Greek pilot’s organization of PoliRural webinars’ series to discuss potential activities for the action plan

In the context of the foresight activities, two online meetings were held on 26 of June, 2021 with targeted stakeholders to finalize the vision for the Region of Central Greece and discuss the potential activities and initiatives that could be included in the action plan. Particularly, during the first meeting it was pointed out the importance of creating a new type of physical agricultural stores that will sell directly the products of producers without the use of intermediaries, as an initiative to enhance both local producers and consumers.

The need for technological modernization of farms was also highlighted along with the need for finding financial tools that will support this action. While, during second meeting it was stressed the need to implement intensive education and tailor-made training course to the producers which is necessary to lead, in addition to improving the quality of production and better management of the crop, to the increase of their income. Achieving this goal must be linked to producers’ advice on what they should grow and in what quantities and soils in order to have a guaranteed income. It was also mentioned, the need to evaluate the knowledge assimilated through the utilization of precision agriculture.

In addition, the organized meetings provided the opportunity to the attendees to get informed regarding PoliRural processes, while boosting potential networking activities.

Cyber Courses for children and youth established by newcomers to PoliRural Pilot Galilee

Two newcomers to the Galilee periphery, Mr. Omri Sagron, the owner and pedagogical consultant of the Cyber School SME in Israel, and Mr. Netzah Topaz, CEO, have decided to settle in the periphery after it was understood that work from a distance is possible, and the ecology in Galilee is attractive. They decided to establish the Cyber training company HIGHDELE and establish its headquarters in the north of Israel, with a very clear focus on training children in Israel and giving them an equal opportunity to advance and succeed in the local and international cyber field. From this peripheral region in Israel, they are operating a large number of activities.

It is a good example of the mission defined by the MIGAL team, in collaboration with the stakeholders, on upgrading the Galilee periphery’s digitalisation infrastructure. Cyber School has specialised in teaching informal technological training within the various educational frameworks with great success, primarily because of the professionalism and ability to develop unique content and courses. In this way, they motivate the students to succeed, inspiring them to practice the material, thus assimilating the material learned in the best way.

In order to promote the high-tech industry in northern Galilee, it is required to establish a process. There are many bodies and actors in the government, politics, entrepreneurs, investors, academia, security and more. The move needed of opening an accelerator and a technological community in the north is a move that is causing a chain reaction. Investors will discover a new north, entrepreneurship, conferences, quality people, and understand that it is worth investing in the country’s north.

The intention is that large high-tech companies will notice that it is possible to save a little and move a small development department to the north. There is already education, a population, and there are investors. Resources are relatively cheap. It is worth making even the slightest movement to encourage the growth of this high-tech industry in the north.

PoliRural Pilot Vidzeme: The local community is actively involved in the development of regional planning documents

Vidzeme Planning Region continues running the pilot activity and is elaborating the Vidzeme Development Programme for 2021-2027. The document is being developed in close cooperation with the community, industry experts and specialists. The first version of the document was discussed in detail in several online working groups. Summarizing the results, it is known that 336 participants took part in the six discussions and 2,069 comments or suggestions were made. Most comments were received on topics such as business development, accessibility, natural capital and circular economics. In order to better understand the goals and tasks defined by the development program, infographics were prepared.

Ieva Kalniņa, Head of the Spatial planning department of Vidzeme Planning Region points out: “Quality and meaningful spatial development planning are not possible without the cooperation and targeted involvement of the various stakeholders. We gathered in discussions and discussed how we wanted to live in Vidzeme and looked for ways to achieve this: coming together is very valuable. The more we each engage in our places, the planning of our own regional development and jointly setting targets, the more we then have a lot more interest in achieving these goals. We have had a very successful cycle of online discussions – it is this format that allowed us to hear very many valuable ideas and comments. It is now a great and responsible job to analyse all the views and to integrate them as much as possible into the Vidzeme Development Road Map.”

Daiga Gargurne, Head of the local society, also a participant of online meetings says: “I welcome how Vidzeme Planning Region has chosen to organise the development of the Vidzeme Development Programme for 2021-2027. A new and fresh format has been selected. It appears that this time the public consultation has not been formally launched, but there is indeed a wide-ranging debate that calls on anyone with a view and a willingness to participate. I participated in all the thematic discussions launched. We have to be co-responsible for what happens – about what we do or not.”

Slovak Pilot partners co-organize a joint event with the Office of the Government

Slovak pilot partners co-organized on 6 June a joint workshop with the Office of the Government for the development of civil society engagement as a follow up event after the session of the Government Council for non-governmental organizations. The event under the title “The Vision for more attractive rural areas” was organized on-line with the aim to showcast a successful model of how to involve stakeholders in different stages of elaboration of a document for rural areas. Almost 50 people registered and 35 actually participated, all of them received a recording. 

