During the first project year, 12 PoliRural regional pilots have focused on exploring the current situation of rural attractiveness in each pilot region as the first step of the foresight process. Pilots have defined their mission statement and created pilot fiches to describe the regions and expected results (available here https://polirural.eu/pilots/). Regional stakeholder panels comprising policy actors, rural populations, newcomers and experts have been set to all 12 pilot regions to support PoliRural experts in regional foresight projects. So far about 350 stakeholders have taken part to the work of the panels.

In needs gathering assignment the goal was to recognize regional needs related to rural attractiveness. An online survey was conducted in all pilot regions (n=1296). Needs gathering in pilot regions included four phases: literature study about rural attractiveness, mass survey to stakeholder groups and general population, SWOT analyses to summaries the findings of literature study and survey. The SWOT results were discussed with regional stakeholder panels to define the list of needs and factors of rural attractiveness and finally clustering of pilot regions based on common needs rather than geography.

More than 80 needs where identified in this exercise. However, it was possible to reach to a common understanding of the most important needs with a total number of 32 needs. Important themes to develop were good internet connectivity (broadband) to enable digitization, employment possibilities in rural areas, the rural-urban mobility and the provision of public services and finally sustainability and environmental aspects. Based on the results, PoliRural researchers have clustered the 12 pilot regions into 4 different categories: Quality of life; Social capital; Cultural appeal; and Natural capital.

Once the needs were recognized, each pilot selected 5-10 most relevant needs for policy mapping exercise. The purpose of Needs-Policy Mapping task was to match the rural needs against current policies and public or private strategies. Because political and legal framework conditions vary in the pilot regions, the policy mix was based on a brief consideration of the respective governance structures related to rural policy and rural development. During the process 115 regional needs were matched against about 180 policy measures.

Needs gathering and policy mapping tasks were done in close collaboration with regional stakeholder panels. Due to COVID19 pandemic face-to-face meetings and workshops with stakeholders were replaced with online solutions. The reports of Needs gathering and Needs-Policy Mapping is published in PoliRural web page (available here https://polirural.eu/resources/reports/).

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