Cultivating Serendipity and Efficacy Beliefs: The Impact of (Caireen) Innovation Spaces on Human Development

by A.M. Stercken

Institution: Universiteit Utrecht
Year: 2015
Keywords: Innovation space, coworking space, hackerspace, makerspace, fab lab, human development, capabilities approach, economic capital, human capital, social capital, psychological capital, serendipity, self-efficacy
Record ID: 1260903
Full text PDF: http://dspace.library.uu.nl:8080/handle/1874/305357


This thesis constitutes the second part of a two-part study on Caireen ‘innovation spaces’ and their impact on the human development of users and local development more broadly. As this topic has not been dealt with in academia so far, this research is of exploratory character. It is innovative in the way that it is the first to academically conceptualize the impact chains which innovation spaces set into motion. Amongst other things, it draws attention to the psychological impact dimension of innovation space usage – something that is completely new, even in non-academic research on the topic. The conceptualization and theory was built based on fieldwork, literature review and the inputs from an international conference on the topic. The fieldwork was conducted at ten innovation spaces in Cairo, Egypt, between March and June 2013. It comprised qualitative in-depth interviews (with the founders/managers and users) and participant observation, as well as a quantitative online survey with users. Innovation spaces are conceptualized as multi-dimensional ‘enabling spaces’, as related to Peschl & Fundneider (2012), Prefontaine (2012) and Gathege & Moraa (2013). Development is understood according to Sen (1999), as the expansion of human capabilities. Relatedly, the impacts on users are conceptualized as impacts on users’ human capabilities. The empirical data reveals that innovation spaces enhance users’ social capabilities, their intellectual capabilities and their psychological capabilities, apart from pointing out the benefits to users’ economic capital. Serendipity alongside four sources of efficacy beliefs, i.e. mastery experiences, observational learning, verbal persuasion and emotional states, are identified as mechanisms cultivated by innovation spaces that are likely to be responsible for the aforementioned impacts on users. Based on Sen (1999), Luthans and colleagues (Luthans, Luthans, & Luthans, 2004; Luthans & Youssef, 2004) and Bandura (1995) it is then argued that this expansion of users’ capabilities results in users’ improved performance in the projects they engage in. Several empirical examples of such user projects are presented. Based on that, and in line with Sen (1999), it is argued that through these projects, many of which concern the invention of (appropriate) technologies or activism for social change, innovation spaces hold a potential for local development more broadly.