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Social competitiveness

[ Summary ]


Chapter 2:
Analysing an area’s social competitiveness


2.4 Implicit/explicit know-how and skills


Above and beyond the know-how itself and the skills available in an area, it is the ability of local players to harness them and exploit their potential that determines social competitiveness. In fact know-how is often scattered, ignored, or even scorned. It is also compartmentalised, disconnected or possessed by different people or institutions that have difficulty in pooling their skills to promote new ideas and projects.

How then is it possible to progress from scattered and disconnected know-how to collective and potentially competitive know-how? This is a key to social competitiveness, i.e. the ability of the players in an area to take effective joint action.

It raises a number of questions:

  • How is it possible to identify know-how that has been forgotten or is even dying out but which has the potential for innovation and revival?


      At Robertsfors (Västerbotten, Sweden), 17 farmers’ wives grouped together to exploit their traditional know-how and culinary inventiveness to form a collective catering service producing ready-made meals for sale.

  • How is it possible to capitalise on such know-how and give it a dimension suited to current-day needs?


      The revival and adaptation of old skills for new market niches has very often been a key factor of LEADER group strategies. For example, four LEADER groups (Valle Elvo from the Piemonte region and Anglona Monte Acuto from Sardinia, together with ADRI Valladolid and Montanas del Teleno in Castilla-Leon) set up a transnational cooperation project to recover and modernise techniques for processing wool from breeds of sheep whose wool was no longer used because it was too coarse. By modernising ancient washing, spinning and dyeing techniques, it became possible to use the wool for special products such as blankets, insulation material, etc. This kindled an interest among young people for an activity that before was considered marginal.

  • How is it possible to identify the players with such know- how and to optimise it?
    Often those with traditional know-how that is dying out are elderly people who have never had the chance to pass on their skills. Using people like this to train young people is not only a means of reviving forgotten know-how, but it also provides people with renewed social recognition.

  • How is it possible to define, locate and harness the complementary skills that the area needs?

  • How is it possible to identify the training needs that may lead to the area’s revival and to organise such training, based on local human resources, etc.?

  • How is it possible to ensure that the skills of people in difficulty are taken into account, in a perspective of social cohesion?

An area’s capital in terms of know-how and skills does not simply involve a list of technical know-how, but the actual ability of the area’s players to collectively recognise such know-how, identify new requirements for knowledge and research, find out where such know-how exists and organise transfers of know-how. In brief, it is what could be termed “social know-how”, a prerequisite for governance and social competitiveness.


Social dialogue for training

“Social dialogue for training” is an essential form of social know-how. It may be practised in a business firm, village, or area. It means gathering the different partners concerned around the negotiating table (e.g. at the level of a district, these would be inhabitants, elected representatives, associations, etc.) to enable them to jointly identify training needs. This is the reverse of imposing training from above which often fails to meet real needs and has no innovation potential. On the contrary, social dialogue for training leads to the emergence of collective and consensual projects and allows relevant training provision to be set up.

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