Research database

RESISTING - Reconnecting Social innovation with InSTitutions in urban plannING

24 months (2023 - 2025)
Principal investigator(s):
Project type:
Nationally funded research - PRIN
Funding body:
Project identification number:
PoliTo role:


For decades, social innovation – voluntary, non-statutory, citizen-led initiatives providing services or goods, beyond the State – has been increasingly commended for offering enormous potential by both academic and policy discourses. However, it has often become a convenient concept for local governments to justify their disengagement from tackling a wide range of problems around exclusion, deprivation, and lack of well-being, through public action. Despite many agreeing on the fact that local communities can unrealistically find alone progressive and long-lasting solutions for deep-rooted problems, we still miss a comprehensive and critical understanding of the relationship between SI and institutions in urban planning, and how to overcome current drifts. Three major missed opportunities have been identified in the current state-of-the-art: first, the investigation of the SI-institutions relationship from a spatial standpoint, providing a critical discussion of how relational patterns overlap with the socio-spatial distribution of disadvantages; secondly, an oversimplification and romanticism around most of the narratives; thirdly, the analysis of the enabling role of institutions to the emergence, evolution, and effectiveness of socially innovative practices, and the possibilities that institutions themselves can learn by engaging with SI, impacting urban planning. Building the research endeavour on these three major missed opportunities, relying on the extensive experience of a high-skilled, under-40, and mostly female research group, RESISTING will work on bridging the current knowledge gaps surrounding social innovation by repositioning the pivotal role of institutions in the SI debate. To do so, RESISTING will develop an original comparative analysis at several levels – regional and sub-regional, within diverse local governments and policy settings in Veneto, Piedmont, and Sicily – to clearly assess factors shaping the SI-institutions relationship, how these relational patterns emerge, and overlap with the socio-spatial distribution of disadvantages, and what are the conditions for institutional learning, from an urban planning perspective. RESISTING will blend spatial analysis through an interactive GIS mapping platform, with in-depth interviews, discourse analysis, participant observation, and institutional ethnographies, producing a repository of open data, and leading to both methodological and technological innovations. Results’ dissemination will include public engagement (training workshops), involving key actors within the SI-institutional nexus. Finally, RESISTING will act toward the internationalization of the Italian research system and the improvement of the scientific community, not only through high-impact publications, but also through the organization of an international conference that will be the testbed for discussing the advancement of knowledge in the field, and future research steps.

People involved





ERC sectors

SH3_1 - Social structure, social mobility

Sustainable Development Goals

Obiettivo 11. Rendere le città e gli insediamenti umani inclusivi, sicuri, duraturi e sostenibili


Total cost: € 315,145.00
Total contribution: € 265,263.00
PoliTo total cost: € 88,288.00
PoliTo contribution: € 74,314.00