Enhancing Rural Development through Innovative Data Experiments: Collaborative Efforts of RUSTIK Living Labs on the Balkan Peninsula

Collaborative Efforts of RUSTIK Living Labs on the Balkan Peninsula

The RUSTIK Living Labs (LLs) are now actively conducting their data experiments, looking at how to provide new data, identify new sources and explore them using innovative methods. The experiments aim to help rural areas better manage key transitions and challenges they are experiencing.

Collaborative Efforts of RUSTIK Living Labs on the Balkan Peninsula

Two of the RUSTIK laboratories – Zajechar and Troyan-Aprilsti-Ugarchin (TAU), both located on the Balkan Peninsula but on either side of the Serbo-Bulgarian border, have identified a similar transitional challenge – the unexplored potential for cooperation between food-related actors as a resource for territorial development.

In order to get to know both territories better and how to conduct a comparative data experiment, the members of the two LLs, namely RARIS – Regional Development Agency Eastern Serbia and the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Belgrade and Local Action Group Troyan-Apriltsi-Ugarchin and the Department of Sociology, Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski”, organised a meeting hosted by Serbian partners.

During the meeting, both LLs presented their key socio-economic challenges with a focus on food-related actors and policies. Identified data sources were discussed together with instruments for data collection (questionnaires and interview guides). Ideas and materials for further conceptualisation of the identified data were discussed, such as social network analysis of short food supply chain collaborations.

Both laboratories have decided to obtain comparable data sets, explore similar data sources and focus on similar target groups when conducting their experiments. The aim is to identify common and different aspects of the ‘Balkan syndrome’ of unexplored potential for collaboration.

RARIS and LAG TAU have presented territorial instruments they use to support local actors, such as the regional brand Balcanica Superior operating in Eastern Serbia and various food-related projects developed on the TAU territory. Both RUSTIK LLs therefore expect to support local actors in rural areas, both public and private, collective and individual, business and policy makers, to learn more about their territories, make better informed decisions and adopt data-driven solutions.

Data Scraping Training Recap!

Data Scraping Training session Rustik toons at the workshop, talking to each other next to a giant computer with a presentation on it.

A Data Scraping Training session was hosted by MCRIT Multicriteria Planning, Work Package 2 (Co-design of data collection approaches, databases, and RUSTIK information system) leaders on 29 April, 2024. This training was tailored to meet the specific needs of Living Labs involved in the data experimentation process.

 What is Data Scraping?

Data scraping, also known as web scraping, is the automated process of extracting information from websites or databases. This enables us to efficiently gather large volumes of data for analysis, uncovering valuable insights and trends.

 Training Highlights

  • From Data to Geospatial Information: Participants learned how to convert raw data into meaningful geospatial information. This process is crucial for visualizing and understanding the spatial dimensions of the data collected.
  • Relevance of Geographical Information for RUSTIK: This part of the session highlighted the importance of geospatial analysis. Moreover, participants gained insights into territorial dynamics and learned how geospatial data facilitates informed decision-making in various domains such as urban planning, environmental management, and transportation logistics.

Scraping Techniques

Attendees discovered methods to extract data from various online sources, automating the process for streamlined workflows and access to up-to-date information. Tools such as Apify and Geofabrik were introduced.

  • Apify: A platform that allows users to automate web scraping tasks without writing any code, making it accessible to users of all skill levels.
  • Geofabrik: Provides geospatial data extracts and tools for OpenStreetMap, enabling users to access and process geographic data for a wide range of applications.
  • Transforming Scraped Data into Useful Information for Living Labs: the training focused on how to process and transform the data extracted from websites into actionable insights for the Living Labs‘ experimentation processes. Participants learned best practices for cleaning, structuring, and analysing the data to support their specific needs and objectives.

To conclude, as the training wraped up, it’s time to put the knowledge into action. Our Living Labs partners will leverage these tools for their data experiments. Stay tuned and follow the project to catch the exciting results!

Unlocking the Potential of Rural Tourism in Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship

Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship embraces tourism as a beacon of hope amidst demographic challenges. From industrial vigor to rustic allure, join us on a journey of renewal and regeneration.

