Learning at the boundaries for industrial districts between exploitation of local resources and the exploration of global knowledge flows
Silvia Rita SEDITA
The work offers an integrated view on how knowledge is developed in localised systems of specialised firms (industrial districts - IDs), through informal social networks (communities of practice - CoPs), and firms networks, in an osmotic process between the internal to the district knowledge and the external to the district knowledge. Contrary to the Marshallian consolidated tradition, we describe the functioning of the modern industrial district emphasising not just the role of the local “industrial atmosphere”, but the modern aspect of “learning at the boundaries”, where local actors mix sources of knowledge located inside the district (exploitation of local resources) with external sources (exploration of global knowledge). Our empirical work, based on the analysis of three Italian industrial districts, shows that, in relation to the aspect of exploitation of local resources, the investment (both direct and indirect) of firms in augmenting their capabilities is juxtaposed to the activity organised by the district meta-organisers of cultivating local resources; furthermore, in relation to the exploration of global knowledge, internal/external switchers allow the exploration of global knowledge flows. It is a process that combines forms of localised learning with learning at the boundaries, through the access to pipelines (FDI, firms networks, distant KIBS) and boundary spanning actors (external CoPs).
Industrial Districts, Learning, Communities of Practice, Networks
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