Local development and social mobilisation in Polish municipalities II
The aim of the research project is to carry out an extensive comparative study of local development and institutional capacity of local governments in Polish municipalities (with population up to 50 000), as a follow-up to a similar research project conducted in the mid-1990s on a large sample of municipalities (over 1000).
This research (widely cited in the relevant Polish literature) found that, firstly, local governments proved to be active entities capable of stimulating economic growth; secondly, it showed that the process of learning how to function in a new social, political and economic reality was progressing fast and, thirdly, it corroborated the frequently proposed hypothesis concerning the historical determinants not only of material development and affluence, but also of the institutional capacity and social attitudes. The research also helped identify the crucial local development factors of the time, which can be summarised as follows: the leader – the local elites - entrepreneurs – business support institutions and social organisations – inter-municipal cooperation – social mobilisation (in the order reflecting their impact).
The research hypotheses predict that, firstly, in the new institutional and economic context, both the local development drivers and the territorial disparities between them have not changed significantly in comparison with the situation in the nascent phase of self-government in Poland (i.e. in the mid-1990s). This hypothesis draws on F.Braudel’s “longue durée” approach, and has been additionally corroborated by a considerable stability of the territorial disparities in the development processes taking place in Poland after 1990. According to another hypothesis, external funding (mostly coming from the EU) contributes less to encouraging long-term local development than to improving the living conditions of citizens – which is consistent with the experiences of other regions and less-developed countries within the EU.