Geography of institutional change: A comparative analysis of family firm succession in Baden-Württemberg and the Basque Country
Social institutions have increasingly become recognized as important factors of economic development. However, institutions vary across regions, and allegedly ‘good institutions’ are hard to imitate or transmit to other locations. For this reason, both institutional research and economic geography face the challenge of understanding the generation and transformation of social institutions.
This inherent processuality can best be studied in situations of change, which is why this research project focuses on enterprise succession in family firms. The situation of enterprise succession, increasingly posing a challenge to the long-term continuity of regionally embedded family businesses all over Europe, serves as both the unit of analysis and the trigger of institutional change in inter-firm interactions. Consequently, this project pursues two objectives:
- Explaining different forms and courses of enterprise succession as effects of regionally specific institutional differences.
- Qualifying the mechanisms of institutional change posterior to an enterprise succession.
Whereas the explanation of regionally specific institutional effects requires a comparative analysis, an explicit process analysis is needed for qualifying the mechanisms of institutional change. Hence, the research design includes a regional comparison between Baden-Württemberg and the Spanish Basque Country, two highly successful and innovative regions characterized by (small and medium-sized) family businesses. By adopting a qualitative panel approach over a period of three years focusing on successors, but also taking into account a firm’s predecessor, employees and related companies, this project uses explicit process analysis for the qualification of mechanisms of institutional change. The general objective of this project is to contribute to a geography of institutional change, and to improve our understanding of differential regional development in order to reduce discrepancies between regulation (policy) and the behaviour of enterprises.