Colaborators: Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa –University of Agder– Universidad Tecnológica Nacional. Facultad Regional Rafaela


New governance model
for Gipuzkoa via Action Research

Presentation of Zubigintza

Zubigintza is an action research laboratory, created and developed, in the main, under the Gipuzkoa Sarean project, promoted by the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa.


Zubigintza laboratorio investigacion accion

The goal of Gipuzkoa Sarean is to support territorial development, constructing to this end a territorial strategy and a new governance model. In this context, the laboratory encourages continuous reflection and study, in order to make possible that new governance model, on the basis of the actions developed.

Spaces of action

Spaces with actors

The stakeholders currently share three spaces: Eskualde Arteko Mahaia, facilitators’ action research process and Talde Eragilea.

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People network

People with different profiles and from diverse fields are working on this project and we incorporate people from other projects and countries to share experiences. Find our reflections here.

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Local and international

Zubigintza has both local and international presence: what we have learnt from this experience transcends the frontiers of our project. Would you like to know where Zubigintza has been?

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Methodology: action research

The Project is developed with a methodology that combines action and research. This section contains documents and articles that help to explain what action research consist in.

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icono comunicacion

Transformative communication

One of the fundamental objectives of Zubigintza is to drive transformation, via dialogue. In this section, you will find communicative products the purpose of which is, specifically, transformation.

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Key concepts

This section reflects the most relevant concepts within the project. The importance of each of these varies according to the particular stage of the project.

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Video presentation

Process and history

Zubigintza’s history is linked to the Gipuzkoa Sarean project, initiated in 2009. You can see the history of the project and its landmark moments on the following timeline, in the words of the actors themselves.

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We publish a bimonthly newsletter, which will provide you with information about the project.

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Previous newsletters

Would you like to read previous newsletters? You can access issues published since February 2014.

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Zubigintza does not have its own newsletter, but Gipuzkoa Sarean publishes a newsletter every other month, which contains content related to Zubigintza. The newsletter is in basque and in spanish. Here you can read the spanish versions:

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Spaces with actors


In this action research process the researchers are developing the Project in collaboration with the policy makers, in other words, those responsible for policy-making. For that reason, several spaces or round tables for learning, collaboration and negotiation are created. In each of these spaces particular relevance is given to one of the three elements mentioned.

The Orkestra team acts as facilitator both in the project, in general, and in all the round tables. It promotes, therefore, reflection for decision-making and for action. It is, thus, another actor within the project. Currently, three spaces have been created to work with different agents:

Eskualde Arteko Mahaia (Inter-county table)

This is, essentially, a negotiation and collaboration table. It meets every two months and aims to build a new model of relations to contribute to public policies. The table is formed by members of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa and the directors and presidents of the territory’s county development agencies.

Facilitators’ action research process

This is a learning process, first and foremost. Participating in it are development agency technicians and members of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa. Its main task is to propose tools to develop the competencies of facilitators, so the latter can help small companies to overcome their difficulties.

Talde eragilea (Promoting group)

This group is formed by members of the President of the Provincial Council’s Cabinet, members of the Economic Promotion Department and researchers from the Orkestra team. It meets weekly, on Wednesdays (with the members of the Economic Promotion Department, fortnightly), to reflect upon the following phases of the project and to ensure a global vision of the latter.


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People network


A very broad network of people works in the action research laboratory. It comprises, on the one hand, people working on the Project on a permanent basis and, on the other, researchers, facilitators and policy makers who, at a given moment, contribute specific reflections.

Orkestra, Agder University, UTN-Rafaela, HUHEZI… The people who form the network have very diverse origins. They come from different fields and have different profiles: governance, territorial development, social innovation, communication… As a result, their reflections show very different points of view. These contributions are included in this section.

Corner of reflection


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Local and international


The lessons learnt throughout the development of this project are shared in classes and conferences, in books, in congresses..., at both local and international level. The objective is, ultimately, to raise awareness of Zubigintza and Gipuzkoa Sarean beyond the natural sphere of the project, as one of the key aspects of the latter is to learn from differences and, therefore, it is interesting to know what others can contribute.

In this section we will find information about all the experiences.


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Methodology: action research


Zubigintza seeks to promote territorial development, via the methodology of action research. Action research is a process participated in by both researchers and professionals of territorial development, the latter contributing their knowledge based on the action they develop. Consequently, research and action are inseparable, and feed off each other continually.

This section includes books and reference texts in order to learn more about this methodology.


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Responsible Research Communication


One of the pillars of Action Research for Territorial Development is the interaction between the territory’s researchers and other territorial actors. This interaction serves to solve societal challenges while creating new knowledge relevant for the academic community. Said knowledge is systematized in scientific articles, books and reports. However, this new knowledge is normally communicated in a linear way, forgoing the potential for transformation embedded in dialogue.

This is a space to experiment with novel ways of communicating research outcomes that have been generated through interactive research processes. The idea is to extend the learning process beyond publication.

Meeting space for facilitators


espacio virtual facilitadorxs

The meeting space for facilitators is based on the book entitled Facilitative Actors of Territorial Development. A Social Construction-Based Approach. It aims to enhance the workability of the concepts of the book by engaging in a dialogue with researchers and other territorial actors that may use them in their own processes.


