RUSTIK Data Viewer Now Available! Empowering Rural Sustainability Transitions

Rustik Data viewer now available!

We are thrilled to unveil the launch of the RUSTIK Data Viewer, a powerful tool designed to revolutionise evidence-based decision-making and drive positive impacts in rural sustainability transitions.

What is the RUSTIK Data Viewer?

The RUSTIK Information System is more than just a tool; it’s a reliable resource crafted to facilitate comprehensive insights into rural sustainability transitions, encompassing social, economic, environmental, and digital dimensions. At its core, the system serves as a centralized platform, providing seamless access to data meticulously curated within the RUSTIK Database.

 

Who Benefits from the RUSTIK Data Viewer?

This innovative system isn’t just for researchers and policymakers; it’s for anyone passionate about rural sustainability. From policymakers shaping legislative frameworks to academics conducting groundbreaking research, the RUSTIK Data Viewer caters to a diverse spectrum of stakeholders invested in rural development.

Key Features and Functionalities:

The RUSTIK Data Viewer boasts an intuitive user interface designed with your convenience in mind. Navigate effortlessly through layers of data, gaining valuable insights at every turn. Here’s a glimpse of what awaits you:

  • Layers Menu: Seamlessly transition between the European Core and 14 Living Lab Cores.
  • Area Draw Tool: Customize shapes and areas on the map to suit your analysis.
  • Measure Tool: Accurately measure distances to inform your decision-making process.
  • Information Tool: Dive deep into specific elements or locations on the map, accessing associated attributes with ease.
  • Zoom Functionality: From zooming into specific regions to gaining a holistic view of the entire EU extension, the zoom features empower you to explore with precision.

The Richness of RUSTIK Database:

The backbone of the RUSTIK Data Viewer lies in the extensive RUSTIK Database, meticulously curated to capture economic, social, and environmental indicators. From sectors and employment to quality of life and climate change mitigation, our database is a treasure trove of invaluable insights.

Unveiling Diverse Data Sources:

Our commitment to robust analysis extends to diverse data sources, including:

  • Data from European agencies and programs, such as Eurostat and the European Environmental Agency.
  • Insights from private actors, NGOs, and research institutions, enriching our understanding of consumer behavior and specialized research.
  • Geo-data scraping from platforms like Open Street Map and Google Maps, offering a wealth of geospatial information for in-depth analysis.

 

The RUSTIK Viewer isn’t just a tool; it’s a catalyst for change. Join us as we embark on a journey to transform rural sustainability transitions. Explore the RUSTIK Data Viewer today and be part of the movement towards a more sustainable future.

At RUSTIK, we believe in the power of data to drive meaningful change. With the RUSTIK Viewer, we empower you to make informed decisions that pave the way for a brighter, more sustainable tomorrow.

Visit our website to access the RUSTIK Data Viewer and unlock a world of possibilities. Together, let’s shape the future of rural sustainability, one data point at a time.

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!

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.

Rhein-Hunsrück Region in Germany: Addressing Socio-Economic Transitions and Bridging the Gap Between Businesses and Young Talent

Living lab of Rhein-Hunsrück Region in Germany

Embarking on a journey into the heart of Germany, the Rhein-Hunsrück region emerges as a captivating landscape of both challenges and potential. Nestled in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, this predominantly rural district stands at the forefront of socio-economic and demographic transitions, navigating complexities in the face of an ageing population and a shifting employment landscape. With a keen focus on addressing these challenges, the Rhein-Hunsrück region is looking for solutions trough is participation in the RUSTIK project.

The  collaboration between the Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning (IFLs) and the Regionalrat Wirtschaft Wirtschaftsförderung, which oversees regional economic development, aims to unravel the intricacies of socio-economic transition processes, offering a unique perspective shaped by the region’s economic development efforts and an extensive network of stakeholders. Join us as we delve into the dynamics of Rhein-Hunsrück, where the journey towards sustainable change unfolds against the backdrop of demographic shifts and the pursuit of a more vibrant, attractive future for both businesses and the emerging workforce.

Key District Statistics:

  • Area: 99,107 hectares
  • Population Density: 107.3 inhabitants/km²
  • Population: 64,568 enterprises
  • Majority: Nearly 4,430 small and very small businesses (fewer than 50 employees)
  • Larger Businesses: Only 21 with more than 250 employees

Transition Focus: Socio-economic and Demographic Challenges:

Facing socio-economic and demographic challenges, Rhein-Hunsrück experiences a shortage of skilled workers across various industries, with unfilled training and apprenticeship positions. The region, while economically sound, struggles to attract and retain a diverse workforce.

Living Lab Challenge: Bridging Gaps in Talent and Job Opportunities

Within the Rhein-Hunsrück region, the pivotal challenge focuses on addressing the mismatch between job opportunities and the skilled workforce. Despite the region’s favorable economic standing, there’s a shortage of skilled workers across various industries, with unfilled training and apprenticeship positions adding to the complexity. The challenge also extends to essential services, particularly in medical and nursing care, raising concerns about the region’s ability to attract and retain talent. This Living Lab endeavors to analyze this “mismatching problem” comprehensively, aiming to understand the specific needs and aspirations of both local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and diverse groups of young individuals. By exploring innovative solutions, the Living Lab seeks to strengthen connections, foster collaboration, and initiate new networks to overcome these challenges.

