Call for papers: Workshop "Knowledge, Policy and Learning in European Metropolitan areas", Brussels, 25-26 January 2016



Brussels (Vrije Universiteit Brussel/Committee of the Regions), 25-26 January 2016

****Deadline for abstract submission and expression of interest (extended deadline): 5 November 2015****




Context of the workshop

The local capacity to auto-regulate internal conflicts, to avoid (under-)development lock-in and to react to external stimuli is a fundamental challenge for social learning, (multi-level) governance and, in general, local policymaking (Armitage, 2007; Garmendia and Stagl, 2010; Hooghe and Marks, 2003). In this perspective, the idea of ‘knowledge for innovation’ moves beyond the traditional definition of “R&D activities” for technological and market-oriented innovation (Moulaert and Nussbaumer, 2005). The notion of learning region (Hassink, 2005; Lorenzen, 2001; Morgan, 1997; Moulaert and Sekia, 2003) has emerged since the early 1990s, recognising that knowledge is produced, validated, exchanged, translated, and applied in specific territorial contexts where tacit knowledge, local untraded interdependencies and cumulative learning process become key aspects (Antonelli and Quéré, 2002; Gertler, 2003; Storper, 1997). However, a territorial perspective on knowledge for policy learning is still an under-explored dimension.


In the current European political debate the notion of ‘resilience’ has attracted major attention to analyse the territorial capacity to resist and/or recover from economic shocks (Boschma, 2015). From this debate, an emerging issue is the local capacity to promote policy changes, so as to address evolving grand societal challenges through a place-based approach. We propose to focus on policymaking capacities in European metropolitan areas as a key dimension in this process. At the local level, knowledge is a scarce resource in comparison to larger scales, such as national and European ones, where many, and varied, actors are involved. On the other hand, large urban areas are known to be the centre of supra-local knowledge networks, where many producers, users and ‘intermediaries’ are located such as universities, public administrations and emerging players acting as ‘brokers’. This opens a policy challenge to finding effective ways to develop knowledge that is ‘useful’ and ‘usable’ for policymaking and learning.


Workshop's objective

The objective of the workshop is to explore the capacity for policymaking in European metropolitan areas with a focus on the role of knowledge for policy learning. Specifically, our interest is in local conditions supportive to collective learning in order to more effectively address grand societal challenges, external stimuli (e.g. the current economic crisis, climate change, and other shocks), and internal conflicts between actors, as well as promoting local reflexivity. The knowledge available locally, the receptivity of public administrations and policymakers towards exogenous cognitive sources, and the capacity to locally re-combine different forms of knowledge, all are fundamental factors in enhancing policy change and learning (Bathelt et al., 2004; Bathelt and Turi, 2011; Escribano et al., 2009; Malmberg and Maskell, 2006). Are European metropolitan areas able to develop knowledge for policymaking and learning? What are the critical factors?

What are the effects of downscaling from the national/European scale to the local level where knowledge is a scarce resource (Capano, 2009; Hall, 1993; Krause, 2010; Slembeck, 1997; Witt, 2003)?

Knowledge plays a fundamental role in policy change and learning. Nevertheless, knowledge and policymaking have different rationales and boundaries, and this nexus has moved beyond the simplistic idea of “speaking truth to power” (Wildavsky, 1979), and redefining the role of researchers, the concept of knowledge, and the way this is used for policymaking purposes (Hoppe, 2005; Lyall et al., 2004; Pohl, 2008).

Knowledge governance (van Kerkhoff, 2013) has emerged as a new challenge opening up a new field of research focusing on the role of ‘boundary organizations’ (Hoppe, 2005), ‘knowledge brokers’ (Meyer, 2010) and ‘knowledge intermediaries’ (Taylor, 2015). They may have different labels, but are fundamentally similar. For local policymakers, the learning capacities of public administrations, and their absorptive capacity from external sources of knowledge, are key issues that make knowledge governance a major (yet often underestimated) challenge.




Within this framework, the Organisers welcome academic papers addressing the three following dimensions from the perspective of European metropolitan


  • KNOWLEDGE OF POLICYMAKING: experiences of ‘political resilience’ toaddress metropolitan societal challenges, the role of experts and learning strategies of local policymakers.
  • KNOWLEDGE FOR POLICYMAKING: definitions, actors, and dynamics beyond universities ‘speaking truth to power’, and the emerging role of ‘knowledge brokers’ and ‘boundary organizations’.
  • POLICY LEARNING FOR SMART GOVERNANCE? How to define and measure these dimensions? Who is learning from whom? Which knowledge governance?


We welcome both theoretical and empirical contributions from any European metropolitan area. In the submission, we invite to specify the methodology and which cases will be presented.



Please send abstracts of around 300 words as expressions of interest to Dr. Nicola Francesco DOTTI

Deadline for abstract submission and expression of interest (extended deadline): 5 November 2015

Dates of the Workshop: 25-26 January 2016 in Brussels.

  • Monday 25 January – Vrije Universiteit Brussel – Pleinlaan 2 1050, Brussels from 10:30 to 18:00
  • Tuesday 26 January – Committee of the Regions – Rue Belliard 99-101, 1000 Brussels, from 9:30 to 13:00



Dr. Nicola Francesco DOTTI (Vrije Universiteit Brussel):