It was built with the collaboration of Etorkizuna Eraikiz, a programme developed by the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa, to enable universities and different actors in the territory to better interact in a framework for collaborative governance.

Rethinking the communication of action research: Can we make it dialogic?

Why do you write your action research experiences for? Do you have any expectations regarding what readers will do with your writing? Would you like to explore novel ways of making what you share more actionable for them? What concrete steps might you take to do so?

In posing these questions we invite you to reflect on how you do action research and how you communicate it. Our own reflection unveiled that when communicating action research experiences, dialogue is normally abandoned. It is replaced with traditional formats that follow a linear path to readers like papers, books and reports. We argue that this not only reduces the potential of action research to transform society, it is also inconsistent with its participatory principles.

So, we tried to do something about it and experimented with communicating a book dialogically. The book was written to share the action research experience of one of us (Miren Larrea) and her co-author. The experiment of communicating the book dialogically became the PhD process of the other one of us (Patricia Canto). In this article we share our experiment and what we learned from it.

Dr. Alfredo Ortiz, who led the review of this article wrote “This piece challenges us to think about what we are actually trying to accomplish when we set out to write about our action research experiences. If we really care about participation, collaborative knowledge construction and actual use and usefulness of our research, why is it that we mindlessly suspend all of these thoughts when we move into writing mode?”

Collection on territorial development

The collection on Territorial Development is one of the outcomes of ongoing collaboration between Orkestra and the National Technological University of Argentina (UTN-Rafaela). Its objective is to bring together international cases of collaboration among territorial actors. It is devised as a vehicle for collective learning.


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Key concepts


Since Gipuzkoa Sarean was set up, in 2009, it has been essential to construct a common language, in order to be able to develop the action-research project. Thus, various concepts have structured the project throughout its development.

It is difficult to understand the history of the project without knowing how we understand each of the projects.

Territorial competitiveness

During the project, this has been interpreted in two different ways. On the one hand, it would be a territory’s capacity to create greater value per inhabitant and improve the productivity of companies, striving always to take into account people’s objectives and welfare. On the other hand, it would be the result of the combined effort of society as a whole. Despite the fact that during 2011-2015 the concept lost relevance, today competitiveness is referred to within territorial development.

Territorial development

Initially, the central axis of the project was competitiveness, but from 2011 the latter began to be replaced by the concept of territorial development. Territorial development would be the process by means of which we mobilise agents, both public and private, to achieve their implication and participation. It has an integral connotation, given that it embraces four dimensions: social and human development, economic development, cultural and political development and sustainable development.

Social capital

This was a basic concept to initiate the Gipuzkoa Sarean project, despite being a debated, even polemic, concept. This would be the benefits obtained by a community thanks to the quality of relations between its members. According to Nahapiet, the three concepts of the Building Bridges model would be the three dimensions of social capital: structure, trust and shared vision.


In this project, the basic definition employed was the one proposed by Bob Jessop: prudent self-organisation, based on negotiation and collaboration, to achieve better mutual understanding and the establishment of shared goals. This is a double challenge: Multilevel governance, which integrates municipalities, counties, territory and other agents; and promotion of another governance proposed by Jessop, based on solidarity, trust, shared loyalty and sacrifice, difficult to achieve on a global scale.


Walk together, in other words, analyse, discuss and create something together. This is the heart of the governance model proposed by the project, as it considers that “how" something is done is as important as "what" is done. In Gipuzkoa Sarean, that participation takes place in Eskualde Arteko Mahaia, in the facilitators’ process and the promoting group.


Officially, this is the geographical area larger than the municipality but smaller than the province. But in Gipuzkoa Sarean, the county is not so much a geographical space as a group of actors. Its importance stems from three pillars: territorial vision, local vision and development agencies.

Territorial complexity

This arises as consequence of agreeing upon the objectives and resources of the actors in a specific territory, when they are interdependent. The agents’ interests inevitably come into conflict. In this case, the term conflict does not have negative connotations, as this is not a phenomenon that should be avoided. The objective would be for those conflicts to come to light and, via spaces for dialogue, to be able to manage that complexity.


Goes beyond the strategic plan and is related to the importance within the Project of the concepts of “what” and “how". Until 2015, strategy was defined as the process of learning, negotiation and collaboration, a reflection of the importance attributed to “how". From 2015 onwards, "what" became as relevant as "how", as a result of which planning was added to the three previous concepts. The four concepts referred to impact upon the Project round tables.


This is a long-term process of social construction, on the basis of very diverse relations, culture and bonds. It is related to the idea of seeking a shared vision, which aims to improve the territory. Also very important in politics is dialogue, understood as the building of bridges to find solutions, accepting the conflicts that might arise.


Process of development of collective skills to direct action in complex situations. It is not only a question of each participant accumulating knowledge, but of using for action the resources at one’s disposal. One must transcend the linear transfer of knowledge, stimulate the generation of ideas between various agents. At present, this training is restricted to a group in the Provincial Council and some technicians in the development agencies.


Person or group that generates suitable conditions for a group to reflect, decide and act. The facilitator will be defined according to the actors and the decisions they have to take. Therefore, it is not an agent external to the process; thus, in the process of territorial development, there will be political facilitators, technical facilitators or research facilitators.



Research project recognised as transformative and with a positive impact on society

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