Rationale and Policy Relevance:

As a crucial link between economic development and creating an attractive living and working environment, the Living Lab addresses challenges identified through discussions with local stakeholders. The project aligns with state-level strategies for skilled workers and demographic change, recognizing the need for holistic solutions.

Research Questions and Emerging Data Needs:

The Living Lab seeks to answer questions about challenges faced by SMEs in filling training and job vacancies, the requirements of young people in the region, and how new data can improve the match between supply and demand. Emerging data needs include detailed insights from both enterprises and young people.

Data Availability and Limitations:

While statistical data on apprenticeships, job openings, and demographic information is available, limitations exist in linking this data at the NUTS 3 level. The challenge lies in obtaining accurate information about job seekers and apprenticeship seekers, as not all positions are reported to employment agencies.

The Living Lab Rhein-Hunsrück represents a proactive effort to bridge the gap between available opportunities and the potential workforce, ensuring a sustainable and vibrant future for the region.

RUSTIK Living Lab in Austria’s Nockregion-Oberkärnten – Navigating the Future: Small Rural Businesses in Focus

Welcome to the inaugural Living Lab Report for the Austrian Pilot Region, Nockregion-Oberkärnten, situated in the heart of the Central Alps within Carinthia’s southernmost province. Covering 1,324 km² and encompassing 17 municipalities, this region grapples with the persistent challenge of population decline. With only 15% dedicated to permanent settlement, the economic landscape thrives on key sectors like tourism, agriculture, forestry, trade, industry, and construction.

Living Lab Challenge

Our Living Lab challenge focuses on Small Rural Businesses (SRB) in Nockregion-Oberkärnten. Initially exploring the application of a Quality of Life (QoL) Index, we redirected our attention to the more pertinent challenge of identifying the needs and challenges faced by SRBs and establishing a network to support them. This encompasses businesses, including farmers, with no more than 50 employees. The primary objective is to pinpoint data gaps, map the current regional state, and foster a comprehensive understanding of challenges encountered by entrepreneurs and business owners.

The groundwork laid will assess and justify the necessity of establishing a regional network/platform for SRBs. Envisioned as a central hub, this platform addresses challenges such as strengthening awareness of regional products, fostering value chains, facilitating joint training, enhancing negotiation power, addressing sustainable green business management issues, navigating rental space availability, managing challenges in employee recruitment and retention, and focusing on women as a specific target group.

Rationale

This approach rectifies oversights in previous projects by focusing on SRBs’ absence in regional strategies, especially during their foundation and takeover processes. The decision to spotlight SRBs aligns with their substantial contribution to the local economy, providing diverse employment opportunities. In Carinthia, small businesses constitute about 94% of all businesses, playing a crucial role in stimulating local activities and combating vacancies, contributing to the overall attractiveness of rural municipalities.

Knowledge to Date

Insights from expert interviews, PRP meetings, and literature research showcase existing business collaborations and challenges faced by SRBs in Nockregion-Oberkärnten. Previous initiatives like IGO and AGZ aimed at business settlements and sharing employees among different employers, underscoring the region’s efforts. Challenges, including limited time capacity for small business owners, difficulties in consolidating projects, and issues like employee retention and high rental prices, have surfaced through stakeholder engagement.

Research Questions

  • What is the current state of the SRB landscape in Nockregion-Oberkärnten concerning the number of businesses, sector, branches, and employment sizes?
  • What data points and indicators are relevant for stakeholders to describe or gain a better understanding of the current situation of SRBs? What are the opportunities and shortcomings
  • What benefits do SRBs envision from a new platform or network, and how should it be structured to ensure acceptance?

Policy Relevance

To address the socio-economic transition, a holistic approach involving all sectors is deemed necessary. The Living Lab’s transition challenge aims to strengthen the position of SRBs in regional decision-making processes, aligning with the PRP’s objective of attracting new inhabitants and encouraging locals to stay. Establishing a network of SRBs is viewed as a critical step in adapting regional policies to address demographic change.

Emerging Data Needs

The Living Lab will focus on SRBs, aiming to identify and fill data gaps to understand their challenges and obstacles. Combining quantitative and qualitative local data will provide a comprehensive foundation for future strategies and decision-making.

Data Availability

While statistical data on workplaces, companies, and employees for SRBs is available, specific needs and challenges data are lacking. Expert interviews and consultations with stakeholders will be conducted to improve the knowledge base. OpenStreetMap data since 2012 will complement spatial analyses, providing insights into the spatial distribution of economic activities in the region.