The focus was not primarily on the document as such, but on the process as such and many different stages and substages of the elaboration of the Vision document underlying the importance of actively and openly involving stakeholders in all stages through different tools (surveys, workshops, online forum discussions, rural events etc.). The participatory and inclusive process leading to the elaboration of the document is equally important as the document itself. The main motto is “Let´s make the rural areas more attractive for life, work and investment TOGETHER” and thus unite all relevant stakeholders in solving common problems and to look for opportunities to make rural towns and occupations more attractive to the settled rural population, as well as to the new or potential newcomers. The main goal is to contribute to strengthening the position of the rural population and support the sustainable development of rural regions. 

Stakeholder Engagement in PoliRural

Stakeholder engagement is a key and critical issue in PoliRural project. PoliRural methodology is being tested in a total of 12 pilots, and a community of interest has been built around each pilot. These communities, also known as stakeholder panels comprise different stakeholders with direct knowledge and experience in each region: public authorities, rural communities, experts and industry, among others.

 

In pilot regions, stakeholder engagement has been a prominent subject over the last months. In this context, we can highlight the following activities related to stakeholder engagement in each PoliRural pilot:

  • Apulia (Italy): Over the last months, two rounds of face-to-face and online meetings were organized: in both cases the Apulia pilot involved the various stakeholders via calls or emails. The same procedure was followed to involve new entrants in the project. Thanks to these 6 new entrants were involved in the pilot;
  • Central Bohemia Region (Czech Republic): Due to Covid-19 restrictions, meetings with partners, experts and policy-makers and engagement of new stakeholders over the last months were provided online and primarily bilaterally. The successful collaboration with Local Action Groups (LAGs) on the regional and even national level was deepened;
  • Central Greece (Greece): During the last months, three meetings/workshops were held at 02/02/2021 (14 stakeholders), 04/02/2021 (17 stakeholders) and 14/04/2021 (5 stakeholders) in order to identify the most important challenges and drivers of change in the region, including COVID Deep Dives topic. The results provided input for two articles that were published by national newspaper and the project’s Newsletter. During the last week of May, the pilot partners participated in the virtual presentation of PoliRural project at the local TV channel STAR;
  • Flanders (Belgium): During the last months, all meetings took place on-line. The meetings were held with representatives of the Department of Agriculture (government), the Flemish Land Agency, Regional Landscapes (NGO) and the farmers’ Union. These prime PoliRural contacts outreach was organised to have individual and targeted contacts with stakeholders in order to obtain the information needed for the PoliRural project;
  • Galilee (Israel): In this pilot the “Leading Team” that involves delegates from industry, academia, agriculture and citizens, are concentrating on advancing upgrading the regional digitalisation infrastructure for development. Galilee pilot organised a Zoom meeting on 10/3/21 with the Eastern Galilee Cluster of Mayors. The pilot presented to the Cluster of the 18th municipalities the outcomes of the discussions that were held during the PoliRural activities and the pilot plans to present it to the government;
  • Gevgelija-Strumica (Macedonia): Over the last months, AGFT and GGP as supporting partners have conducted two meetings (one physical meeting and one online meeting) with the Regional Panel Group. Main topics that were subject of these two meetings were: Needs analysis, Drivers analysis, Policy challenges and Foresight Deep dives. As a result of Covid-19 restrictions, the team of AGFT and GGP was forced to perform additional one-on-one consultations which was a continuous process of communication with representatives of different stakeholders within the Panel Group on several occasions;
  • Häme (Finland): During the last months, two meetings with stakeholder group were organized on Teams platform which is used by the pilot as a communication platform for the group. In this period Häme pilot focus was on technological tools of the project, especially on System Dynamic Modelling (SDM) which was introduced, and its possibilities with Häme pilot work were discussed widely with the stakeholder group. In addition, the Text Mining tool was introduced to the stakeholders. The vision for the foresight work was also discussed further and refined together with the stakeholders and the work on deep-dives was on-going;
  • Mazowieckie (Poland): Over the last months, stakeholder engagement in the Polish pilot was moderate, taking place online among the 7-14 most active members. The LAG, which is the biggest supporter of the pilot, allowed the use of already developed communication channels to reach a wider audience, especially for online surveys, newsletter dissemination and contacts with local authorities. This also allowed work to be carried out during the next escalation of the situation with covid-19 in early spring;
  • Monaghan (Ireland): This pilot has an active Panel of 30 directly relevant people, including 5 rural newcomers, at its core. In addition, emails and surveys have been sent to over 300 targeted stakeholders. After 4 community physical meetings were held initially, most engagement and interactions now are by phone due to the covid-19 pandemic restrictions;
  • Segóbriga (Spain): From the beginning of the project, the role of the LEADER Group was essential for the identification phase of Stakeholders. Firstly, a list of policy makers in the territory was drawn up and since then, the list has been expanded following the “snowball sampling” method, that is, asking people to refer others. In this way, the private sector and other stakeholders have been involved. Activities (3 surveys, 2 face-to-face meetings, 8 online meetings) have also helped to incorporate new stakeholders. When these events are being prepared, the “target audience” for each one of them is analyzed, and as result new incorporations are obtained;
  • Slovakia Region: In this pilot, inclusive and participatory involvement of stakeholders takes on a regular basis in all stages of the project by various ways: regional panel, kick-off high-level meeting with parliamentarians, 6 workshops with rural actors (7 are planned for September), several surveys, direct contacts, dedicated website with discussion forum and publication of all events, documents and outcomes, consultations with responsible authorities and participation in various national decision-making processes. Recently, the pilot delivered a presentation to over 70 registered participants of the online workshop with the Office of the Plenipotentiary for the Development of the Civil Society with the aim to promote PoliRural participatory processes as a good role model for civil society engagement;
  • Vidzeme (Latvia): During the last months, 2 rounds of VPR working group meetings (~10 in total) about foresight progress and 6 deep dives workshops were organised with external stakeholders, where 336 participants took place. Together with public, online feedback collection more than 2000 ideas, recommendations and suggestions were collected for the pilot. A public campaign was organized to collect new entrant stories, and 39 stories were submitted about 32 new entrants. 

