Cross-departmental project

Key Individuals as Drivers of Spatial Development


Results from empirical spatial research demonstrate that specific actors often play a central role in advancing processes and initiatives of socio-spatial transformation.

- Typically they stand out from the overall personnel and structural setup.

- Sometimes key individuals form a group of several individuals supporting each other.

Approaches, in which the capabilities of political leaders as well as of leading executives in organisations and businesses are conceptualised, have inspired the team to develop a unique approach to characterise key individuals. The approach differentiates between four dimensions.

- Dimension individual person: individual capabilities and character traits (for example: communication skills, trustworthiness);

- Dimension subject: capability, based on the actor’s subjective viewpoints and a specific knowledge, to develop new ideas, new problem definitions and proposals for solutions;

- Dimension actor: capability, based on a strong motivation for action, to successfully implement one’s own ideas and/or ideas of others, to create new procedures and to set trends for new practices;

- Dimension strategist: capability to act highly reflexive and structured over a long timeframe, to forge alliances, and to specifically target windows of opportunity.

It is possible that a key figure is strong in all four dimensions. More often key figures posses a varying set of dimensions.

The specific competences of key figures always are related to their

- structural context (social position, institutional and field-specific contexts) and

- social relationship structures (networks, governance arrangements).

Furthermore, they are “made” into key actors by other people who ascribe them a central role in the development process.


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