Local background of the social innovations
Innovation is defined in many ways by social scientists, people connected with business or technology. In short, it is a way to improve the systems that already exist, making them better, faster and cheaper (Iuri and Kuhn 1998). The meaning of “better, faster, cheaper” depends on the area of interest. In our case it is social policy in local communities, including discussed and implemented innovations, which are expected to meet needs of different segments of local communities. The innovations have different meanings depending on the specific social, economic, cultural and political context.
Putnam stresses there are two fundamental points that have to be taken into consideration when studying how institutions and members of communities can collaborate to meet their goals:
- Institutions shape politics. The rules and standard operating procedures that make up institutions leave their imprint on political outcomes by structuring political behaviour…. Institutions influence outcomes because they shape actor identities, power and strategies.
- Institutions are shaped by history. Whatever other factors may affect their form, institutions have inertia and ‘robustness’
Putnam 1993: 8-9
He also points out the role of features of social capital in the process of collaborations of governments, other stakeholders (e.g. TSOs) and individual members of local communities. Social capital is defined as trust, norms and networks shaped over time (Putnam 1993: 170; Sherraden et al. 2002). Social capital can influence types of innovations proposed by different stakeholders and their chances to be accepted and implemented.
Plock is the historic capital of Mazowsze, located in the northwestern part of Mazowieckie province (Ciechanowsko-Płocki sub-region according to NUTS-3 classification) approximately 110 km from Warsaw. According to the Central Statistical Office, at the end of March 2012, the population of Plock consisted of 124,553 permanent residents (Central Statistical Office, National Census of Population and Housing 2011).
The most substantial economic growth and increase in the number of inhabitants were observed in the 1960s and 1970s. As a result of political decisions of central authorities of the People’s Republic of Poland, a petrochemical conglomerate was established in Plock, as well as other industrial plants (such as the Harvesting Machines Factory, Cotex Knitted Goods Factory and the River Dockyard). This resulted in massive migration to Plock, mainly of young people from the nearby rural areas. In the early 1960s, prior to commencement of the industrial investment projects referred to above, the population of Plock amounted to only 34,000 inhabitants, while in the late 1980s it reached 122,660 (Central Statistical Office, National Census of Population and Housing 1988). Plock became a significant industrial centre of the region of Mazowsze – mainly large, state-owned industrial plants shaped the local labour market. The economic crisis of the 1980s and system transformation slowed down the development of Plock. Restructuring and change of ownership of industrial plants took place. The petrochemical conglomerate was transformed into PKN Orlen SA (Polish Oil Company Orlen) and it has remained the dominant employer in the city. Other plants have been privatised and the employment rates have been significantly reduced. Some, like Cotex, employing mainly women, declared bankruptcy and discontinued operation. Nevertheless, the industrial sector is still of significance – in year 2010, those employed in industry and construction constituted 40 per cent of all employees in the city (Kansy, Sierandt 2010: 75).
New solutions are often initiated by the inhabitants, who express their needs and indicate ways in which they could be satisfied. Later on, these serve as a basis for establishment of a partnership between the citizens, TSOs and the municipal or district authorities. Sometimes, the scenario of innovation is different. The city shows initiative and searches for partners among the entities and organisations, mentioned above.