The Świętokrzyskie region, nestled in the heart of Poland, boasts a unique blend of industrial vigor in the north and rustic charm in the south. Encompassing vast expanses of land and numerous protected areas, Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship offers an enticing mix of environmental splendor and cultural heritage. However, amidst its scenic beauty lies a socio-economic challenge that demands attention and strategic intervention.

The foremost concern facing the region is the adverse demographic trends plaguing its rural areas. Migration outflows, an aging populace, and dwindling birth rates have collectively contributed to a significant decline in population over the past two decades. The exodus of young residents, coupled with a burgeoning elderly demographic, paints a stark picture of the region’s demographic dilemma.

Recognizing the urgency of this issue, stakeholders have identified rural tourism as a potential catalyst for positive change. Tourism, with its promise of economic diversification and job creation, emerges as a beacon of hope amidst demographic gloom. By leveraging the region’s untapped tourism resources, stakeholders aim to not only arrest but reverse the tide of negative demographic trends.

The strategic roadmap for rural tourism development in Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship is underpinned by a holistic approach aimed at enhancing the region’s attractiveness, particularly among the younger populace. Initiatives to improve overall quality of life, bolster employment opportunities, and enhance access to essential services and cultural amenities are pivotal in this endeavor. Creating an environment conducive to attracting and retaining new residents is paramount to the region’s revitalization.

The Living Lab Challenge serves as a crucible for innovation, envisioning rural tourism as a transformative force capable of reshaping the region’s socio-economic landscape. By fostering the development of tourism infrastructure and promoting collaboration networks, the initiative seeks to elevate the region’s profile as a premier tourist destination. Moreover, through targeted marketing efforts and brand-building exercises, stakeholders aim to spotlight the myriad attractions of rural Świętokrzyskie.

Central to this initiative is the gathering of pertinent data to inform decision-making and guide policy formulation. While existing knowledge on rural tourism in the region remains scant, efforts are underway to conduct comprehensive research and data collection. Through social surveys, interviews, and meticulous inventorying of agritourism facilities, stakeholders endeavor to glean invaluable insights into tourist preferences, infrastructure needs, and the spatial distribution of resources.

In charting the course ahead, Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship stands poised at a crossroads, armed with the collective resolve to harness the transformative potential of rural tourism. As the region embarks on this journey of renewal and regeneration, it does so with a steadfast commitment to shaping a brighter, more vibrant future for generations to come.

Rural revival in Galicia: Navigating Land Fragmentation for Sustainable Development

Map of Spain with a marker for Galicia 's Living Lab

In an ambitious effort to address rural decline and mitigate wildfire risks, Galicia ‘s Pilot Region is pioneering a multifaceted approach to land management. Spanning 20 municipalities across the southern expanse of the region, this initiative aims to revitalize socio-economic structures while safeguarding the environment.

At the heart of this endeavor lies a complex interplay between land use and ownership patterns. With over a million land plots scattered across 2,653 square kilometers, Galicia grapples with staggering fragmentation, hindering the development of an active agricultural sector. Despite a significant presence of landowners – numbering over 110,000 – farming activities have dwindled, with only 5,700 active farms reported in 2020.

Population dynamics further compound these challenges, with rural areas experiencing steady depopulation driven by aging demographics and youth emigration in pursuit of better opportunities. Yet, amidst this exodus, a glimmer of hope emerges: a positive net migration rate fueled by retirees returning to their roots.

The challenges

Recognizing the urgent need for intervention, Galicia’s regional administration has embarked on a comprehensive strategy, enacting legislation aimed at reclaiming agricultural land and fostering sustainable practices. Central to this effort are “model settlements” designed to encourage agricultural activity near communities, curbing vegetation encroachment and mitigating wildfire threats.

However, the road to rural revitalization is fraught with obstacles. Accessing vital information on land ownership proves arduous, while high transaction costs deter prospective farmers. Yet, the potential benefits are undeniable. Studies suggest that a resurgence in farming could bolster municipal economies by over 2.5%, breathing new life into struggling communities.

