Construction of an experimental and co-creation research methodology for co-operative governance in territorial development policies

The prolonged economic crisis in Europe has led to a growing feeling of alienation among citizens from the main decision-making centres. The co-creation research methodology for co-operative governance is an innovative approach to stakeholder engagement in which policymakers and researchers work as a team in dialogue spaces configured to address different territorial challenges. A participative, open and collaborative governance for the economic development of Gipuzkoa is therefore being built.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

Many policy makers are facing the challenge of defining more collaborative, participative and inclusive policy processes to recover the confidence of organisations and citizens in their territories. One of the main problems they meet is the lack of methodologies to do this. The innovation presented in this case shares one such methodology, namely Action Research for Territorial Development, developed to a great extent between researchers from Orkestra, Basque Institute of Competitiveness and policy makers in the Territorial Development Laboratory, fostered by the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa in the framework of Etorkizuna Eraikiz (see the OPSI case Etorkizuna Eraikiz) and joined by eleven county development agencies of this territory.

Most frameworks regarding the construction of collaborative governance modes for policy making are normative and say what should be done. They help policy makers reach the determination to experiment with new governance modes for policy making. But after this decision is made, processes often get stuck because there is no methodological approach to help manage complexity and conflict inherent to these processes.

The innovation analysed in this case responds to these challenges by constructing an action research methodology adapted to territorial development policies, and more specifically, to innovation policies. The methodology is not a recipe book written by researchers for policy makers to use. It has been co-created by policy makers and researchers together in the context of real policy processes. Consequently, the methodology has been the way policy makers and researchers have worked together to construct cooperative governance and, at the same time, it is also a result of the process. Considering that the specific cooperative governance constructed in Gipuzkoa, Basque Country (Spain) is very context specific, the methodology to construct it is what cold be shared with other policy makers and researchers trying to construct cooperative governance modes for policy making.

The co-creation nature of the methodology is innovative because most research in the field of innovation policy and territorial development is conducted through linear approaches where researchers do talk to or interview policy makers, but do not co-create the policy with them. Knowledge is usually created in academia and then “transferred” to policy makers. Through the co-creation approach action research brings participation and empowerment of policy makers and other stakeholders to the core of the policy process. Knowledge is not transferred from one to others but co-created. The result are cooperative governance modes that are experimental and inclusive.

The immediate goal of the innovation is to develop territorial development policies in Gipuzkoa, Basque Country, Spain through co-operative governance modes that make policies more democratic and efficient. The final beneficiaries are SMEs and their workers, and other relevant beneficiaries are county development agencies that have seen their role in territorial development reinforced as intermediary agents in territorial development. The long term goal of the innovation is to systematise the learnings in the process in Gipuzkoa and construct a methodology that can be used for new experimental processes in other policy making contexts.

The new governance was institutionalised in June 2017 through the formal agreement for collaboration signed between the provincial council of Gipuzkoa and eleven county development agencies. Since then, the spaces and procedures constructed through the methodology Action Research for Territorial Development have been institutionalised. This means that they are the spaces and procedures used by the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa and eleven county development agencies of this territory to co-create territorial development policies. Policy programs devoted to support SMEs and the employability of people in risk of social exclusion have been developed through these cooperative procedures.

The goal for the next years is to develop multi-level governance further by integrating the Basque Government and its agencies in these processes and develop the new governance horizontally by integrating vocational training centres.

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Year: 2009
Level of government: Local government


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