Lessons learned from PoliRural: Polish pilot recent developments

The Polish pilot covers the Mazowieckie region and is managed by the European Rural Development Network (ERDN) with the support of the local stakeholder Lokalna Grupa Działania “Zielone Sąsiedztwo” (LGD ZS). The general ambition of the pilot is to promote rural areas as a place for living and working for newcomers, considering exploiting the opportunities of urban-rural linkages, as well as changing patterns in food consumption, health awareness and lifestyles.

The Pilot is made up of people representing various sectors and professions, but above all loving the region and therefore actively and passionately discussing the future of rural areas, small towns and local communities.

During many discussions, emphasis was placed upon the natural resources and clean environment as the strengths of the Mazowieckie region, which may contribute to the development of tourism, as well as entrepreneurship based on these resources. At the same time, many participants pointed out the low awareness of the society in the field of ecology and care for the environment, but also energy inefficient private and public construction having negative impact on the environment and the climate as the possible threats for regional development. However, more and more activities are undertaken by non-governmental organisations to support pro-ecological policy of municipalities included in the Mazowieckie region.

Thus, the proposed course of action is to develop the post-industrial branches of economy, i.e. based on information processing and knowledge application as well as other types of entrepreneurship that do not threaten environment and do not burden neighbours but create social value and income for residents. Such an oriented income-generating activity of the inhabitants, including social services and individual cultural tourism and recreation services, will be fully adjusted to the principles of social co-existence and environmental protection requirements.

Attractiveness of rural areas is strongly associated with quality of life, public services and economic vitality. But it is peoples’ inventiveness, entrepreneurship and sense of community that will be the main enabler of positive change in the local systems.

Newcomers in Vidzeme are found with the help of neighbours

In order to prepare experience stories for the Atlas of PoliRural Best Practices, Vidzeme Planning Region and the Latvian Rural Forum announced a campaign in the spring “We are looking for a neighbour who inspires!”.

Local communities were invited to nominate new entrants – neighbours who have moved to Vidzeme’s countryside or small town and could be an inspiring story for other potential Vidzeme residents. Active new entrants were sought to strengthen the belief that life can also be saturated and busy in the regions. Those who do business work remotely, live in their rural backyard or have brought new ideas and fresh breeze and are living in the local community.

The campaign gained a lot of support. Altogether 39 applications were received and 32 new entrants were nominated (some of which were notified several times). Welcoming the young neighbours shows that new entrants have been respected and accepted as full members of the local community.

It is obvious that not all new entrants are working in the agricultural sector: they have found a way to be in contact with the outside world and to continue their cases without leaving their rural areas. Often, to move, there was also a change in occupation.

The first interviews have already been conducted and five experience stories have been prepared, read in English in the Atlas of PoliRural Best practices (available here). However, the initiative does not end: by the end of 2021, a brochure will be prepared in Latvian, which will contain stories of all new entrants in Vidzeme.