Moreover, the environmental stakes are high. As farmlands lie fallow, forests encroach, exacerbating wildfire risks exacerbated by climate change-induced droughts.

In response, Galicia’s Living Lab initiative embarks on a quest to reconcile land use and ownership. By leveraging existing data and engaging landowners, the aim is to unlock the untapped potential of underused land, fostering a symbiotic relationship between rural communities and their surroundings.

As Galicia charts a course towards a more sustainable future, the Pilot Region stands as a beacon of innovation, demonstrating the transformative power of collective action in the face of formidable challenges.

Empowering Szydłowiecki Powiat: Unleashing Potential Through Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Exciting times ahead for Szydłowiecki Powiat! Join us as we embark on a journey of entrepreneurship, innovation, and community empowerment. Together, let's unlock the region's hidden potential and pave the way for a brighter future.

Nestled in the south-western corner of the Mazowieckie voivodeship lies the Szydłowiecki powiat. A district brimming with potential yet facing its fair share of socio-economic and demographic challenges. With a strategic position along the vital S7 express road, connecting major cities like Warsaw and Kraków, this region holds promise for development. However, to harness this potential fully, a transition from a traditional farming-based economy to a more diversified and modern economic landscape is imperative.

Challenges and Opportunities:

The main challenge facing the Szydłowiecki powiat is its transition from a predominantly agrarian economy to one that is more production and consumption-oriented. This transition demands not only economic restructuring but also an increase in spatial mobility and job opportunities. Despite its strategic location, economic dynamics have been sluggish, leading to high unemployment rates, particularly among the youth. Moreover, the district grapples with population outflow, aging demographics, and infrastructure deficiencies.

However, within these challenges lie opportunities for growth. The Living Lab initiative aims to tap into these opportunities by focusing on entrepreneurship development, leveraging the region’s natural resources, cultural heritage, and strengthening local networks. With five municipalities, each with its unique strengths and proximity to urban centers, there’s potential for economic revitalization.

Living Lab: A Path to Transformation:

The Living Lab initiative seeks to address these challenges head-on by fostering entrepreneurship, promoting local heritage, and enhancing connectivity. By harnessing natural resources like sandstone, iron ore, and chocolate flint abundant in Orońsko municipality, the region can drive economic and social development. Additionally, raising awareness about local cultural heritage and traditions can attract tourism and stimulate local businesses.

Research Questions and Data Needs:

To guide this transformative journey, several research questions need to be addressed:

  • What are the essential components of local development potential?
  • Which best practices from other regions can be adapted to address local challenges?
  • What new data sources and collection methods are needed to understand the local challenge better?
  • Which data is essential to develop a local index of entrepreneurship development potential?

Empowering through Data and Collaboration:

Access to diverse data sources and collaboration among stakeholders are crucial for informed decision-making. The Living Lab will leverage secondary data, spatial information, primary data from surveys and interviews, and additional tools like Maptionnaire to fill existing data gaps. Collaboration with local communities, businesses, research institutions, and public administrations will ensure that solutions are tailored to real needs and expectations.

Building Capacities for Success:

Success in this endeavor requires building partnerships, digital competencies, and openness to modern marketing trends. By embracing innovation, creative solutions, and fostering partnerships, the Living Lab aims to unlock the full potential of Szydłowiecki powiat.

In conclusion, the Living Lab initiative holds the key to unlock the latent potential of Szydłowiecki powiat. Through entrepreneurship, leveraging natural resources, and preserving cultural heritage, this region can pave the way for sustainable development and prosperity. With collaborative efforts and data-driven insights, the journey towards transformation begins, promising a brighter future for generations to come.

Exploring Climate and Environmental Transition in Italy: Parma, Piacenza & Ferrara

Delve into the heart of Italy's tomato processing hub, where the Emilia-Romagna region hosts three provinces renowned for their pivotal role in the tomato supply chain. Italy ranks as the third-largest producer of tomatoes for processing globally, with a significant portion of this production emanating from Parma, Piacenza, and Ferrara.

