The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here:

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.


Josephine Rekers

Senior lecturer


Investigating Agency: Methodological and Empirical Challenges


  • Josephine V. Rekers
  • Markus Grillitsch
  • Markku Sotarauta

Summary, in English

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.


  • Department of Human Geography

Publishing year




Document type

Conference paper: abstract


  • Economic Geography


  • Regional Development
  • Agency
  • Case Study

Conference name

Regional Innovation Policies Conference 2019

Conference date

2019-11-07 - 2019-11-08

Conference place

Florens, Italy




  • Regional Growth against all odds