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Social Innovation and Democratic Leadership

Communities and Social Change from Below

Marc Parés, Sonia M. Ospina and Joan Subirats

This book explores new forms of democracy in practice following the 2011 global uprisings; democracy that comes from below, by and for the ‘have-nots’. Combining theories of social innovation and collective leadership, it analyses how disadvantaged communities have addressed the effects of economic recession in two global cities: Barcelona and New York.
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Chapter 5: Bushwick: emerging innovations in a dramatically gentrified neighbourhood

Marc Parés, Sonia M. Ospina and Joan Subirats


Bushwick is a neighbourhood suffering a huge gentrification process. It has a dominant and longstanding low-income Hispanic community, which is being displaced by newcomers. As a result, the neighbourhood is divided in two social groups. In this context and under the conditions of economic crisis post-2008, we see various struggles for social innovation: efforts to stabilize employment for the low-income, action to stem the tide of housing displacement (aggravated by stagnant and falling incomes) and struggles to integrate the neighbourhood’s major constituencies to keep the neighbourhood whole – as one Bushwick rather than two. It has not been easy for Bushwick to deal with gentrification effects. A former political machine – engaging the New York State Assemblyman for the area and a big traditional non-profit – has constrained any other social initiative. However, Bushwick is starting to evolve. It is precisely Bushwick’s community that, through building networks and experimenting with new ways of doing, is leading this emerging process of social change.

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