Delve into the heart of Italy’s tomato processing hub, where the Emilia-Romagna region hosts three provinces renowned for their pivotal role in the tomato supply chain. Italy ranks as the third-largest producer of tomatoes for processing globally, with a significant portion of this production emanating from Parma, Piacenza, and Ferrara.

Transition Focus: Climate and Environmental Challenges

The pressing issue of water management takes center stage amidst the climate and environmental transition. Intensive agricultural activities and recurring droughts amplify the demand for water, posing a threat to the vital tomato ripening cycle. As global warming reshapes natural water patterns, the region grapples with the adverse impacts, from soil erosion to hydrogeological instability.

Living Lab Challenge

In response to these challenges, the Living Lab initiative tackles the urgency of climate change, particularly focusing on water availability and management for irrigation. With water scarcity becoming increasingly prevalent, innovative solutions are imperative to ensure sustainable agricultural practices.

Rationale

Effective water management demands comprehensive governance structures and integrated monitoring systems. Despite existing weather stations and data sources, a cohesive approach to data analysis and model development is crucial for informed decision-making and resource allocation.

Policy Relevance

The water management challenge resonates beyond the agricultural sector, necessitating holistic solutions to meet the diverse needs of stakeholders. Local institutions and the Interbranch Organization (IBO) spearhead policy initiatives to address water scarcity and ensure rational development.

Research Questions

Key inquiries revolve around the development of an integrated monitoring system for water availability and needs, as well as strategies to enhance local water management effectiveness. Balancing the demands of various stakeholders remains paramount in shaping sustainable policies.

Emerging Data Needs

Robust data collection and analysis are essential for modeling water demand and distribution, especially during dry seasons. Coordinated efforts are required to harness existing data and fill knowledge gaps to mitigate the impacts of climate change effectively.

In the pursuit of sustainable agricultural practices, Italy’s Parma, Piacenza, and Ferrara regions stand at the forefront of climate adaptation and environmental stewardship. Join us as we navigate the challenges and opportunities on the path to a resilient future.

Implementing rural proofing in EU countries and beyond: review of instruments and experiences

Implementing rural proofing in EU countries and beyond: review of instruments and experiences

The collaborative efforts of RUSTIK partners, including Francesco Mantino, Barbara Forcina (CREA Council for Research in Agricultural economics), Heidi Vironen, Liliana Fonseca (EPRC University of Strathclyde), and Petri Kahila (UEF University of Eastern Finland, Karelian Institute), have culminated in a comprehensive review of rural proofing instruments and experiences across both European and non-European countries. The complete report is accessible here.

In their examination, the report highlights concrete case studies which materialised the rural proofing concept in the formulation of policies and programs since the beginning of the millennium. While some national jurisdictions have achieved modest success, the report concludes that neither any country nor the EU as a whole can be deemed fully successful in integrating an effective and enduring rural proofing model into their administrative systems up to the present moment. To bridge this gap, the authors formulate the data and methodology needs to be tested within rural stakeholders in RUSTIK Living Labs.

What is rural proofing? Definition and policy relevance

The authors cite Jane Atterton, from the Scotland’s Rural College, who states that “Rural proofing is a systematic process to review the likely impacts of policies, programmes and initiatives on rural areas because of their particular circumstances or needs (e.g., dispersed populations and poorer infrastructure networks). In short, it requires policymakers to ‘think rural’ when designing policy interventions to prevent negative outcomes for rural areas and communities. If it is determined that a policy may have different – negative – impacts in rural areas compared to urban areas, policies should be adjusted to eliminate them”.

This concept was first introduced by a UK governmental publication in 2001 and was then included at EU level in 2016 in the Cork 2.0  declaration. Since then, regular mentions of the rural proofing mechanism are made in OECD and EU institutions’ strategies, reports and tools (Committee of the Regions in 2022) Rural proofing is also a pilar of the European Commission Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas, the new EU flagship initiative for Europe’s rural areas to which RUSTIK contributes to bring to the local level.

