Transformative social innovation for sustainable rural development: An analytical framework to assist community-based initiatives

Karina Castro-Arce*, Frank Vanclay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)
172 Downloads (Pure)


The interactions between bottom-up initiatives and top-down structures in the implementation of regional development policies and projects are complex in theoretical and practical terms. Using concepts such as transformative social innovation, adaptive governance, and bridging institutions, we developed an analytical framework to enhance understanding of the processes by which local top-down and bottom-up forces enhance sustainable rural development by co-developing bottom-linked governance. Bottom-linked governance is a multi-level middle ground where actors from various political levels, geographical scales and industry sectors come together to share decision-making. Social innovation has the potential to be transformative, but to do this, it has to be able to scale-up and provoke changes in the governance system. Using a rural social innovation initiative in Costa Rica, we tested our framework and considered the enabling factors of bottom-linked governance. They comprise the various bridging roles the initiative must play: network enabler; knowledge broker; resource broker; transparency and conflict resolution agent; and shared vision champion. We also considered the critical success factors of bottom-linked governance. Bottom-linked governance and social innovation together comprise how planning practice contributes to social-ecological regional development. Sharing of power and participatory decision-making facilitate more flexible, inclusive and effective planning. Our analytical framework was helpful in understanding how a social innovation initiative fostered transformation and contributed to sustainable rural development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-54
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Early online date15-Nov-2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb-2020


  • Social innovation
  • Sustainable rural development
  • Social-ecological systems
  • Adaptive governance
  • Bridging organizations
  • Spatial planning practice

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