Spatialising social entrepreneurship: Urban social innovation in Berlin
Paper in proceeding, 2011

In recent years, the study of how to make urban life more sustainable has emerged as an urgent topic for social scientific investigation. As a part of this development, scholars are increasingly exploring how social entrepreneurship and social innovation in urban settings may play a part in regenerating cities, making them more equitable and environmentally sustainable. This opens new avenues for the study of social entrepreneurship. Indeed, as Steyaert and Katz (2010) argue, research on social entrepreneurship can maintain its relevance by ”spatialising” the phenomenon: ”The collective force social entrepreneurship entails is enacted through the formation of networks, communities, platforms and social arenas. These formations are often instigated by in-between or third spaces where new social relations can be tried out.” (Steyaert & Katz, 2010: 247) In pleading for the spatialisation of social entrepreneurship research, they point to recent ”spatial theories of affect ”, as well as earlier work on the spatial aspects of entrepreneurship (Steyaert & Dey, 2004). This paper will follow a similar line of enquiry: Drawing upon cases from social entrepreneurial activities in Berlin, arguably one of the most creative European cities during the past decade, the text will discuss social innovation in the context of spatiality and theories of affect. The paper will thus explore social entrepreneurial establishments in Berlin – the urban farming space Prinzessinnengarten, the cultural center RAW Tempel, the community-governed park Wriezener Freiraum Labor, as well as arts space Radialsystem – in the context of their location in various ”hinterlands” and derelict spaces. All of these establishments have sprung up in spaces where the flows of matter and energy have been physically obstructed – by railroad lines, by roads, by the river, or by the Berlin Wall. Thus, the generation of social innovations tends to occur in urban spaces shielded from the orderly flows of the city – in the gaps in the urban fabric that seem devoid of habits and repeated practices of dwellers.


Karl Palmås

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Entrepreneurship and Strategy

8th Annual NYU-Stern Conference on Social Entrepreneurship, Nov 2-4

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Innovation and entrepreneurship

Areas of Advance

Building Futures (2010-2018)

Subject Categories

Civil Engineering


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