10.02.2017 Annika Mayer

Social Innovation in Urban and Regional Development

International Summer School 2017

30 August to 2 September 2017 in Vienna (Austria)


The concept of social innovation has recently reemerged in the debates around the welfare state and public services at the European level. It has also entered international and interdisciplinary research programmes as well as national and local initiatives aimed at fostering change and diversifying urban environments. Academic debate on social innovation can be traced back to the early 1980s, when social innovation responded to social exclusion and decreasing quality of life due to rising inequalities.

Today, the notion of social innovation seems to be transforming from crisis and recovery towards the satisfaction of societal demands not met by policies at various scales. As a consequence, the concept of social innovation is becoming a vivid bottom-up, contextualised, and cooperative counter-mechanism, reacting to the shortcomings of established political regimes, multi-level governance, and hegemonic (distribution) processes. The renewed impetus for socially innovative policies and practices is based on an increased emphasis of co-creative practices and relationships between different actors across various scales. As such, any academic examination or debate of social innovation must be truly interdisciplinary.


The International Summer School 2017 of the German Academy for Spatial Research and Planning (ARL) in cooperation with the University of Vienna and the Austrian Academy of Sciences will discuss conceptual, methodological, and empirical contributions that investigate social innovation in an urban context, focusing on the relations between actors and their impact on urban and regional development. We invite contributions from young academics whose approaches and early-stage analyses demonstrate an interest in:

  • theoretical, conceptual, or methodological advances or comparative (cross-national/cross-regional) studies on social innovation in the fields of urban and regional development
  • bottom-up and neighbourhood-based initiatives and movements
  • the role, organisation, governance, and power relations of “co-produced” policies and practices
  • adaptive capabilities in public administration to adjust to territorial decentralisation and citizen-based practices such as active citizenship, co-creation, and co-creative place and policy making
  • deploying a gendered perspective within the co-creation of social innovation, e.g. actor-networks and power formations

Successful applications will need to make explicit reference to spatial development and/or spatial strategies and policies.


The ARL is an independent non-university institution and one of the prime addresses in Europe for research and advice on sustainable spatial development. It consists of a network of academics and practitioners who are voluntarily active in the Academy. The ARL provides a national and international platform for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary cooperation between research and practice on all important spatial issues. It is particularly committed to the exchange and dissemination of knowledge. Support for young researchers and practitioners is well-established at the Academy.


The ARL International Summer School 2017 will be held in cooperation with the Department of Geography and Regional Research at the Faculty of Geosciences, Geography and Astronomy at the University of Vienna and with the Institute of Urban and Regional Research (ISR) at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The University of Vienna is the oldest university in the German-speaking countries and considers itself an internationally competitive “global university” with 15 faculties providing academic research and education for around 92,000 students and workplace for about 10,000 employees.


Our aim is to stimulate discussion, gain insight, and develop new research questions on the topics of the summer school. Participants will get the chance to present their research and receive individual feedback from international professors and experts. In addition, keynote speeches, plenary sessions, and workshops with practitioners offer the opportunity to intensify the debate and develop further research ideas. Field trips and shared social activities help the topic of social innovation come to life.


The summer school takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of social innovation. We invite applications from advanced doctoral students with a background in geography, urban and European studies, political sciences, sociology, spatial planning, public administration, social design, and related fields. A total of 12 doctoral students will be admitted to the summer school, six of which will be selected in a competitive application process. The ARL sponsors the accommodation and travel costs of all participants. A participation fee will not be charged. As academic institutions, the organisers encourage scientific publications and aim to compile an edited volume on the theme of the summer school. Participants should be willing and prepared to discuss their paper drafts during the summer school and to develop their papers afterwards. Papers will be chosen for publication based on the selection and quality criteria of the publisher.


For further questions, please contact Dr Ina Peters (peters@arl-net.de, +49 (0)511 34842 61) or Dr Yvonne Franz (yvonne.franz@univie.ac.at, +43 1 4277 48783).