RUSTIK Living Lab in Austria Spotlighted in the ‘Living Labs in Rural Areas: How To?’ Webinar

Living labs

In the picturesque landscapes of Carinthia, Austria, the Nockregion-Oberkärnten faces a set of challenges that demand innovative solutions for sustainable development. Daria Ernst, representing the Federal Institute of Agricultural Economics, Rural and Mountain Research (BAB), took center stage at the “Living Labs in rural areas: HOW TO? Knowledge Transfer Accelerator” organized by the Granular project and the European Association for Innovation in Local Development (AEIDL). 

The Living Lab Pilot Region, nestled in Carinthia, spans 1,324 km², encompassing 17 municipalities with a population of 52,500. The region grapples with significant issues, including an imbalanced job structure, deficits in job supply, high commuter rates, out-migration of young people and women, and an aging population. 

Daria Ernst adeptly introduced two pivotal topics for the Living Lab challenge, considered and deliberated with the Project Review Panel and the Focus Group, aligning with the regional strategy: 

Initially, they contemplated channelling efforts into the implementation of a Quality of Life (QoL) Index tailored specifically to Nockregion-Oberkärnten. This innovative tool aspired to gauge progress and territorial development, offering nuanced insights into diverse facets of the region’s wellbeing. However, this proposal encountered several critical issues: 

  • Challenge of Comparability: Addressing the intricate task of ensuring the QoL Index’s comparability with other regions. 
  • Living Lab Approach Hurdles: Tackling challenges associated with the applicability of the Living Lab approach. 
  • Data Gaps and Capacity Constraints: Identifying and surmounting crucial data gaps and capacity constraints. 

Subsequently, an alternative path emerged as the focal point of this Living Lab endeavor – the establishment of a Network of Small Rural Businesses (SRB), an area overlooked in previous projects. Discussions revealed an absence of representation for SRBs in regional strategies, emphasizing the need to address this gap. The rationale and objectives for this initiative include:  

  • Data Gap Pinpointing: Systematically identifying and addressing data gaps while mapping the current regional state. 
  • Comprehensive Understanding: Cultivating a profound understanding of the challenges confronted by entrepreneurs and business owners. 
  • Justifying the Necessity: Utilizing meticulously collected data to substantiate the imperative of instituting a regional network/platform for SRBs. 
  • Central Hub Functionality: Picturing the envisioned platform as a pivotal central hub adept at addressing challenges and providing indispensable support. 
  • Innovation Pathway: Charting a course that paves the way for innovative projects in unwavering support of SRBs. 

Daria Ernst’s presentation not only showcased a thoughtful consideration of challenges but also illuminated a strategic roadmap for transformative action, promising impactful contributions to the socio-economic fabric of Nockregion-Oberkärnten. As these Living Lab initiatives progress, they hold the potential to redefine the narrative of rural development, furnishing invaluable insights and solutions applicable to analogous regions globally. 

Interacting with EU Projects 

Participation in this webinar provided a valuable opportunity to engage with various projects focused on rural development. Presentations from GRANULAR, SHERPA, ROBUST, and insights beyond European projects were shared, fostering a collaborative exchange of ideas and strategies. The interaction emphasized the pivotal role of Living Labs in shaping effective policies for rural advancement. As the discussions unfold, the shared experiences promise to enhance the collective knowledge pool and drive impactful initiatives in the realm of rural development. 

“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

 

The 14 RUSTIK Living Labs actors meet in Barcelona to foster knowledge exchange

 

The Pilot Region Kick-off was held in February 2023, and it was RUSTIK’s first in-person knowledge exchange, training, and networking event for partners from the 14 Pilot Regions. The event took place over two days in Barcelona and Osona in Catalonia.

During the Pilot Region Kick-off event, attendees had the opportunity to increase their understanding of the RUSTIK project and interact with the project coordinators. They also delved into how the Pilot Regions could add value to the initiative and gained indispensable knowledge for implementing RUSTIK’s approaches. It was also the first opportunity for exchanging ideas and insights with partners from 14 distinct rural regions across ten states.

During the first day of the meeting, the RUSTIK project was introduced, and the attendees learned about the key concepts that will play a key role throughout the project’s duration and began exploring how these concepts could be put into practice in their respective pilot regions. On the second day, the focus shifted from ideas to action. The attendees comprehended what to anticipate and accomplish as they started to put into action a RUSTIK Living Lab in their pilot regions.

The interactive workshops enabled the attendees to have a direct conversation with the leads in charge of each of the upcoming tasks in the Living Lab. They had the chance to ask questions and provide feedback about the topics covered, which included doing background research on their respective pilot regions led by Franco Mantino (CREA), identifying existing data and data needs led by Andreu Ulied (MCRIT), setting up and assessing their Living Lab led by Janet Dwyer (CCRI), and creating a policy panorama for their pilot region led by Petri Kahila and Juha Halme (UEF).

Our hosts in Catalonia

The hosts for the event were MCRIT and the Ersilia Foundation. On the first day, we visited Sant Miquel de Balenyà, one of RUSTIK’s 14 pilot regions. The town had been established after a train station was built in the area in 1875, and it now has 1,353 residents. The nearby Parc Natural de Montseny is a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The wider region, Osona (with a population of 165,229), is renowned for its sausages and has a ratio of over six pigs per person.