growth and the creation of jobs, some express hopes for more democracy, participation and empowerment. At the same time local communities are experiencing an ever increasing commodification of public goods and resources, such as land, housing, but also knowledge and data in general. Access to such resources, to services, but also to decent work appears to be more and more difficult.

The objective of this transformative research session, organised by REVES in cooperation with the CO-COMMUNS group and Tuscany region on 12 December 2017 in Brussels, was to explore how the social and solidarity economy, commons-related initiatives, cities/regions and researchers could jointly influence and possibly transform current trends. It brought together researchers, cities and regions, but also initiatives such as Community Land Trusts, cooperative platforms, community foundations and others.

During the discussion, participants highlighted, inter alia, a need to review concepts such as ‘general interest’ as well as existing institutions and instruments in order to make them better reflect today’s context. A statement many of them shared in this regard is that social innovation will be successful only if its process character is recognized. The creation of appropriate spaces and a (legal) context allowing for this process - including spontaneous social innovation - to happen is crucial. Researchers and practitioners should assist policy-makers in exploring how to integrate initiatives promoted by the commons and social and solidarity economy in local/regional strategies, including local digital transition plans. This should also include work on local democracy and the development of means and methodologies to enable different groups in a local community to take part in co-planning and co-management processes (work on capacities!). Action research initiatives are necessary also when it comes to developing suitable financing models, including dialogue with policy-makers around the assessment of the medium/long-term impact of public investments.

The report will be published soon on the SIC website.

#socialeconomy; #commons, #coop; #communityfoundations; @REVESNetwork