Social innovation in the built environment: the challenges presented by the politics of space

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This paper reports on social innovation systems for building resilient communities within different social and political contexts across four continents. It considers how social innovation in the built environment occurs over phases of network, framework and architecture and explores the linkages with the study of sustainability and resilience. It tracks the emergence of social innovation in response to social, economic and environmental challenges through nine case studies, using ethnography to probe the barriers and enablers of social innovation. Findings reveal the role that politics and ideological governance levers play in planning for sustainable, inclusive communities. An overview of the role of architecture in the politics of space from literature review is provided based both on historical and contemporary sources. Modern commentators who build on concepts such as the ‘Right to the city’ are considered, in the study of how networks can collaborate on frameworks for change that enable social equity in the built environment. Political themes have laid a foundation for both the literature review and investigation in the field—looking to enlightened policy, such as that based around the Right to the city, which may offer a theoretical framework for communities to effect planning and decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Number of pages23
JournalUrban Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Dec 2020


  • social innovation
  • built environment
  • spatial inequality


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