Comparing rural proofing characteristics in different countries

In most countries, rural proofing is applied to policy impact on living conditions and well-being in rural areas: this implies taking into consideration a broad range of policies (from infrastructures, social services to environment and business development). This ensures a good margin of flexibility to screen out those policies not having a significant impact and concentrate the proof only on relevant policies. In some countries, rural proofing is activated when specific rural territories could be impacted by policies. The table on the next pages portrays this well and expands on the specific methodology and guidelines used in the different countries where a rural proofing mechanism has been experimented.

Rural proofing mechanisms and attempts in EU and non-EU countries

Country
Starting year
Thematic focus
Methodologies
Institutional responsibility
Application
Proofing on a broad range of policies
England
2000 National: Policies having impact on Infrastructures, services, working and living conditions, environment, equality Checklist; Decision Tree; Examples of possible assessment; Descriptive assessment of impacts; Annual rural proofing reports National: DEFRA (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) oversees rural proofing across the government; Rural Affairs Board provides strategic guidance; each government Department has nominated ‘rural proofing lead’ Mandatory (in principle) with patchy application
Northern Ireland
 2015-2017 All national policy proposals having an impact on the economic, social, cultural and environmental well-being of rural communities Rural needs impact assessment: coherence of likely impact with social and economic needs of rural areas; annual monitoring reports National: Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Mandatory (in principle) with patchy application
Canada
1998-2013 National: Federal policies and programmes from the perspectives of remote and rural regions. Some provinces have published their own Rural Lens and guidelines. Checklist; Rural Lens: process in 10 stages, including a template to fill, questions to answer and examples to follow. Guidelines for using it provided by the national level. “Rural Secretariat” within the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food (founded in 1996) Voluntary, no sanctions
New Zealand
2008 Policies having impact on infrastructure, health, education, business development and equity Impact assessment checklist; process in 7 stages; Rural proofing guide; Ministry for Primary Industries published the guide and checklist. The implementation lies with the authorities responsible for a specific policy. Voluntary, no sanctions
Proofing on specific geographical/ thematic areas
Scotland
2020 Policies with specific and differentiated impacts on Islands Communities Island Communities Impact assessment Agriculture and Rural Economy Directorate and its Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands Mandatory (with justification for not doing it) only for policies having effects on Scottish Islands
Finland
2007 National: Policies having impact on municipal merging, rural livelihoods, expertise, housing and services, accessibility, attractiveness factors and community cohesion. Emphasis ono sparsely depopulated areas. Checklist, with 6 thematic areas and flexible application Rural Policy Council (MANE) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) Voluntary, no sanctions. Formalisation into legislation is being discussed in the Parliament.
Australia
2003 Regional services Checklist; Regional Impact Assessment Statement (RIAS) Standardized guidelines as a template Department of Primary Industries and Regions of the Government of South Australia (PIRSA) Mandatory, for any legislation affecting regional services
USA
2018 National for drug addiction in rural areas Rural Community Action Guide with best practices; Federal Rural Resource Guide with key challenges; Rural Community Toolbox website with all federal fundings and tools to build healthy drug-free rural communities The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) of the White House develops Federal drug policy and coordinate its implementation across the Federal Government. Political rather than a legislative commitment, and it is not mandatory.

Lessons learned for RUSTIK experiments

To conclude, rural proofing is strongly focused on policy assessment, whether spatially focused policies or not. This implies the definition of an appropriate list of questions to be explored and, in parallel, specific data concerning potential policy effects upon the concerned Living Labs of the project. For this, the deliverable lists the questions forming the basis for a place-based analysis depending on the types of policies considered. Moreover, the authors explore the necessary conditions for a successful data collection leading to robust evidence-based territorial policies and applying rural proofing mechanisms. All these elements will be practically explored in coordination with the RUSTIK Living labs from the end of 2024 onwards.

Navigating the transition of Garfagnana: Embracing Socio-Economic and Environmental Challenges

Navigating the transition of Garfagnana: A Journey into Socio-Economic & Environmental Transitions!

