Grup de Recerca en Estudis Locals

Research areas


The main objective of GREL is the study of politics through the lens of local government and with the instruments of political science. Specifically we analyze 1) Political and administrative structure and operation. 2) Relationships between population size and local democracy. 3) Rendering of public services and local public policy. For this we resort to an empirical analysis which is predominantly quantitative, which allows for the identification of evidence and the creation of practical and applicable knowledge. The large number of municipalities (more than 8,000) allows for a statistical analysis with huge practical value, something that would be much more difficult with other political units like regions or states.

Since 2009, when GREL was recognized as an emergent research group by the Generalitat, it has striven to become a competitive research group at the highest international level. We wish to introduce empirical methodological models in the realm of social sciences to encourage the development of tools which have seen little use in this field. We also wish to use the results obtained in the investigation of modelizations and useful applicable tools in the scope of local government.

With this objective GREL has a coherent investigational structure which aspires to connect to international networks and participate in the transference of knowledge. The study of local government is fundamentally a multi-disciplinary dialog and a permanent collaboration within the group. The mixed composition of the group allows for the development of a unified vision that incorporates statistics, political science, sociology, and law. The group has collaborated with organizations both in Catalonia (with the Carles Pi i Sunyer Foundation for Autonomic and Local Studies) and Spain (projects with the local government, administration, and public policy Research Group at the Autonomous University of Madrid), as well as internationally. GREL has the objective of becoming an internationally recognized group, both at a European and international level, relying on its contribution to the COST action and its membership in the Stable Group of Local Government in the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR). Thus, this connection with European networks guarantees compatibility and harmony between scientific instruments and models.

The currently active LoGoRef project (CSO2013-48641-C2-2-R), has the objective, through a multi-disciplinary vision, of incorporating all of the necessary research areas to develop a comprehensive proposal for local architecture. First of all, we analyze the modernization of the local public sector in relation to organizational and service-rendering efficiency. Second of all, we tackle the impact of dimension and size of municipalities on the location and performance of functions and responsibilities. Third of all, we study the democratic consequences of reforms and their relationship with changes of scale, both in relation to size and the configuration of institutional stratification. This research group undertakes its studies through an integrated vision that includes these three factors: efficiency, dimension, and democracy.

The transformations which have affected local government in Spain in the last 30 years are not an isolated process circumscribed to the Spanish territory; they are in fact a dynamic characteristic of this level of government. The European program COST for cooperation in science and technology develops a joint action for the analysis of local reforms, and a part of the results obtained in our project will be the Spanish input for this program. Therefore, the results will be developed with the condition of international comparability.

The fact that the current project has a coordinated character, both at a European and national level, harmonizes with the idea that the local sphere is a pluralistic space whose study benefits from a networked approach which permits the incorporation of differing territorial visions. Thus, one of the planned objectives is the formation of a stable analysis network which incorporates professionals from a large number of institutions.

The scientific program of the project demands the formation of mixed work groups and the implementation of the study process is done in a coordinated and integrated way. The specific sub-projects are the following: 1) Efficiency in the provision and rendering of public services [C. Navarro]. 2) Institutional redimensioning and function relocation (re-scaling) [C. Navarro]. 3) Study of the consequences on the democratic connection between the electorate and institutions of dimensional changes [J. Magre]. 4) Development of instruments and methodological apparatus [J. Magre]. 5) Coordination, establishment, and reinforcement of state and international-level networks [C. Navarro/J. Magre].

The main impact of this project consists of the generation of descriptive, explanatory, and evaluative knowledge on the transformations experienced by local governments and the challenges they face in the present. This knowledge will refer to all Spanish local government and will comply with the appropriate standards to enable its comparison with the rest of Europe.

In the present day GREL is recognized as a consolidated group since 2014, but it has developed its activity even well before its establishment as an emergent research group in 2009. The individual members have developed an intense study in the field of study, ever since the publication of a pioneering article in 1992 by Dr. Jordi Capo about municipal councilors. GREL also collaborates closely with the Carles Pi i Sunyer Foundation for Autonomic and Local Studies and its director, Dr. Jaume Magre, is also the main investigator of the group.