Karen Chapple

Peripheral Regions, Fragile Governance: Local Economic Development from Latin America
City and Regional Planning
Spring 2017

Karen Chapple, Ph.D., is a Professor of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley. Chapple specializes in regional planning, economic development, and housing.  She has most recently published on job creation on industrial land (in Economic Development Quarterly), regional governance in Peru (in Journal of Rural Studies), and accessory dwelling units as a smart growth policy (in the Journal of Urbanism).  Her recent book (Routledge, 2014) is entitled Planning Sustainable Cities and Regions: Towards More Equitable Development. In Fall 2015, she launched the Urban Displacement Project, a research portal examining patterns of residential, commercial, and industrial displacement, as well as policy and planning solutions. Chapple holds a B.A. in Urban Studies from Columbia University, an M.S.C.R.P from the Pratt Institute, and a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. She has served on the faculties of the University of Minnesota and the University of Pennsylvania, in addition to UC Berkeley. She is a founding member of the MacArthur Foundation's Research Network on Building Resilient Regions. 

Much of our understanding of local economic development is based on large urban agglomerations as nodes of innovation and competitive advantage that connect territories to global value chains. This framework not only over-represents the urban and regional dynamics of cities of the global North, it also fails to characterize well the challenges of smaller cities and peripheral regions in both the North and the South, which are following different development trajectories and modes of insertion to the global economy while still subject to the forces of globalization, financialization and planetary urbanization that affect large urban agglomerations. Drawing from debates around governance and peripheries in the Anglophone and Spanish-speaking worlds, we propose an alternative way of looking at local economic development based on the idea of fragile governance and a set of three related variables: 1) associations and networks; 2) learning processes; and 3) leadership and conflict management. We explore these variables in six Latin American regions: three sparsely populated rural regions (Arauco, Chile; Lurín, Peru; and Isla de Mompox; Colombia) and three intermediate cities (Córdoba, Argentina; Linhares, Brazil; and Quetzaltenango, Guatemala). Together, they illustrate not only the challenges and fragility of governance in small and intermediate cities in Latin America, but also the variety of governance approaches these cities and regions are innovating and implementing to achieve a more resilient and territorial vision of local economic development.

Co-authored by Sergio Montero.