Nestled in the northern part of Tuscany, the Garfagnana region, comprising Media Valle del Serchio, Alta Versilia, and Appennino Pistoiese, stands as a picturesque landscape covering 2110 km2. The area, home to 27 municipalities, is under the purview of LAG Montagnappennino, the driving force behind the LEADER programme. As we delve into the complexities of Garfagnana, we uncover a rich tapestry of socio-economic, demographic, climate, and environmental transitions.

Socio-economic and Demographic Transition:

At the heart of Garfagnana’s challenges lies the persistent issue of depopulation. From 2011 to 2020, the region experienced a concerning -7.58% decrease in total population. Distinct challenges include uneven distribution of commercial services, generational renewal hurdles, a less attractive environment for new investments, historic center degradation, limited accessibility to services for non-capital residents, and entrepreneurial gaps in the social sector. To address these, a multifaceted approach is essential, focusing on social capital, community regeneration, and innovative models for local development.

Climate and Environmental Transition:

With a landscape dominated by forests (88% coverage in 2020), Garfagnana’s natural wealth is both a strength and a vulnerability. The majority comprises mature forests (86%), witnessing a 15% growth between 2013 and 2020. Balancing sustainable forest use for productivity and preventing uncontrolled forest spread due to abandonment emerges as a critical challenge. Recognizing the multifunctionality of forests is imperative, transforming them into sources of recreation, climate change mitigation, and cultural significance. Civic uses, particularly through local forest cooperatives, are vital for harmonizing the needs of both the community and the environment.

Living Lab Challenge:

Garfagnana’s Living Lab confronts the intertwined challenges of socio-economic and environmental transitions. Community projects emerge as a beacon of hope, fostering cooperation, strengthening social capital, and building synergies between local initiatives. The focus on civic uses and multifunctional forest models aims to create a balance between social and environmental goals. The region’s response to the COVID-19 emergency showcases the potential of community-driven regeneration projects, aligning with the goal of preserving social capital and revitalizing local communities.

Rationale:

The symbiotic relationship between socio-economic and environmental transitions becomes evident in Garfagnana’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. The MontagnAppennino LAG, acting as a pillar of social cohesion, initiated community regeneration projects to stimulate development ideas and enhance the quality of life in rural territories. The key lies in creating and increasing social capital, an essential element in retaining the local population. Simultaneously, the region recognizes the potential of its vast forest cover, focusing on sustainable forest use, climate change mitigation, and ecosystem service recognition.

Policy Relevance: With upcoming LEADER programming and participation in the National Strategy for Inner Areas, Garfagnana sees an opportunity to solidify and support pilot experiences arising from community regeneration projects and forest-focused initiatives. Data and analysis play a pivotal role in guiding ongoing processes, adapting future actions, and providing a foundation for governance choices. Collaboration with regional authorities and self-evaluation processes is crucial for demonstrating the effectiveness of actions to the European Union.

Research Questions:

  • How can sustainable forest use be promoted to support local added value and prevent uncontrolled forest spread?
  • What role do community projects play in fostering cooperation, strengthening social capital, and building synergies between local initiatives?

Emerging Data Needs:

  • Comprehensive knowledge of forest stock, ownership structure, and management plans.
  • In-depth understanding of qualitative dimensions like social capital, trust, and reciprocity.
  • Monitoring immigration and policies attracting new residents.
  • Data collection on third-sector projects and their socio-economic impacts.

Data Availability:

  • Adequate regional and national data for forest heritage characteristics.
  • Existing data on qualitative dimensions but a need for case studies on community regeneration.
  • Collaboration with IRPET for socio-economic, demographic, and public expenditure data.

Garfagnana’s transition journey is a testament to the intricate balance needed between human and environmental well-being. As the Living Lab unfolds, it becomes a living example of how data, collaboration, and innovative approaches can pave the way for a sustainable and vibrant future.

Stay tuned for updates on this captivating journey into the heart of Tuscany!

 

Unveiling the Rural Renaissance: A Paradigm Shift in Understanding Functional Rural Areas

In a webinar hosted by the GRANULAR project on February 28, 2024, we witnessed a pivotal moment in the redefinition of our perception of rural areas.