New entrants to Vidzeme’s rural area are one of the priority community groups that are currently under increased attention. Latvia’s fields remain empty and action is needed to strengthen not only the population groups that still live but to create a favourable environment for entrants.

New entrants in the Apulia pilot

The Apulia pilot aims to increase the attractiveness of the region by identifying policies and actions favourable to the development of existing farms and by encouraging the creation of new farms in rural areas. The action on the production system will concern the promotion of the introduction of new products and services related to the circular and digital economy that encourage new employment, especially for the younger population groups.

One of the activities executed to achieve this great goal was the research and analysis of new entrants. In the case of the Apulian pilot, six new realities have been collected. All of these are present in The Best Practices Atlas of the PoliRural project. For the collection of these realities, Confagricoltura and the Murgià LAG interacted, via telephone and email, with various stakeholders in the area. Once it had a positive opinion in taking part in the project, Innovagritech proceeded to accomplish the telephone interview.

One of the most interesting cases was the new entrant Vincenzo Signoriello. Compared to the others, he has the particularity of dealing with consultancy for local animation, management of the co-working space, community management, socio-political and corporate collaboration, as an expert for the reporting and monitoring of European projects. In this context, he is monitoring WEB Regional Interventions, a Project Co-financed by the European Community – POR Apulia 2014-2020 FESR-FSE. His activity began about a year ago, but he was already collaborating with the University of Foggia (Department of Economics) and with the LAGs of Apulia for territorial animation projects and transnational cooperation projects. During the interview, he testified to us that «although initially, it was difficult to establish relationships of trust with the territory, an effective network of partnerships between students, professionals and stakeholders was created, ranging from Capitanata to Salento (from north to south of Apulia)». This new entrant, therefore, reminded us how the creation of networks can be a key factor in improving the attractiveness of Apulia and its rural areas. In the meantime, the Apulian pilot is collaborating with the Apulia Region to discuss, reason and use the first results of the PoliRural project for the next programming and development strategy.

Summer School on Rural Enterprise, Heritage and Tourism Development – Registration is open!

Five European Union funded Horizon 2020 projects – Rubizmo, Ruritage, Ruralization, Liverur and Polirural focusing on Rural Enterprise, Tourism and Heritage Development have come together to offer a free short online Summer School over the mornings on July 13th, July 20th, July 27th and August 3rd.

The aim of the programme is to showcase some of the more significant rural development tools that have been developed by these projects in recent years can be used in a wide range of influential roles across rural leadership especially in coaching, teaching, policy making and advisory contexts.

This programme is targeted at teachers, lecturers, rural enterprises and agriculture & business advisors as well as activists, policy makers and leaders in rural community development. If you have an influential role in rural development, participation in this summer school will equip you to use the most innovative rural development tools in your practice that have been developed by these four Horizon 2020 projects.

Workshops take place online (via zoom) on July 13th, July 20th, July 27th and August 3rd from 10:30 to 1:15pm CET. This programme is free to attend but registration in advance is necessary and is possible for individual or all sessions. After registration you will receive some short introductory material in advance of each session which will help you make the most of these short interactive workshops.

Register here to participate. You can find here more information about the online Summer School.

Presentation of PoliRural project at the TV show YPAITHROS

On the 2nd of June, 2021, the TV show YPAITHROS that is broadcasted by the local channel of the Region of Central Greece, STAR, hosted four members of the Greek pilot, Ms. Ioanna Kalyva, Head of Project Management Department at GAIA ΕPΙCHEΙRΕΙΝ, Ms. Nikoleta Darra, Research Associate of the Agricultural University of Athens, Ms. Panagiota Louka, Scientific Advisor on Program Management at NEUROPUBLIC and Ms Athanasia Dampasi, Scientific Associate Region of CentraL Greece, on a discussion concerning PoliRural project.

During the virtual meeting, the prevailing rural conditions across Europe and the factors that led to the creation of the project as well as its objectives were initially described. The implementation and the methods followed were analyzed, as well as the current outcomes and the main factors that affect the rural development of the area were described. In addition, proposals that can provide solutions to the problems faced by the inhabitants of the prefecture were presented.

Particular emphasis was placed on the incentives that can be given to young people to choose to stay permanently in the rural area as well as the factors that can be developed to improve the livelihoods of the existing residents of the province. More specifically, the described incentives concern the existence of the possibility of scientific and professional training of the inhabitants, the existence of technological infrastructures but also lower taxes.

Last but not least, an attempt is made to assess the future situation that will prevail in the Region of Central Greece through the use of models that take into account both qualitative and quantitative parameters but also possible changes related to demographic change, the effects of climate change, technological development and possible policies that can to be implemented.

You can watch the video in Greek here.