R Conferences and Workshops

RSA Annual Conference (Main Event) - Florence, 2024

The 2024 Regional Studies Association Annual Conference was held in Florence, Italy, in partnership with the University of Florence from June 11 to 14. Split across two campuses, the conference offered participants the opportunity to explore the old and new districts of the city and its university campuses, and Florence itself provided a charming backdrop that exemplified the uniqueness of place. The capital city of Tuscany, Florence is a living, breathing example of how regions can offer place-specific cultures and opportunities that enhance the experiences of visitors. Certainly, the city shone with perfect summer weather, the best of Italian cuisine, and historic and cultural offerings to enhance participants’ experiences.

Florence, Italy (Photo Credit: Ensar)

With more than 450 presentations over four days, and participants representing over 50 territories, the conference program offered a wide variety of frameworks from which to explore the theme of ‘global challenges, regional collaboration and the role of places’. The program included plenaries from high-profile speakers, numerous parallel sessions, 64 convened special sessions, workshops, professional development opportunities, field trips, and technical tours. Additionally, several networking events took place, including a reception, conference dinner, academic speed dating, and PowerPoint karaoke, all of which created informal opportunities to connect with scholars from all over the world.

The Opening Plenary featured Patrizio Bianchi (University of Ferrara, Italy), Roberta Rabellotti (University of Pavia, Italy), Rafael Boix Domenech (University of Valencia, Spain), Kira Gatrzou Katsouyanni (University of Oxford, United Kingdom), and Alessandro Muscio (University of Foggia, Italy) and focussed on the capacity of the European Union to address global issues such as green transitions, innovation, cultural development, and local co-operation in left-behind communities. Donatella Della Porta’s Closing Plenary explored territorial contention in relation to social and political conflicts.

Dr Lynette Washington presented on ‘Gender, Place Leadership and Regional Transformation’. This paper, co-authored with FWFC Chief Investigator Professor Andrew Beer and Bradley Distinguished Professor Carol T. Kulik, utilised in depth interviews with place leaders in automotive manufacturing communities in South Australia and Victoria to examine how ‘sticky’ gendered leadership stereotypes remain in place leadership. The paper revealed that while women place leaders interrogate dominant narratives about gendered leadership stereotypes and use sophisticated methods to deconstruct those stereotypes, men place leaders do not believe that leadership is gendered and therefore do not attempt to engage with gendered stereotypes about leadership. This finding is significant in that it demonstrates that the stereotypes around leadership are difficult to ‘unstick’ and little change has occurred in this space since Virginia Schein’s seminal 1975 study ‘Think Manager, Think Male’.

FWFC Partner Investigator Professor Markku Sotarauta gave a presentation on related research on lessons for transformative innovation policy from regional restructuring and path development, while Partner Investigator Professor David Bailey spoke about related work on achieving just transitions in a post-carbon climate in left-behind regions. Finally, FWFC Researcher Associate Professor Akshay Vij shared findings from a related work on the future of cities and regions in a post-pandemic world.

Chief Investigator Professor Julie Ratcliffe and Professor Bailey also ran a Special Session at the RSA Annual Conference as part of the FWFC RSA Network on Putting the ‘Just’ into Just Transitions for Cities and Regions.