In a webinar hosted by the GRANULAR project on February 28, 2024, we witnessed a pivotal moment in the redefinition of our perception of rural areas. This event, organized by the European Association for Innovation in Local Development (AEIDL), marked the 2nd Knowledge Transfer Accelerator activity, bringing together thought leaders, researchers, and practitioners from over 22 EU Member States, the UK, Switzerland, Turkey, and several African countries. Notably, the webinar featured active participation from the RUSTIK project,  contributing valuable insights to the discourse.

Historical Context: A Call for Nuanced Understanding

Traditionally, rural areas have been characterized by simplistic metrics such as population density and proximity to urban centers. However, this approach oversimplifies the complex reality of rural spaces, ignoring the diverse functionalities and rural-urban interactions that shape these regions. Recognizing this limitation, the latest EU Council conclusions on the EU’s Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas (LTVRA) emphasized the need for a more profound understanding of rural diversity. This is seen as a crucial step toward fostering place-based rural development and aligning with EU policies and strategies, including Cohesion Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy.

The Webinar’s Vision: Functional Rural Areas as the New Frontier

The webinar aimed to introduce a transformative perspective on rural diversity, focusing on the lens of rural (multi)functionalities. A ‘Scoping report on rural typologies across Europe’ provided an analysis of existing rural typologies, setting the stage for a conceptual framework centered on functionalities and synergies with urban territories. Leveraging insights from the Horizon Europe RUSTIK and GRANULAR projects, the webinar initiated a crucial discussion on the necessity for more comprehensive rural typologies for assessment and statistical purposes at both EU and national levels.

Insights Unveiled: A Glimpse into the Webinar Presentations

The agenda featured enlightening presentations that deepened our understanding of this paradigm shift:

  • Overview of Rural Typologies in Europe by Mats Stjernberg (Nordregio):

    Unveiling findings from the ‘Scoping report on rural typologies across Europe, ‘ Stjernberg provided a comprehensive state-of-the-art analysis of territorial typologies at the EU level and across 27 European regions.

  • Rural Multi-Functionalities by Henk Oostindie & Bettina Bock (Wageningen University):

    Demonstrating the integration of multi-spatiality and multi-functionalities into a Rural Diversity Compass, Oostindie and Bock showcased a prototype that categorizes rural functionalities into residential, productive, recreational, and environmental components.

  • Developing a Definition of Functional Rural Areas by Lewis Dijkstra (Joint Research Centre):

    Dijkstra introduced the recently-developed EU definition for Functional Rural Areas (FRA), offering an analytical picture of rural territories and service provision.

  • Functional Rural Areas and Beyond by Francesco Mantino (CREA):

    Mantino, author of RUSTIK’s report on “Methodological framework to define Functional Rural Areas and rural transitions,” emphasized the need for a new definition of “rural” based on functionalities, neo-endogenous theories, and network connectivity.

Reflecting on the Future: Redefining Ruralities

The webinar culminated in a thought-provoking round table discussion where speakers reflected on how redefining ruralities can enhance rural understanding and policy-making. The consensus was that a functionality-based approach provides a more nuanced and granular picture of rural areas, acknowledging their diverse needs and opportunities.

Looking Ahead: The Path to a Functional Future

As we navigate the post-2027 programming period, the insights from this webinar echo the sentiments expressed by the High-Level Group on the Future of EU Cohesion Policy. Identifying spatially concentrated challenges and understanding multiple dynamics emerge as key challenges for future EU territorial development policies.

In conclusion, the webinar has set the stage for a new era in rural development. By shifting our focus from traditional classifications to a functionality-based approach, we can unlock the true potential of rural areas. The collaboration between GRANULAR and RUSTIK, along with the active engagement of experts from diverse regions, showcases the collective effort towards a more comprehensive and insightful understanding of rural landscapes. The journey has just begun, and the road to functional rural areas promises to be transformative for the future of rural policy and development.

For more detailed information you can watch the webinar recording!

Join us in reshaping the narrative around rural areas and contributing to the Rural Renaissance!