RUSTIK Shines at the European Research Showcase 

RUSTIK

RUSTIK, a pivotal player in the realm of rural sustainability research, made a remarkable appearance at the European Research Showcase, a significant segment of the European Researchers’ Night event held in September 2023. This event was orchestrated under the aegis of the Intersections 2023 UKRI funding project, signifying its importance in the world of research and innovation. 

At the heart of this event was the mission to foster public engagement and facilitate the dissemination of research findings across a spectrum of fields, spanning sustainability, history, virology, and more. One of the voices representing RUSTIK at this gathering was  Petri Kahila, the Director of the Karelian Institute at the University of Eastern Finland. 

During his engaging presentation, he provided valuable insights into the RUSTIK project, particularly its significant role as the leader of Work Package 4: Evidence and Indicators in Practical Strategy & Policy Implementation. In addition to shedding light on the project’s objectives and contributions, Petri Kahila took the opportunity to give attendees a glimpse into a day in the life of a researcher specializing in social sciences. 

As an esteemed expert in a multitude of domains, including regional and local governance, social and territorial cohesion, rural policy, and evaluation results, Mr. Kahila brought forth a wealth of knowledge and experience. His presentation not only underscored the paramount significance of the RUSTIK project but also unraveled the profound intricacies of social science research. This research serves as a linchpin in molding policies and strategies that uplift and enhance the well-being of communities and regions. 

Bryony Goodwin-Hawkins, Senior Research Fellow affiliated with the Countryside and Community Research Institute at the University of Gloucestershire and WP3 leader, took also the stage at the European research showcase, shedding light on the fascinating world of living labs. At the forefront of innovation within RUSTIK project, this endeavor boasts 14 living labs that serve as dynamic ecosystems for the transformation of inventive concepts into tangible solutions. These living labs act as crucibles of experimentation, harnessing the power of emerging data insights to guide and navigate the intricate landscape of rural transitions. Bryony’s presentation highlighted the invaluable role of these living labs in fostering sustainable development and sparking innovation in rural communities.

About the European Research Showcase 

The European Research Showcase is a grand stage where over 60 researchers from diverse fields across Europe take the spotlight. This illuminating event spans two enriching days, from September 29th to 30th, commencing at 9 a.m. and concluding at 9 p.m. CET each day. The rich tapestry of content generated during the event finds its home on various social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. 

Audiences are not passive spectators, but participants are encouraged to engage by watching the showcase, posing questions, and immersing themselves in the content. The ultimate goal is to accentuate the international and intersectional nature of research and emphasize its far-reaching impact on multifarious aspects of society, ranging from societal and policy issues to health and economics. At the helm of this initiative stands the Intersections project, steadfast in its mission to forge a platform where researchers and the public can unite in an enlightening exploration of the world of research. 

“Exploring the rural-urban continuum”

Exploring the rural-urban continuum: how to define Functional Rural Areas in the context of rural transitions?

Introduction to RUSTIK’s Deliverable D1.1 “Methodological Framework to Define Functional Rural Areas and rural transitions”

The RUSTIK project published its first deliverable, “Exploring the rural-urban continuum”. This methodological framework, developed by the Council for Research in agricultural economics (CREA), Italy, and the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI), UK, aims to define Functional Rural Areas and propose a new approach to their classification.

Why is there a need for a new classification of Rural areas?

To make rural areas ready to adapt to changes it is important to understand how different drivers and trends impact rural areas, and how they respond to change. Hence the need to develop a conceptual framework that explains rural areas’ capacity to respond to the socio-economic/demographic, environmental/climate and digital aspects.  It is important to develop a place-based path and scale up successes at a local level, with appropriate facilitation from national, regional, and local governments.

By enhancing our understanding of the diverse functionalities, unique characteristics, and possible future scenarios of rural areas, the RUSTIK project will be able to provide more effective strategies, initiatives, and policies that promote sustainable transitions in rural areas.

What are rural functional areas? A five-step approach.

Differences exist in defining the term “functional” for rural areas, with shifting criteria and less emphasis on agriculture. The term has varied meanings based on disciplinary and institutional contexts, with a historical urban bias. Efforts are being made to address this bias and recognize the important societal functions provided by rural areas.

There are several approaches to define functional rural areas. Studying functional relations in the case of rural areas implies focusing on the role that the countryside can play in production, consumption and ecosystem functions, not only for nearby urban areas but also for the broader society and in relation to national and international markets, institutions and business actors. It also implies using mixed approaches based on information available at the most granular level or municipal units.

Based on these assumptions, to define functional rural areas, a five-step classification can be made (Fig 1)

 

 

The new classification system will be tested in fourteen Pilot Regions. This process will ensure that the classification is robust and develop an advanced understanding of the Pilot Regions’ characteristics, functionalities and capacities in participating in the next steps of the RUSTIK project.

Diversity of rural areas and their capacity to face transitions

The transitions happening in rural areas are influenced by various drivers and trends, including socio-economic/demographic, environmental/climate, and digital factors. These transitions have the potential to impact the response capacities, territorial capital, and social capital of each rural area. Understanding these drivers and trends is crucial for effective policy development and implementation.

Europe is grappling with an aging population, which is expected to worsen in the coming decades. This leads to disparities between regions, amplified by variations in labour markets, access to services and infrastructure, market power distribution, and the digital divide.

Addressing environmental and climate challenges requires collaborative efforts that go beyond national borders. Policies like the Common Agricultural Policies, Green Deal, and Biodiversity Strategies are crucial in combating these issues. While EU-level targets are important, tangible actions and physical changes must be implemented at the local and regional levels.

The digital transition has the potential to exacerbate existing inequalities and create new divisions, particularly in rural areas. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the discrepancies between urban and rural regions, especially in terms of digital access. It is essential for rural communities to develop basic and professional digital skills to participate in the future job market and society. Economic factors, demographics, and limited connectivity further contribute to the digital skills gap.

To effectively respond to these transitions in rural areas, policies need to be tailored to specific needs and places. The delivery of policies is also crucial for their successful implementation. Several steps can be taken to enhance the capacity of rural areas to respond:

  • Identify transition needs: Conduct a thorough analysis to understand the challenges and needs associated with the transition, considering social, economic, and environmental factors.
  • Develop an enabling policy environment: Create policies that empower local actors and communities to make choices aligned with desired outcomes. Provide necessary resources, information, and support for effective decision-making and implementation.
  • Promote the emergence of new institutions and groups: Encourage the formation of local organizations, networks, and collaborations to address challenges associated with the transition.
  • Enhance policy delivery: Ensure clear communication, accessible information, and efficient mechanisms for policy implementation. Involve local stakeholders to increase ownership and involvement.
  • Integrate macro-economic context and policy system: Recognize how macro-drivers and trends at the international level can create risks and opportunities at different territorial levels. Align policies with broader macro-economic goals and incorporate measures to mitigate risks and harness opportunities.
  • Targeted policies for transition challenges: Develop specific policies to facilitate and enable transition possibilities and pathways, including regulations, incentives, advice/information campaigns, and other supportive measures.
  • Focus on sensitive territories: Pay special attention to territories with limited resources or accessibility issues. Design policies that cater to their unique needs, implementing localized systems of incentives and support mechanisms to encourage participation and resilience.

By adopting this comprehensive approach to policy development and delivery, the capacity to respond to transitions can be enhanced, leading to smoother and more effective transitions in social, economic, and environmental domains.

For further information, you can access the full report at https://rustik-he.eu/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/RUSTIK_D-1-1_Methodological_Framework_31.03.23.pdf