Fitting In: The Double-Sided Work of Intermediating Social Innovation in Local Governance

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Front-line workers have received much praise over the past decades for their unique position and skills for making a difference in complex, changing and power-ridden local governance systems. The recent upsurge of social innovation forces us to critically rethink their double-sided work of intermediating between informal, creative and subversive practices and the existing institutional order. Social innovations seek to address unmet local needs in ways that local governance organisations do not have the capacities or resources for and, more fundamentally, strive to transform hegemonic relationships and values. Intermediaries are tasked with ‘fitting in’: supporting social innovations to sustain themselves in local governance as well as adapting the existing institutional order to innovative forms of thinking, acting and organising. Illustrated by empirical findings from research in Liverpool, the chapter demonstrates how intermediaries tread a fine line between cooptation and transformation. The chapter argues that a relational approach helps to reimagine how practices of intermediating can enable social innovation to transform local governance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of the Public Servant
EditorsHelen Sullivan, Helen Dickinson
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 7 Jan 2020


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