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.

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.

Troyan-Apriltsi-Ugаrchin, Bulgaria: Navigating the Unknown Potential of Rural Food Systems

 

Nestled in the heart of the Balkans, the Troyan-Apriltsi-Ugаrchin (TAU) region in Bulgaria stands as a pilot for transformative initiatives. Covering Troyan, Apriltsi, and Ugarchin municipalities, this area spans 1,650.2 km² with a population of 33,858. TAU is positioned strategically, just 150 km northeast of Sofia, with a pivotal role in connecting the capital to the Black Sea. 

Transition Focus: Socio-economic and Demographic Shifts

The TAU region faces socio-economic and demographic challenges, with depopulation at its core. The informal economy, job nature, and ethnic segregation contribute to this issue. Despite rich natural resources, the region struggles to capitalize on them for economic and social development.

Living Lab Challenge: Navigating the Unknown Potential of Rural Food Systems 

The primary challenge identified in TAU revolves around understanding the untapped potential of the rural food system to address socio-economic and demographic transitions. Data gaps in the linkages between food production and consumption, as well as the lack of cooperation between local actors, hinder progress. TAU aims to foster rural food systems, bridge gaps between vocational schools and local businesses, and tackle issues like unfair payments and undeclared jobs in the agri-food sector. 

Rationale: Spotlight on Food as a Unifying Force 

Food emerges as a pivotal focus for TAU, transcending differences and offering a lens to examine public and private practices. The lack of policy support in this domain highlights a significant data gap. By concentrating on food systems, the experiment aims to delve into demographic change and social inequalities. 

Policy Relevance: Paving the Way for Rural Food Policy 

TAU lacks a comprehensive rural food policy. The Rustik experiment strives to fill this void by providing knowledge, data, and models for its development. Aligning with regional and local policies, the experiment could address depopulation concerns and promote sustainable economic growth through food-related initiatives. 

Research Questions: Unveiling the Dynamics of Rural Food Systems 

The experiment seeks answers to crucial questions: 

  • How does the rural food system impact local entrepreneurship and depopulation trends? 
  • What role do family gardens play in local economies and socio-economic inequalities? 
  • How do rural food systems interact with urban economies, and which urban economies influence them? 
  • Can the preservation of local food traditions contribute to community resilience and a sense of identity? 
  • What factors make the local food sector attractive to newcomers and tourists, promoting sustainable local economies? 

Emerging Data Needs: Bridging the Knowledge Gap 

The experiment faces a lack of data on various aspects, such as the local population’s access to fresh, seasonal, and local food, cooperation between vocational schools and local agri-food businesses, and the role of family gardens in sustaining local food traditions. To address this, new and existing sources are being explored to create a comprehensive rural food map. 

Data Availability: Sources to Fuel the Experiment 

The experiment relies on a mix of available data sources, including registers of farmers, food processing enterprises, social kitchens, and more. However, limitations arise due to the non-public nature of certain datasets, hindering a granular analysis. 

Challenges and Capacities: Navigating the Road Ahead 

Challenges include limited access to crucial datasets and the absence of registers, such as that of family gardens. However, partners involved possess the necessary competencies to overcome these challenges, with additional capacity available if required. 

As the Rustik experiment unfolds in TAU, it promises not only to uncover the potential of rural food systems but also to pave the way for informed policies that can foster sustainable development, address depopulation concerns, and contribute to the region’s resilience and identity. Stay tuned for updates as TAU embarks on this transformative journey. 

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. 

RUSTIK participates at Euromontana’s Annual Conference: Navigating Transitions in Mountain Areas 

In a resounding affirmation of its dedication to tackling the challenges and seizing opportunities in rural areas, the RUSTIK project actively participated in Euromontana’s Annual Conference—an integral component of the European Year of Skills. The conference, titled “Skills for Mountains in Transitions,” served as a convergence point for influential stakeholders, researchers, and practitioners, providing a dynamic forum to delve into the intricate transitions impacting mountain economies and labor markets. 

Francesco Mantino, Architect of Rural Transitions: 

Francesco Mantino, a prominent figure in conceptualizing rural transitions for policy-making, represented the RUSTIK project at a pivotal session. As the Council for Agricultural Research and Agricultural Economy Analysis and a partner in the RUSTIK project, Mantino contributed valuable insights during the conference. He spearheaded discussions on the challenges and opportunities for skills and employment in mountain areas, sharing the stage with distinguished speakers. 

Mantino’s session, titled “Setting the scene: challenges, opportunities and approaches for employment and skills for mountain in transitions,” saw him collaborating with Guillaume Corradino, the Director of Euromontana. The duo laid the groundwork for understanding the intricate landscape of mountain transitions, discussing both challenges and innovative approaches. 

Additionally, Mantino shared the stage with Kirsty Blackstock, from the James Hutton Institute and partner of the MOVING project. Their discussion delved into “Skills for the future of mountain value chains,” shedding light on the evolving nature of skills needed in these regions. 

