PoliRural Newsletter Number 10 featured an article entitled “Progress so far in the application of SDM to Regional Foresight”. It provides a quick overview of System Dynamic Modelling (SDM), and a summary of the contribution of the PoliRural project to the November 2021 conference on “Modelling for Policy Support,” organised by the European Commission Competence Centre on Modelling. Much has happened since then, and the twelve regional Foresight teams are currently evaluating the online tools provided via the Innovation Hub for exploring the impact of different policy options on a range of regional performance metrics. These SDM tools were developed by Antoni Oliva of 22Sistema and Runar Bergheim of Avinet. This experiment will soon end, and we are looking forward to the feedback that the regional Foresight teams will provide, as users of this system. We intend to provide a synthesis of the results of this work in a future edition of the Newsletter.

In collaboration with Jan Macura, Sarah Velten and Otakar Čerba of Plan4all, we are now working on a second set of experiments, which will be presented to the regional Foresight teams, from which we hope to obtain feedback to help orient future work in this domain. This time the focus is on the user experience and challenge of working with complex issues such as Rural Attractiveness (RA). For this reason, we are developing another set of tools intended to help users understand the impact of different policy choices on the Rural Attractiveness of their region, and how this might evolve over time, with a view to making optimal policy choices.

Plan4all had already developed a composite rural attractiveness index (RAI) with six sub-indices, and thirty-six sub-sub-indices representing different aspects of rural attractiveness. This RAI was designed based on the principle that regions can only be attractive in comparison with other regions. Another design consideration was that the intended meaning of rural attractiveness may depend on where, when, and by whom attractiveness is determined. All of this is consistent with key findings of the PoliRural project concerning rural attractiveness. The project observed that concepts of rural attractiveness often feature in regional development strategies, that they differ significantly from region to region, conditioned by developmental priorities such as the desire to attract investors, entrepreneurs, or tourists. In this sense, the development of a concept of attractiveness naturally aligns with the creation of a ‘vision’ for the region, as anticipated in the Foresight process. Plan4all demonstrated the use of their index by providing a map-based visualisation of rural attractiveness covering all regions of Europe.

The following diagram describes an adaptation of the RAI. It uses four instead of six sub-indices, and nine sub-sub-indices instead of thirty-six. Most of these sub-sub-indices are new and correspond to outputs of the regional SD models developed by 22SISTEMA.

The team is putting the finishing touches to an online system that allows users to explore the impact of different policy options on this new RAI. We call this system, the Rural Attractiveness Explorer. It takes the outputs of the regionally adapted SDM models and converts them into the SD-adapted RAI, which it presents using four different visualisation strategies. Users can then compare;

  • The evolution of RAI over time across regions,
  • The evolution of RAI sub-indices over time across regions,
  • The impact on RAI of different policy choices for a single region,
  • The impact on RAI sub-indices of different policy choices for a single region.

We hope to have it up and running in June 2022, available for the regional Foresight teams, and for anyone else who wants to experiment with it. We are looking forward to seeing how the Foresight teams evaluate these new tools.

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