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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 7: Nou Barris Nord: community resistance in a highly vulnerable context

Marc Parés, Sonia M. Ospina and Joan Subirats


Nou Barris Nord is a segregated neighbourhood that has not overcome its vulnerability. It has been hit extremely hard by the effects of the Great Recession. To really understand what has happened in the area we should not focus on how the crisis has affected it (unemployment, foreclosures and so on) but on how these neighbourhoods were transformed prior to the crisis. The real estate bubble multiplied its urban segregation as a result of a huge demographic replacement, and the poorest population in Barcelona became concentrated in this urban area. The social fabric of Nou Barris Nord was fragmented and its social capital declined, while civic capacity evolved into a general mistrust and hostility between neighbourhood associations on the one hand and the City Council on the other. In this context the emergence of socially innovative responses to problems is not easy. When initiatives flourish, the lack of coordination and collaboration with public authorities hinders their potential social impact. However, we also found in Nou Barris Nord a story of struggle based on the neighbourhood’s tradition of collective action. Neighbours, neighbourhood associations and other community-based organizations have clearly responded to recession effects through solidarity and resistance.

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