(January 2010) Compelled to Compete: ambitious development strategies and visions for the future in small cities

Compelled to Compete: ambitious development strategies and visions for the future in small cities image

Compelled to Compete: ambitious development strategies and visions of the future in small cities

The project is about urban competitiveness, which I will study through an investigation of ambitious development strategies and the processes and actors behind these in small cities.  

The aim of the project is to investigate urban competitiveness, and in particular one way this seems to manifest itself in small cities.  The approach to the project is rooted in discourse, and therefore urban competitiveness is being viewed as such.  The project firstly involves tracing and analysing the production of the discourse of urban competitiveness at a variety of governance levels, such as how ‘urban competitiveness’ is discussed in national and European policy which affects local governance.  After this tracing process, the local level itself is in focus, where urban competitiveness will be investigated through the origin and processes behind ambitious strategies.  The small city in particular is of interest because these cities tend to be under-theorised (Bell & Jayne, 2006), and also because urban competitiveness is generally studied in terms of large, well-know metropolises (Robinson, 2006).

The key research questions of this project are as follows: How can the discourse of urban competitiveness be traced at different governance levels in Denmark?  How do competitive-orientated ambitious strategies in small cities originate discursively?  How do actors in small cities reflect on their competitive-orientated ambitious strategies?  What are the implications of strategy-making in small cities in a landscape of urban competitiveness?  These four questions cover the tracing of the discourse of urban competitiveness, which provides the context for the questions regarding the origins and reflections on ambitious strategies in small cities, and finally a broadening out of the project to include investigation into the implications of this kind of strategy-making in small cities.  

As stated, the overall methodology for this project is rooted in discourse theory and analysis (Phillips & Jørgensen, 2002; Howarth, 2000; Fairclough, 1995).  This leads to a focus on texts, both written and spoken.  The fieldwork for this project focuses on a single, in-depth case study of a Danish small city which is producing an ambitious strategy.  Through the study of strategy documents and other documents surrounding the production of the strategy, the presence of the discourse of urban competitiveness and the origins of the strategy can be investigated.  Interviews with municipal actors will provide information in particular about their reflections on the strategy and strategy process, as well as their considerations about urban competitiveness.