The Strategic Unit on Local Development is a group of experts in social research and local development processes, who work together to foster a pragmatic and eclectic use of both theory and evidence within a meso-level perspective, in order to promote the design and implementation of tailor-made and place-based strategies for sustainable human development at local level.

The group is one of the units of the research lab ARCO (Action Research for Co – Development), an action research lab of PIN S.c.r.l. of the University of Florence

The Unit on Local Development integrates the expertise of its different members – economists, statisticians, political scientists, consultants, practitioners – and it uses innovative and advanced methodologies in order to deliver high level and policy-oriented research studies, as well to provide support services to policy-makers and development actors.


I. To widen and deepen the academic knowledge on local development processes based on a sustainable human development perspective, integrating the pillars of the Florence school on local development with the capability approach developed by Nobel Prize Amartya Sen.

II. To provide technical assistance and support services to international, national and local stakeholders to implement integrated and tailored strategies for local development.

III. To promote innovative ideas, approaches and methodologies for the analysis of local development systems and for the design and delivery of public policies.


The Unit’s Scientific Director is Prof. Mario Biggeri (Department of Economics of Florence University) and its Coordinator is Mr. Andrea Ferrannini (expert in research on local development issues). Substantial contribution to the work of the unit is given by a team of academics and research fellows specialised in economics within the University of Florence, such as Prof. Nicolò Bellanca, Prof. Luca Bagnoli, Prof. Marco Bellandi, Prof. Mauro Lombardi.

The unit relies on a wide network of external experts available depending on the subject and peculiarities of each specific activity. The Unit on Local Development operates in close collaboration with the other Lab’s units – Impact Evaluation, Third Sector and Social Innovation, Inclusive Development – and it has access to a large number of high level academics and professionals, both in Italy and other countries.

Main activities and services  

  • Applied and operative research on local development, sustainable human development at local level, co-development, international cooperation, social innovation.
  • Diagnostic studies on territorial value chains, local development opportunities and structural bottlenecks, territorial systems/networks, territorial competition issues.
  • Support to the elaboration, implementation and monitoring of local development strategies, policies, projects and initiatives.
  • Impact Evaluation of local development strategies, policies, projects and initiatives (with ARCO Impact Evaluation Unit).
  • Training and capacity-building on local development issues (courses, workshops, summer/winter schools, etc.) for civil servants of national/local governments and institutions, NGOs’ staff, entrepreneurs and students.

Principles underlying our work 

  • Our Action-research approach is based on multi-disciplinary analysis and cross-fertilizing theories, with an integrated (top-down and bottom-up) and place-based perspective combined with a tailored regional benchmarking and comparative analysis.
  • Our research topics have to be policy-relevant and contribute to the well-being of the society.
  • We believe in our own continuous upgrading and innovation in the methodological approach, based on international cutting-edge research, as well of that of our partners.
  • We use a Participatory approach in diagnostic studies and policy design, basing results and processes on local knowledge and ownership of development strategies.
  • Our studies and researches are independent and transparent.

Main partners

  • Non-Governmental Organizations
  • Local/National Governments, Institutions and Organizations
  • International Cooperation Institutions, Programs and Funds
  • EU Institutions
  • Italian Ministries
  • University Departments and Research Centres
  • Foundations and Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Trade Associations
  • Local development agents


Andrea Ferrannini – Unit Coordinator