Social capital and local development: from theory to empirics

The book “Social capital and local development: from theory to empirics” has been published by Palgrave Macmillan (Springer Nature) and is available for purchase here.

SIMRA project coordinator Prof. Maria Nijnik and project partner Bill Slee wrote the Foreword; and SIMRA results were directly used in the following chapters: Chapter 5 “Social capital, network governance and social innovation: towards a new paradigm” (83-105) and Chapter 19 “What future of LEADER as a catalyst of social innovation” (417-438), while also contributing to other chapters.

 A sneak peek…

There is a growing body of knowledge on social capital, which is recognised as a relevant variable in influencing development outcomes. Given that disadvantaged rural areas may be less well endowed with social capital (or at least the right sort of social capital) to engage in creative and productive forms of local development, such an analysis is arguably much needed to address the social, economic and environmental crises that individually or together afflict many rural areas. The book “Social capital and Local Development” contributes to an evidence base of knowledge on, and measurement of, social capital as a force in rural development. The authors argue rightly that Putnam’s view of social capital tends to overlook power relations, social inequalities, and governance structures which are considered more deeply in Bourdieu’s analysis. Their approach synthesises these two main traditions of thought regarding social capital arguing that ‘the network- based approach of the Bourdieusian tradition can (then) be combined with the civic participation approach of the Putnamian tradition to shed light on the multi-dimensional and contextual aspects of social capital’.

Please cite as: Pisani, E., Franceschetti, G., Secco, L., Christoforou, A. (2017) “Social Capital and Local Development. From Theory to Empirics”, Palgrave Macmillan Springer Nature (eBook ISBN 978-3-319-54277-5; DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-54277-5; Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-54276-8).


Elena Pisani (Uni Padova)
Elena Pisani (Uni Padova)

Adopt your cow and encourage mountain farming

“Adotta una mucca”, (“Adopt a cow” in English) is an Italian initiative from the Valsugana Valley in the Trentino province. Its objective is to introduce tourists, children and families to mountain life and culture. Adopters can visit various Alpine huts, learn how mountain products are made faithfully following old recipes and enjoy cows on mountain pastures.

The project
adotta1The project “Adotta una mucca” was created in 1994 to introduce and valorise Alpine hut activities, products and culture in the Valsugana and Lagorai Valleys in North-Eastern Italy. The main objective of the project was to bring tourists to the mountains to discover the hut’s life and how mountain products are made

How does it work?
adotta2Everyone can adopt a cow. The procedure is quite simple: online, on the Valsugana website, a brochure presents the alpine huts that participate in the project. Participants can choose their favourite hut and their favourite cow among a total of 150 cows coming from 15 different alpine huts in Trentino, Italy. A description accompanies every cow, displaying name and picture. Adopting a cow costs 60€:  10€ will be devoted to projects for children’s charities and 50€ will be given to the Alpine hut for the summer maintenance of the “adopted” cow. The 50€ can be used as a voucher by adopters, who, on their visit to their cow, can taste and buy various mountain products, from fresh and seasoned cheeses and ricotta to butter, toast and fresh milk, produced in the alpine hut. Adopters can visit the cow in its alpine hut during the pasture period from mid-June to mid-September. Moreover, the adoption can be offered as a gift to a friend or a relative. It has become very usual to offer “an adopted cow” for a wedding or a birthday present.

The positive impacts
Over the years, the number of adoptions has significantly increased: in 2014, 962 cows were adopted, whereas in 2017, more than 1310 cows were adopted. This innovative project is successful and has positive socio-economic impacts:
– The project “Adotta una mucca” is a real example of collaboration between tourism and agriculture which enables people to get closer to mountain farming activities.
– By adopting a cow, paying a fee and showing interest in the project, participants sustain mountain activities, promote mountain products, get to know the alpine tradition and heritage and contribute to mountain solidarity.

This project is an example of social innovation in marginalised rural areas. You can find it on the SIMRA’s database collecting social innovation examples.

adotta3For more information, please visit
– The project’s brochure
– The project’s website


Florence Tornincasa (Euromontana)
Florence Tornincasa (Euromontana)

Still wondering what social innovation in rural areas looks like? Check out our new brochure!

Cet article est disponible en français ici.

