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Münster – Conclusions

The innovations presented above are not only local examples for innovative projects and undertakings in Münster, but rather contain lessons for innovators and social entrepreneurs in other contexts. Those lessons will be analysed in the following sections: first, the general context or window of opportunity for innovations in Münster will be used to generate a categorical framework with which the role of public stakeholders can be typified. Afterwards, the lessons to be learned from Münster regarding the sustainability and diffusion of innovations will be expounded.

Windows of opportunities for innovations

The above description and analysis of innovations undertaken conveys important insights into the available windows of opportunity for social innovations and social entrepreneurs in Münster. It demonstrated that the coalition formed around the initial innovation – establishing the competitiveness and investment frame in the 1990s – still exerts important influence on social policy today. It is wielded through the dominance of the main paradigm as well as through the broad networks of political, administrative and private stakeholders.

Municipal stakeholders – politicians as well as members of the local administration – are acting as facilitators for social innovations if they can be connected to the overarching frame. Nonetheless, it seems that in most cases the municipality was not willing or able to provide funding or give other active support. Instead, they are trying to secure funding from other institutions or political levels (as in the case of MAMBA, Optionskommune or the private investments in the harbour area). Generally speaking, this cannot be seen as a laissez-faire style of politics as the municipality is a very active player in the field of local welfare policy. In the case of Osthuesheide, the communally owned Wohn+Stadtbau even intervened financially on a comparatively high level in order to achieve the renovation of the neighbourhood, despite this being a measure of last resort. The active intervention in this case seems to have been derived from the fact that urban development is one of the key issues for the municipality in accordance with the overarching discursive frame. The two innovations in the field of family policy (the Family Office and the prevention visits to families) were financed by redeploying resources within the annual budget.

Therefore, the intervention style of communal stakeholders mainly seems to be one of selective intervention: subsidiarity is preferred wherever possible, while the core values of the coalition are pursued by active engagement, if necessary. The Youth Office, for example, did not attempt to municipalise the different services in order to achieve clearer structures. Instead, the different institutions maintain their respective spheres of influence, while the Youth Office acts as a signpost for citizens. The Hafenforum follows the same logic, since the plans of investors are supported by most communal stakeholders. As resistance by other stakeholders was to be expected, they sought to prevent a failure of the plans through a moderated process while keeping their own engagement low.

Regarding their effect on the local welfare system, the innovations studied herein serve two main functions. On the one hand, some innovations (e.g. the Family Office, prevention visits, MAMBA, and, in parts, the Optionskommune) aid in viewing clients in a more comprehensive way. There is an attempt to address their different problems by competent and locally embedded stakeholders and organisations. On the other hand, the participation in and access of citizens to municipal processes shall be strengthened (Hafenforum, Osthuesheide). Through both functions, the strengths and assets of citizens and small-scale communities shall be fortified and utilised for local welfare policy.

From these insights follows a view of the community as a “spider in its web,” which exerts influence in selecting innovations and undertakings for support. Within the community, the role of the original discursive coalition remains important. The maintenance of the dominant frame and the main stakeholders in the coalition ensure continuity. On the other hand, this leads to a certain saturation and rigidity of the network, which until now seems to remain largely unnoticed by the coalition. In the future, this might hamper the adaptive capacity and innovativeness of the local system regarding newly emerging challenges.

Sustainability and potential for diffusion

The innovations studied in Münster also demonstrate some relevant factors in regards to the sustainability of innovations that can be applied to other settings and innovators. In the following, those general lessons are outlined.

One of the most important aspects is sustainable funding. Some of the innovations in Münster (e.g. the Family Office, the prevention visits and the renovation process in Osthuesheide56) have been issued with sustainable resources, either from the municipality itself or through guarantees by communal enterprises. The Optionskommune is a special case, since funding is granted by federal level according to specific regulations57.

