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A hybrid space to support the regeneration of competences for re-industrialization. Lessons from a research-action


  • Paola Mengoli
  • Margherita Russo


Since the 1970s, in many European industrialized areas, cities have undergone radical transformations to cope with de-industrialization but also with the new needs of the post Fordistic organization of the factories and their ecosystems: logistics and transport requirements were demanding new functional areas, business services - from individual units up to big service companies - needed different configurations of working spaces, urban sprawling increased to satisfy residential needs. A huge amount of manufacturing buildings has become no longer appropriate for many production processes and the future of the old industrial premises has punctuated the public debate of the past forty years: from their restoring (to keep traces of local socio-technical identity), to their demolition (to provide new appropriate production or living spaces), to their re-use (for hosting new activities). In the somewhat drastic passage from the past industrial era to the future digital economy, medium size cities in industrialized areas present some specific challenges when they have to support the new manufacturing age: not only with new spaces, but also with new skills. In recent years, many public (and also private) initiatives have proposed and implemented the transformation of old manufacturing building in new settings to foster creativity-andinnovation, a condition considered essential, among others, to create new opportunities for growth. Are the re-uses of buildings effective for that goal? Is contamination in hybrid spaces the crucial ingredient for their success in supporting creativity? These questions appear even more critical when we are confronted with the creation of new skills for re-industrialization in areas that are still pillars of manufacturing activities but that are progressively lost the social fabric that reproduced skills. Although their general character is to enable information and communication flows, cities in industrialized areas have lost some important pieces of knowledge on material processes. In this contribution we address some of those issues by nvestigating the action-research called "Officina Emilia" that was initiated in Italy exactly with the goal of regenerating competence networks in a manufacturing area. Officina Emilia developed some distinctive features: the creation of an original space, Museolaboratorio, designed as a hybrid space; the action-research program to introduce changes through the context-based technology education; the intent to build on a large and qualified network, supporting the innovation in the education system at regional level. These features will be discussed below. The rationale for this analysis is to single out which are the agents, the processes and some conditions that may hamper similar initiatives. In this chapter we first introduce, in section 2, the interdependencies between economic system and education system. We discuss a new approach to technology education in context, and the specific characters of what is needed to improve such context-based education. In section 3 we present the education activities produced by Officina Emilia. In section 4 we comment on the lessons learned from the action-research that created a hybrid space. Our focus is on the relevant agents, artefacts and interaction processes that can support social innovation in education to enhance significant learning, to meet the changes of the world of production and to address the complexity of concrete situations. Section 5 concludes with some remarks on the lost and missing links hampering the actionresearch to become a driver of change.

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  • Paola Mengoli & Margherita Russo, 2017. "A hybrid space to support the regeneration of competences for re-industrialization. Lessons from a research-action," Center for the Analysis of Public Policies (CAPP) 0150, Universita di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Dipartimento di Economia "Marco Biagi".
  • Handle: RePEc:mod:cappmo:0150

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Berger, Suzanne with the MIT Task Force on Production in the Innovation Economy, 2013. "Making in America: From Innovation to Market," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262019914.
    2. Cristiano Antonelli (ed.), 2011. "Handbook on the Economic Complexity of Technological Change," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 13391.
    3. Margherita Russo, 2016. "Documenting work through videos. A project by Officina Emilia with nine engineering firms in the province of Modena," Department of Economics 0093, University of Modena and Reggio E., Faculty of Economics "Marco Biagi".
    4. Margherita Russo & Josh Whitford, 2009. "Industrial districts in a globalizing world: A model to change or a model of change?," Department of Economics 0615, University of Modena and Reggio E., Faculty of Economics "Marco Biagi".
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    Cited by:

    1. Cardullo, Paolo & Kitchin, Rob, 2017. "Living Labs, vacancy, and gentrification," SocArXiv waq2e, Center for Open Science.

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    More about this item


    : technology education in context; SMEs; mechanical industry; industrial districts; innovation in education; innovation loci; innovative agents; local development policies; Officina Emilia;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • L6 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing
    • R58 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Regional Government Analysis - - - Regional Development Planning and Policy
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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