Social innovations and territory


Comparative Studies of Ideas and Cultures (3rd level)

Human Geography

Course code: 93
Year of study: Not specified

Course principal:
Assist. Prof. David Bole, Ph.D.


Workload: lectures 45 hours, seminar 45 hours
Course type: general elective
Languages: Slovene, English
Learning and teaching methods: lectures, discussion classes


Course syllabus (download)


Before the exam, students have to present a seminar work in front of other students.

Students will be assessed by the total mark for the exam (50%) and the seminar work (50%).


Content (Syllabus outline):

The course will follow two concepts: the first is social innovation as a scientific concept, with an emphasis on understanding social innovation, mobilizing and empowering local communities, study of social relationships and governance structures. The second concept is more practical / applied, where the emphasis will be on social innovation as a social practice, arising because of solving fundamental problems that cannot be solved by institutional structures (poverty, segregation, exclusion …). The student will gain knowledge of both concepts and will understand the reasons for the emergence of social innovations, the process of their design and implementation.

Methodologically, the emphasis will be on two aspects:

a) participatory action research with local communities, where the student will gain knowledge of co-producing research, action research, “living labs” and the like;

b) spatial-critical analyses, where the student will gain knowledge about the emergence of social innovations in different territorial contexts and from different aspects (endogenous capital, human and social capital …).



  • Bartels, K. (2020). Transforming the relational dynamics of urban governance: How social innovation research can create a trajectory for learning and change. Urban Studies.
  • Leitheiser, S., Follmann, A. (2020). The social innovation–(re)politicisation nexus: Unlocking the political in actually existing smart city campaigns? The case of SmartCity Cologne, Germany. Urban Studies, 57(4), 894–915.
  • Hilpert, U. (2019). Diversities of Innovation. London, New York: Routledge.
  • Thompson, M. (2019). Playing with the Rules of the Game: Social Innovation for Urban Transformation. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 43: 1168–1192.
  • Pisani, E., Franceschetti, G., Secco, L., Christoforou, A. (2017). Social Capital and Local Development: From Theory to Empirics. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Ziegler, R. (2017). Social innovation as a collaborative concept. Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 30(4): 388 405.
  • Bosworth, G., Rizzo, F., Marquardt, D., Strijker, D., Haartsen T., Aagaard, Thuesen A. (2016). Identifying social innovations in European local rural development initiatives. Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research, 29(4): 442–461.
  • Nicholls, A., Simon, J. and Gabriel, M. (2015). New Frontiers in Social Innovation Research. Basingstoke, New York: Palgrave MacMilan.
  • Moulaert, F., MacCallum, D., Mehmood, A. and Hamdouch, A. (2013). The International Handbook on Social Innovation: Collective Action, Social Learning and Transdisciplinary Research. Cheltenham, Northampton, Massachusetts: Edward Elgar.
  • MacCallum, D., Moulaert, F., Hillier, J. and Vicari Haddock, S. (2009). Social Innovation and Territorial Development. Farnham: Ashgate.


Objectives and competences:

Objective of the course is for the student to gain knowledge of social innovation in their spatial context. Social innovation is a scientific construct that arises from the need to understand and analyse the experience and process of innovation that have historically emerged because of structural problems in the society (inequalities, social exclusion). The main goal is to educate the student with the theory and practice of social innovation in their spatial context.

The theoretical part covers the following content:

  • the genesis of the concept of social innovation in different ages and places;
  • “human-cantered” interpretation of the process of social innovation (social needs in the past and present, stakeholder reactions and their involvement in the process …);
  • social innovation in typical spaces (urban, rural, problematic, peripheral and other areas);
  • territorial sources of social innovation (concept of endogenous development, social and human capital, regional development …)
  • managing and institutionalizing social innovation.

The practical aspects of the study include the following content:

  • participatory research on social innovation (action research, “living labs”, cooperation with the local community…);
  • transdisciplinary research (methods and examples).


Intended learning outcomes:

Knowledge and understanding:

  • of the concept of social innovation;
  • of the genesis of social innovation with historical and present-day examples;
  • of the process of social innovation in the community, with the role of individual actors in this process;
  • of the territorial context of social innovating (differences between urban, rural, problematic… and other territorial types);
  • of the resources that enable social innovation (endogenous resources, social, human, etc.);
  • of the role of social innovation in general development and within individual institutions;
  • the institutionalization of social innovation abroad;
  • participatory methods of social innovation research with examples from Slovenia and abroad;
  • transdisciplinary research with examples from Slovenia and abroad.


Learning and teaching methods:

Types of learning/teaching:

  • Frontal teaching
  • Work in smaller groups or pair work
  • Independent students work
  • e-learning

Teaching methods:

  • Explanation
  • Conversation/discussion/debate
  • Case studies
  • Field work (e.g. company visits)
  • Inviting guests from companies



  • Long written assignments (30 %)
  • Presentations (10 %)
  • Final examination (written/oral) (60 %)



Cultural Geography

Assist. Prof. Jani Kozina, Ph.D.,


Enviromental behavior

Asst. Prof. Katarina Polajnar Horvat, Ph.D.,


Heritage intepretation

Assist. Prof. Aleš Smrekar, Ph.D.,


Historical geography

Assoc. Prof. Matija Zorn, Ph.D.,


Social geography of karst

Assist. Prof. Mateja Breg Valjavec, Ph.D.,


Social innovations and territory

Assist. Prof. David Bole, Ph.D.,


Sustainable development

Assist. Prof. Daniela Alexandra Teixeira da Costa Ribeiro, Ph. D. ,