On the other side are innovations funded on a project basis, such as MAMBA. Its existence largely depends on acquiring follow-up financing after the end of the grant from the European Social Fund (ESF)58. Hitherto, even though the project is considered a success in Münster, no local stakeholder has signalled the intention to provide funding from 2014 onwards. Apart from the need to cut public expenditure this might be associated with the fact that aid for refugees is not a core aim of the dominant coalition (i.e. competitiveness).

This assumption leads to another factor for sustainability: continued support by local stakeholders. The broader the network supporting an innovation the easier its maintenance will be. This can be observed in innovations in the field of family policy, which have been installed by a broad coalition of supporters and which are solidly established as permanent institutions. The process of the Hafenforum, in contrast, has been widely criticised and has not resulted in a broad consensus about the future of the harbour area. Ongoing debates about the development of the neighbourhood can be expected. Results of the consultation process will not be a reliable outcome on which to build future policies. Instead, it can serve as an example from which to learn for future consultation processes. Regarding MAMBA, the broad alliance for refugees in Münster points to the possibility that a long-term solution for the project might be found. A potential connection point might be the Optionskommune, which offers the possibility to integrate MAMBA into the broader framework of labour market integration.


One aim of the WILCO project is to investigate the potential diffusion of innovations. This encompasses both the transfer to other cities and regions as well as the application of an innovation to other target groups. Drawing on the experience of innovations in Münster, which factors need to be considered in the transmission of innovations to other contexts and/or target groups?

Probably the most important result of the research in Münster is that possible innovators need to assess the local discourse coalitions in their respective context and try to find linkages to the main frames and prevailing problem perceptions. This can help with the creation of a network of supporters and might even help to secure funding for an undertaking. If the innovation cannot be connected to the particular dominant frames and goals, it will at least be a lot more difficult to establish support structures. In the case of a strong, closed coalition, a lack of consideration for the discursive frames can even obstruct an undertaking altogether.

Pleading the case of social innovations and enterprises requires active and persuasive social entrepreneurs or supporters fulfilling this function, who can present their ideas in the prevailing local discursive context and as a possibility to further the main goals of important local stakeholders. They are even more assertive if they have good connections to different societal sectors (politics, civil society, administration). For example, the innovations in Münster regarding family policy were implemented by the Head of the Youth Office who is well connected in the city. The political resistance in the conceptualisation phase of the prevention visits against the inclusion of all families into the scheme was overcome by the persistence of the main promoter and her discursive justification of the project. This underlines the general necessity for perseverance and networking.

Another obvious common factor regarding the diffusion of an innovation is that there is a need for funding. As mentioned above, connecting to the local discourse and gaining access to local networks can facilitate access to funding. Another possibility (as the case of MAMBA shows in Münster), is to approach external stakeholders – i.e. other political levels or philanthropic institutions – for funding.

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Keywords: Activation | Activation policies | Case management | Child care | Child education | Citizen initiatives | Citizenship | Civil society | Co-funding | Co-production | Collaboration | Community | Community development | Democracy | Deregulation | Development | Diffusion | Disability | Employment services | Empowerment | Enabling | Entrepreneurialism | Entrepreneurship | European Social Fund | Family caregivers | Family Centres | Family needs | Family-minded | Gentrification | Governance | Grassroots initiatives | Housing corporation | Housing policy | Incubator | Integration | Labour market | Labour market integration | Local context | Local governance | Local governments | Local initiatives | Local welfare | Local welfare system | Lone mothers | Lone parent support | Micro-credit | Municipality | Neighbourhood | Neighbourhood revitalisation | Network | Networking | Participation | Partnerships | Personalising support | Political administrative system | Precarious working conditions | Preschool education | Privatisation | Public administration | Regional government | Segregation | Single mothers | Social and solidarity-based economy (SSE) | Social capital | Social cohesion | Social economy | Social enterprise | Social entrepreneurship | Social housing | Social housing policies | Social inclusion | Social investment | Social media | Subsidiarity | Sustainability | Third sector organisations | Unemployment | Urban gardening | Urban renewal | User choice | Welfare governance | Welfare mixes | Workfare | Young mothers | Youth unemployment

Münster – Conclusions

Categories: Conclusions

Münster – Conclusions