Resilience Writings

Path Dependency

Path dependency is referred to frequently within resilience literature, Arthur's 1994 book 'Increasing returns and path dependence in the economy' introduced the concept of path dependency; this book has been cited 4028 times.  Simply put, path dependency explains how decisions are made is often based upon and limited by decisions that have been made in the past, in other words, ‘history matters’.  However, as with most new research areas there were a number of unresolved issues that continue to be discussed in further economic geography literature.  One such paper is ‘Path dependence and regional economic evolution’, Martin and Sunley, 2006 which extensively explores path dependency in the context of evolutionary economic geography.

Martin, R., Sunley, P. (2006) Path dependence and regional economic evolution, Journal of Economic Geography  6 (4), 395-437.

Related and Un-related variety

In the theoretical exploration of resilience, related and unrelated variety are often mentioned, the 2006 Regional Studies Paper “Related Variety, Unrelated Variety and Regional Economic Growth” by Frenken, Van Oort and Verburg explores the various ways in which knowledge and innovation can be generated at a regional level.  Drawing on management theory we learn that related variety uses the principles of Jacob’s externalities where variety within sectors can generate new and innovative ideas.  Unrelated variety draws on the management theory of a ‘portfolio’ of activities meaning that should demand for one fall, other areas are not affected.  Translated to regional development, a number of sectors within a region can ensure continued growth.  Theory highlights that unrelated variety creates the most radical innovations.

Frenken K., Van Oort F. and Verburg T. (2007) Related variety, unrelated variety and regional economic growth, Regional Studies 41, 685–697.

Resilience in the US

In their study of the economic resilience of US regions, Hill et al (2011) conclude that regional economic resilience ‘inevitably has a subjective component’ and use an example to illustrate that the perceptions of leaders in a region about a region’s resilience may differ from measured economic performance. They cite the example of Grand Forks (a small metropolitan region in North Dakota) which their quantitative data revealed to be non-resilient to the industry shock and flood of 1996-97 and which had established a new equilibrium at an employment growth rate considerably lower than its previous one. However, interviewees in the region emphasised its successful recovery and resilience, pointing to the population’s general satisfaction with continued growth in prosperity. This serves to highlight the importance of combining quantitative and qualitative data on resilience.

Hill, E., St.Clair, T., Wial, H., Wolman, H., Atkins, P., Blumenthal, P., Ficenec, S. And Friedhoff, A.(2011) Economic shocks and regional economic resilience. Working Paper 2011-13, Building Resilient Regions: Institute of Governmental Studies, University of California, Berkeley.

Resilience in North Staffordshire

In a study of the ceramics industrial district in North Staffordshire in the UK, Hervas-Oliver et al (2011) draw attention to the challenges for industrial policy in developing resilience in mature industrial districts. In particular, their study highlights the need for industrial policy to be co-ordinated, particularly in drawing links between firms and institutions. In the North Staffordshire case, industrial policy has generally tended to be ad-hoc and limited, often reacting to events rather than anticipating them. Menzel and Fornahl (2007) (cited in Hervas-Oliver, 2011) consider that adapting policies at various stages of the cluster’s life cycle - such as through selective (small firm) start-up policies - might be useful to militate against decline and facilitate the emergence of new development paths. Others have pointed to the importance of ‘platform’ policies which facilitate innovation through making and supporting unusual (cross-sectional) connections and the generation of new ideas and novelty (Wolfe, 2010; also Uyarra, 2010; Cooke, 2012).

Hervas-Olivier, J., Garrigos, J., Gil-Pechuan, I. (2011) Making sense of innovation by R&D and non-R&D innovators in low technology contexts: A forgotten lesson for policymakers. Technovation, Volume 31, Issue 9, Pg. 427–446.