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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 6: South Bronx: a whole community fighting social exclusion

Marc Parés, Sonia M. Ospina and Joan Subirats


The South Bronx is a socially excluded urban area that has significantly improved over the last 40 years. It has been revitalized and transformed from a national symbol of urban dystopia into a collection of ordinary working-class neighbourhoods. However, stigmatization remains a handicap; environmental problems have not been adequately addressed; housing is still not affordable for many; unemployment is high, the poverty rate remains extreme and access to good education is a serious contemporary problem. In the South Bronx, the Great Recession hit an area that was already vulnerable, shrouded in a sense of a lack of investment. There is a feeling among residents that public authorities have failed their community and that public institutions should do more for the area. At the same time, though, in recent decades a strong sense of belonging – fostered by the ‘we stay’ movement – has helped to build a community with solid ties and a powerful organizing capacity. This community has struggled, has influenced public policies and has been able to work together with public authorities in order to improve the South Bronx. There is a history in the South Bronx of organizations and interests banding together.

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