The European Learning Network - enterprise and innovation in deprived urban areas
In the European Learning Network (LNet) five partner cities – Amsterdam,Hamburg, London, Milan and Prague – share experience on how to promote enterprise in deprived neighbourhoods. Aim of the network is to develop common approaches to realising the economic and social potential of deprived urban areas and to build practical tools to promote enterprise such as toolkits and how-to guides. LNet focused on business support, investment, skills and knowledge, and effective governance structures. The LNet project is a bottom-up initiative of five cities. It has resulted in more contact between the projects participants on encouraging entrepreneurship in deprived neighbourhoods. When analysing best practices, there was a clear focus on transferability. The documentation of the best practices could be improved, however. The 35 cases presented in the LNet Manual could have provided more background information on the initiatives, for example contact information. This constitutes a potential barrier to sharing knowledge with cities outside the network.
Cities are seen as the engines of economic development, as well as centres of social and cultural growth. Over the past few decades, interest in the future of deprived city neighbourhoods has grown as conditions in these areas have deteriorated. Often these areas are centrally located, ‘inner city’ areas. Within the EU urban areas, deprivation has different forms and geographies. These cities often share the following:
- negative effects of industrial restructuring of the past thirty years
- worklessness and lack of business base
- skills mismatches and low educational attainment
- concentrations of poor housing and social problems
- ill health.
Within the broader theme of ‘realising the economic and social potential of deprived urban areas’, LNet focused on three sub themes:
- Entrepreneurship - In deprived urban areas, there are often fewer business start-ups than in other areas and businesses may be more likely to fail. Residents of deprived urban areas face many barriers to enterprise. This ‘enterprise gap’ in deprived areas has been a key focus of the work of LNet.
- Innovation – Deprived urban areas are less likely to attract and foster an innovative business base than other areas. This has an adverse impact on their economic potential.
- Social enterprise – Social enterprises are business that aim to
achieve public good. Many social enterprises have enabled
individuals and communities towork together towards regenerating
their local neighbourhoods.
Through study visits, research, case studies and the development of good practice tools, LNet identified ways to support innovation, social enterprise and entrepreneurship in deprived areas. The LNet partners have developed a ‘learning method’ to engage the wider community of policy makers and practitioners in each of the partner cities in this process. Key features of this method are:
- Questionnaires – LNet partners completed questionnaires that analyse in detail how the concepts of entrepreneurship, innovation and social enterpriseare understood in their cities. Key barriers to and opportunities for promoting these three themes in their deprived areas are identified.
- Case studies – All partners submitted best practices, to be reviewed by the LNet project team. In the reviews, the focus is on transferability, sustainability and added value of the case studies.
- The LNet manual – The manual presents all case studies, making
them available to the project partners and the wider audience of
European urban professionals.
Based upon the 35 case studies, the LNet partners have been able to identify common principles and approaches to improve the economic structure of deprived urban areas. They are grouped along four lines:
- governance – find appropriate delivery models
- business support – deliver tailored services for potential and existing entrepreneurs
- finance – focus on investment and financial engineering
- skills – give the people the confidence to be entrepreneurs
In each of these four fields, several common principles and recommendations are made. These can be found in the European Learning Network final report, which can be downloaded below.
The project was partially funded by the European INTERREG IIIC initiative.
Greater London Enterprise - London House
Dr. Delphine Michel