Sean Safford on Social Networks and Economic Development in Mature Industrial Regions

6:30–9:00 pm


How does the structure of social networks influence innovation at the inter-enterprise level in cities?  Can cities’ economic divergence be traced to differences in the social structures in which firms are embedded?  Social embeddedness perspectives reject explanations based on either broad categorizations or pure efficiency, preferring to examine the concrete structure of actors’ social networks.  These networks shape action through the access and control of information and resources, as well as by defining the contexts of actors’ worldviews.  Sean Safford drew from his longitudinal study of how two American cities evolved very differently because of the networks created between the enterprises and research centers (and other organizations) in the United States and abroad.

Sean Safford joined Sciences Po and the Centre de Sociologie des Organisations in 2011 and is now the Director of Sciences Po MPA. He was previously an Assistant Professor of Organizations and Strategy at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, and a lecturer at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He also served as a visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Safford earned a Bachelor’s degree in labor economics from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations in 1994. In 2004, he received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. His dissertation, “Why the Garden Club Couldn’t Save Youngstown: Social Capital and the Transformation of the Rust Belt,” won the Sage-Louis Pondy Prize for best paper from a dissertation by the Academy of Management’s Organization and Management Theory Section as well as Best Paper from a Dissertation from the Economic Sociology Section of the American Sociological Association. It was published by Harvard University Press in 2009.

This event was co-sponsored by Sciences Po.

(Photos by Yuxuan Li)