Investigating Agency: Methodological and Empirical Challenges

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


The literature on regional development increasingly recognizes that agency is an essential but understudied factor in processes of regional structural change. However, much like the fundamental debates in social sciences about agency and structure, work in this field has often remained theoretical. Investigating the role of agency in regional economic development, systematically and at the micro-level, comes with a great deal of challenges. In this paper we ask the question: What are these challenges and how can they be addressed?
In an effort to combine general methodological considerations with concrete empirical practicalities, we share our own struggles in developing an adequate methodology for the ReGrow (Regional Growth Against All Odds) project. There we conduct twelve comparative in-depth case studies that zoom in on the role of agency in regional development. In the process of conducting the case studies, we have reflected, revised, and improved the methodology and identified six main challenges: Getting the ontology right, Getting the research design right, Getting the time period right, Getting the spatial scale right, Getting the research instruments right, and Getting the data collection right.
In this paper we discuss these challenges in turn, as well as our strategies to overcome them. In doing so, we provide methodological insights and guidance to other scholars of agency and structure in regional development.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Nov 7
EventRegional Innovation Policies Conference 2019: Technological change, social innovation, and regional transformation - Department and the School of Economics and Management, University of Florence, Florens, Italy
Duration: 2019 Nov 72019 Nov 8
Conference number: 14th


ConferenceRegional Innovation Policies Conference 2019
Abbreviated titleRIP
Internet address

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Economic Geography


  • Regional Development
  • Agency
  • Case Study


Dive into the research topics of 'Investigating Agency: Methodological and Empirical Challenges'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this