There's no 'I' in innovation! Fostering social engagement to accelerate learning organizations and regions
Two crucial challenges face local governments: (1) the provision of quality community services, and (2) fostering sustainable regional socioeconomic development through innovation. One is an immediate tactical concern, the other a diffuse strategic issue. Both require harnessing social capital within and between organizations to create collaborative and productive 'learning organizations' (Senge, 2006), 'learning communities' (Benner, 2003; Courvisanos, 2003), local 'learning economies' (Lundvall, 1994) and ultimately 'learning regions' (Florida, 1995; Boekema, 2000; Morgan, 1997; Florida, 2000), conceptualised as 'externalised learning institutions' (Cooke, 1998. Wollongong, like many cities globally, brands itself as a 'city of innovation' and is actively attempting to 'construct advantage' (de La Mothe and Mallory, 2004) in the local region. Concurrently, the council must deliver optimal service performance which meets community expectations of efficiency, sustainability, participation and social equity, but with decreasing funds. These are two sides of the same coin: innovation in and by the city (Marceau, 2008). We review work in progress evaluating two novel approaches to accelerating the performance of a local council (Wollongong City Council) and associated regional development organization (Advantage Wollongong). The first examines situated learning (Lave and Wenger, 1991) in the immediate 'service chains' of council; the second extends the concept of 'service chains' as a means of mapping and leveraging the social networks that contribute to local advantage. The project tests whether similar theories of social capital development and learning apply to immediate and diffuse service chains. The findings will provide guidance and exemplars for local government and community organizations wishing to accelerate innovative local services and socioeconomic development.