This new SIMRA brochure aims at showcasing the diversity of social innovations in rural areas of Europe and the Mediterranean regions. A sneak peek of what you will find in this brochure includes revitalisation plans of a UNESCO site in Slovakia, a renewable energy community trust in the UK, sustainable fishers delivering boxes of seafood to your doorstep in Greece, or a public-private partnership to support dairy producers in Tunisia!

brochure_cs_1These examples are extracted from the SIMRA database, available on our project’s website.

The examples selected meet criteria of evidence of reconfiguration of social practices; of active involvement of civil society; of novelty taking place in new geographical settings or in relation to previously disengaged social groups; and of improvement of societal wellbeing.

If you want to share any examples with SIMRA yourself, please use this online questionnaire (also available in French).

Our brochure is now available here.

SIMRA (Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas) is a four-year project (2016-2020) funded by the EU Horizon 2020 programme. It aims to advance understanding of social innovation and innovative governance in agriculture, forestry and rural development, and how it can be boosted, in marginalised rural areas across Europe and around the Mediterranean, including non-EU countries. Visit the SIMRA website here.


When preserving the wool means preserving the territory

This article is available in Spanish here.// Este artículo está disponible en español aquí.

Extensive livestock farming is the most important population-fixing activity in Iberian rural areas. This is so because, unlike other activities, it requires people to take care of the animals every day. Furthermore, in many marginal rural areas, extensive livestock farming is often the only possibility that the territory has to offer.
For this reason, as Spanish rural areas become depopulated, extensive farming, local breeds and pastures, together with its people, have started to disappear as well. The landscape and culture, which were shaped by that lifestyle, are also lost along this depopulation process. Or, perhaps, it was the other way round. Perhaps, this essential activity disappeared first and, as a consequence, people had no choice but to leave.
esquellana_ovellaBe that as it may, there are still livestock farms which breathe life into their territories and people who value the richness and importance of rural areas and who refuse to admit the degradation of the ecosystem. These people are not willing to accept the extinction of local breeds because they constitute a rich genetic heritage. These breeds have adapted to their environment for centuries and it is yet unknown when we will have to depend on this environment ourselves. Livestock breeds, like seeds of local varieties, have also been selected in search of particular properties. Preserving them is crucial: otherwise, what will we eat tomorrow if plant varieties and animal breeds cannot survive a particular disease or changes in climate patterns?
It is precisely this love for the land and its surroundings, the motivation to develop a rural and human sustainable environment, and the awareness of the importance of preserving local breeds what has driven the creation of Esquellana. This initiative has been implemented by a group of people with the aim of preventing the extinction of the Guirra breed of sheep. This breed is the only native one from the Region of Valencia (in the Eastern side of Spain). Its herd has halved in the last 30 years, resulting in just 5,000 sheep left nowadays and thus becoming an endangered species. In order to fulfill their objective, Esquellana is running a crowdfunding campaign until the 16th of December, which aims at raising €12,000 for an initial processing of 1,600 kg of wool. In this way, they intend to allow producers to sell their wool fairly, so that they at least receive some profit from the compulsory expense that shearing entails. Besides, this would bring back the production of quality natural wool at local level, while avoiding the extinction of this breed.
esquellana_ovella2One of the promoters of Esquellana, shepherd Jesús Beneito, denounces this fall in the number of sheep and, consequently, of people. Nowadays, only 22 shepherds work with this breed, since “many others, discouraged by the situation, have given up shepherding, and, little by little, rural depopulation is adding up to the issue of the extinction of a native breed of sheep”, says Jesús Beneito.
Let’s hope they achieve their goals, let’s hope they raise those €12,000. Let’s hope we recover wool and get down to ‘sheepness’. Let’s hope that, with the help of many small people*, those 22 shepherds are multiplied and guirra sheep are saved. Let’s hope so, not only for those sheep producers in Valencia, but rather because, in this way, we would be helping the planet.

*“Many small people, in small places, doing small things can change the world”. (Eduardo Galeano).

Author:                               Translated by:

Lucía López Marco (IAMZ-CIHEAM)
Lucía López Marco (IAMZ-CIHEAM)
Miriam Baeza Tomás (IAMZ-CIHEAM) and Beatriz Ezquerra López (IAMZ-CIHEAM)
Miriam Baeza Tomás (IAMZ-CIHEAM) and Beatriz Ezquerra López (IAMZ-CIHEAM)