Research Group

Social Innovations in Rural Spaces

The Research Group analyses processes of emergence, establishment and dissemination of novel ideas, practices and projects in rural areas, which are referred to as social innovations. The Research Group thus contributes to innovation research and to the study of transformation processes in rural areas. It takes into account that rural areas are not uniform, but highly diverse. The Research Group investigates novel solutions with which rural actors address central challenges in areas such as local supply, mobility, health care, work, education, culture and communication. If technical innovations, in the form of digital technologies and applications, are part of the social-innovative solutions, they are given special attention. Innovative forms of urban-rural cooperation are also included in the research. The innovation-oriented activities of actors from civil society and social enterprises are just as much of interest as those of actors from local politics and administration.

Ongoing Projects

The study on municipial approaches to promoting civic volunteering was commissioned by the German Foundation for Engagement and Volunteering (DSEE) and is being developed by the IRS together with the think tank neuland21. By late summer 2024, the study will use a Germany-wide survey to reveal municipal strategies for promoting volunteering. A full survey of all 10,789 municipalities in Germany is planned. In addition to mapping, the aims of the study are to create types of municipal volunteering promotion and to uncover empirical correlations. more

How can regional innovation policies be developed in structurally weak regions that mostly lack a critical mass of actors, institutions and a "creative buzz" to generate innovations from endogenous potentials? The research project "Strong through Open Innovation Regions" aims to close this explanatory gap by systematically interweaving regional conditions (regional innovation ecosystems) and supraregional references (translocal innovation ecosystems). To this end, we are developing an original contribution to the conceptual sharpening of societal innovation capacity with the Social Open Innovation Region (SOIR) approach. more

In her dissertation project, Jae-Young Lee investigates how residents in mountainous rural areas negotiate the concept of "rurality" in the face of the commodification of rural spaces and urban hegemonies. The work is based on two field studies in rural areas in Chile and South Korea. more

Digital (planning) tools are changing the way we communicate. While urban areas seem to process these changes without tension, tensions between digitalised forms of action and more traditional, analogue forms are assumed for peripheralised rural areas. These are the focus of the project. Using rural areas in China and Chile as examples, the project will examine from different perspectives of action and actors (1) which digitisation strategies have been pursued and which digitisation processes have taken place, (2) which changes can be observed in the actions of actors against the backdrop of the available digital technologies and applications, and (3) to what extent spatial constructions of rural spaces in the respective cultural contexts are changing as a result. more

The Global Center of Spatial Methods for Urban Sustainability (GCSMUS), is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) via the DAAD program “Higher Education Excellence in Development Cooperation – exceed" and based at the Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin). GCSMUS seeks to introduce the use of social science research methodologies for the advancement of urban sustainable development, by connecting social sciences methodology, via knowledge transfer, exchange and implementation, with urban policy-making, planning and design. more