Rural Proofing for Mountain Areas: 

Beyond the conference sessions, Mantino actively participated in the General Assembly, engaging in a parallel session on rural proofing. Drawing from RUSTIK’s deliverables, he presented case studies from Finland and the UK, offering a nuanced perspective on the application of rural proofing in mountain areas. The discussions proved to be a melting pot of experiences, allowing participants to identify challenges and needs for effective rural proofing implementation. 

Euromontana’s Vision and Conference Focus 

Against the backdrop of declining populations, loss of attractiveness, climate change impacts, and the imperative green transition, Euromontana’s conference aimed to spotlight the challenges and solutions for employment and skills in mountain areas. The overarching goal was to explore sector-specific difficulties and opportunities while brainstorming innovative solutions to attract talent to these regions. 

In the spirit of collaboration, Euromontana provided a platform for representatives of the European Commission, researchers, and practitioners to share their expertise, shaping policy and practical solutions for talent attraction in transitioning mountain areas. 

RUSTIK Shines at the European Research Showcase 

RUSTIK

RUSTIK 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. 

RUSTIK Colleagues presenting at RSA Annual Conference in Ljubljana

The Regional Studies Association’s Annual Conference is just around the corner, and we are excited to announce the participation of several esteemed colleagues from the RUSTIK project. The conference, organized in collaboration with the School of Economics and Business, the University of Ljubljana, and the Slovenian Ministry of Cohesion and Regional Development, will provide a platform for knowledge exchange and discussion on a wide range of topics related to regional and urban development, policy, and research.

The RSA Annual Conference in Ljubljana promises to be a stimulating event, and our RUSTIK colleagues will be actively contributing to the knowledge exchange. The following partners will be actively participating in the conference:

In this article, we will highlight the presentations by our RUSTIK partners and their contributions to the conference.
  • “Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and Challenge-oriented Regional Innovation: A Research and Policy Agenda for European Startup Villages”
    • Date: Thursday, June 15 | Time: 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM CEST

Bryonny Goodwin-Hawkins, along with Fabrizio Guzzo, Fernando Merida Martin, and Simone Sasso, will present a paper that focuses on entrepreneurial ecosystems and challenge-oriented regional innovation. Based on their work with the JRC for the Startup Village Forum, the presentation will shed light on the EU’s Long-term Vision for Rural Areas and discuss a research and policy agenda for European startup villages.

  • “Conceptualising Functional Rural Areas: Policy Directions and Research Foundations” 
    • Date: Friday, June 16 | Time: 2:50 PM – 4:20 PM CEST

Simone Sterly, Project Coordinator, and Bryonny Goodwin-Hawkins, Living Labs Coordinator will be presenting a compelling paper in this session. The paper, titled “Exploring Functional Rural Areas: New Pathways for Multifunctional Rural Regions,” and prepared together with the consortium members Franco Mantino, Ilona Rac, and Aimee Morse, delves into the conceptualization of Functional Rural Areas which is directly based on the work developed by the RUSTIK Consortium on rural functionalities

This research, rooted in the RUSTIK Consortium’s work, offers valuable insights into policy directions and research foundations in this emerging field. We look forward to their presentation at the RSA Annual Conference and the stimulating discussions it will generate among scholars, policymakers, and researchers interested in the future of rural-urban dynamics and regional development.

  • “Accommodation and Housing of Asylum Seekers and Recognised Refugees in Rural Areas – Two Cases from Rural Austria”
    • Date: Friday, June 16 | Time: 2:50 PM – 4:20 PM CEST

Ingrid Machold will present a paper that examines the accommodation and housing of asylum seekers and recognized refugees in rural areas, focusing on two cases from rural Austria. While this paper is not directly related to the RUSTIK project, it highlights the importance of supporting our colleagues and their valuable research.

  • JRC SMARTER Conference Stream Policy Dialogue Session: “Making Policy Work for Future Generations – Sustainability Transitions as a Long-term Recovery” –
    • Date: Friday, June 16 | Time: 4:50 PM – 6:30 PM CEST

Bryonny Goodwin-Hawkins will be participating in the JRC SMARTER conference stream policy dialogue session, where she will interview Slovenian MEP Frank Bogovic. Additionally, she will contribute to a panel discussion with Lars Coenen and Peter Benczur. The session aims to explore sustainability transitions as a long-term recovery strategy.

Don’t miss out on the chance to be part of this enlightening conference!, the RSA Annual Conference is a remarkable platform for sharing knowledge and fostering collaboration in the field of regional studies. Our RUSTIK colleagues’ presentations highlight crucial areas such as entrepreneurial ecosystems, functional rural areas, and refugee accommodation in rural settings. Their contributions will undoubtedly enrich the conference and inspire fruitful discussions among attendees. We wish them all the best for their presentations and look forward to the valuable insights they will bring back to our RUSTIK community.

“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.