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The local capacity to act and leadership: why do some localities succeed while others fall behind in the geography of opportunities?

Markku Sotarauta (presenter), Heli Kurikka, Jari Kolehmainen and Sami Sopanen


Finland has moved from the construction of Nordic ‘social capitalism’ to the construction of innovation systems supporting competitiveness in the global economy. As a result, since the 1990s, all regions and localities have become more responsible than earlier for finding their place in an ever more complex environment, calling for a well-established capacity to mobilise relevant assets. However, the differing local capacities to act have not been adequately examined. 

The paper investigates the local capacity to act and related leadership by asking: (a) why can some localities connect to emerging opportunities while others fall behind; (b) what are the critical assets in different regions to construct opportunity spaces; (c) how do localities mobilise assets to construct and exploit opportunities; (d) who are key actors; and (e) how is local capacity constituted in the interaction between localities and the state and in the associated institutional structures? The paper follows an instrumental comparative case study approach and is based on extensive secondary materials and 36 semi-structured interviews with involved actors. Empirically, the paper draws on two Finnish sub-regions: Salo and Eastern Lapland.