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Newsletter #14

October 2022

PoliRural results and sustainability

As PoliRural draws to a close, it must grapple with one of the most difficult questions in EU projects: how to ensure long-term sustainability? There are different ways to define sustainability. We see it as post-project existence of PoliRural ideas, deliverables and know-how that immediate beneficiaries and the wider public use to achieve their goals. Some of them can be commercial, some policy related. Some may be technical, some scientific or societal. The nature of the exploitation is not so important. What matters is that results are continuously exploited by stakeholders for their own benefit, to help others, or both.

PoliRural’s main results are:

  • A network of 500 stakeholders that have provided strong participatory foundation to the innovative foresight framework piloted in 12 regions;
  • A foresight package outlining, for each region 1) a vision, 2) a set of measures that need to be implemented to make rural areas stronger, resilient, better connected, and prosperous, and 3) a roadmap for implementing these measures;
  • A suit of technical tools designed to support regional pilots with different foresight tasks e.g. exploring the impact of proposed measures on regional performance (Policy Options Explorer) and rural attractiveness (Rural Attractiveness Explorer), creating summaries of reading lists and extracting insightful information from them e.g. context, emotions (Semantic Explorer);
  • A collection of reports, guidance documents and methodological notes that capture results of our work, as well as recommendations for others looking to implement regional foresight in a new geographic/thematic context.

In keeping with the principle of open science, we have made all our written outputs available on the project website. These include both official reports and internal deliverables like deep-dive guides on Covid-19, CAP reform, and Green Deal, that users are free to adapt to explore these and other challenges facing their region e.g., energy crisis, cost-of-living crisis, geopolitical crisis. Our approach to regional foresight and the role of different tools in the process is elaborated in a webinar series that are available on our YouTube channel, as well as the PoliRural Digital Innovation which includes links to POE, RAE and Semex.

After several iterations, the foresight package (summarized in D6.2 Regional Action Plans) is now undergoing a process of adoption, facilitated by high-level meetings with policy actors e.g. the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Slovakia, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy in North Macedonia. To ensure that proposed measures get implemented, PoliRural pilots have set up monitoring committees. These are composed of members of the regional stakeholder panel, who will oversee implementation of the plan, thus ensuring continuation of PoliRural results post-project.

Pavel Kogut (21c Consultancy)

The results of the ex-durante report show benefit both for the planning process and pilots’ teams

The main task of the ex-durante evaluation was to document the progress made, review the involvement of primary stakeholders, and identify the first indications of intervention effects.

The report "Ex-durante Intervention Case Study" (D6.3.) done by PoliRural partnership is based on an analysis of 12 ex-durante evaluation reports of Action Plan implementation prepared by each pilot region. The ex-durante evaluations were carried out during the final stage of developing Foresight packages of the twelve pilot regions when pilot teams finalized Regional Action Plans and Roadmaps, worked on their adoption by decision-makers, and started the implementation of first actions.

The report studies the results of these evaluations and the effects of the ex-durante evaluation exercise on the mission-oriented transformation processes in pilot regions. The report assesses implementation progress made during the reporting period, evaluates contributions to the key EU missions, and the quality of measurement framework of the planned interventions. It summarises the results of the pilots' work with stakeholders and looks for the changes in stakeholders' engagement, ownership, and capacity.

Conducting an ex-durante evaluation provides an opportunity to ask important questions, reconsider the choices made and provide helpful information for decision making. Thus, it is helping to improve policies and programs, as well as their implementation, assess the performance of involved actors, and the relevance and efficacy of measurement framework and management practices.

What is worth mentioning, the ex-durante evaluation results demonstrate an increase in stakeholders' learning and capacity gains mainly due to the unique possibility of highly relevant discussions and dialogue between various stakeholders that have stimulated critical reflection and learning.

Ex-durante evaluation has provided each pilot with a closer, more critical in-depth look at their Action Plans. It has significantly benefited them, contributing to the quality of their proposed Action Plans and the PoliRural project in general.

Outstanding conclusions:

  • The involvement of key decision-makers in the monitoring mechanisms of the Action Plan is seen as an essential precondition for securing the adoption and successful implementation of Action Plans by several pilot regions;
  • Russian war in Ukraine and its consequences on energy, economy, environmental and social processes has been a new and very influential external factor that pilot regions faced during the reporting period. It has served as a valuable lesson demonstrating how quickly situations may change and that every plan shall be able to adapt and adjust its measures;
  • The results of ex-durante evaluations confirm the positive effects of the evaluation process for the pilot teams. The most considerable effect is related to the analysis of stakeholder engagement, ownership, and capacity gains. Pilots have continued active communication with regional stakeholders involving them in discussions and experiments using tools developed by the PoliRural project. This has resulted in further improved Action Plans, new insights, the increased status of pilot organizations, and capacity gains among the pilot teams.

You can find the full text version of the report here.

Anita Āboliņa (Vidzeme Planning Region)

Findings on the Application of SDM to the Exploration of Policy Options for Regional Foresight

A key objective of the PoliRural project is to explore the use of innovative tools applied to Regional Foresight. The expectation is that the use of tools based on Text Mining should lead to productivity gains for the local teams that lead and facilitate Foresight initiatives, whereas tools based on the use of System Dynamic Modelling can help stakeholders understand and select optimal policy mixes for implementation.

This article summarizes the work done to test the Policy Options Explorer or POE and provide a foundation for the work needed to make it into a generally accessible tool for use by non-experts. It can be read in conjunction with an article published in Newsletter No. 10, which introduced the subject of System Dynamic Modelling and described “Progress so Far in the Application of SDM to Regional Foresight.” It can also be read in conjunction with an article published in Newsletter No. 12 entitled “A Second Set of Experiments for Exploring the Application of SDM to Regional Foresight” in which we developed and tested a special case of the POE, where the only indicator of performance was a composite index of rural attractiveness, with a view to exploring different visualisation techniques enabling non -expert users to more easily explore highly complex issues such as different connects of “rural attractiveness.”

The POE tool is based on a comprehensive model of rural regions, comprising 8 modules, containing almost 300 parameters. The POE tool consist of three layers. The bottom layer is based on a small set of ‘input’ parameters, whose different values represent different policy choices. The top layer is based on a limited set of ‘output’ parameters whose values represent the performance of the region. The middle -layer contains all of the other parameters of the model and is essentially treated as a black box. In this way the user is shielded from most of the complexity of the model and can focus on the specific issue it intends to explore. To explore the impact of different policy scenarios on their region, each user selects sets of input parameters which correspond to the different policy scenarios and runs the model to see how these choices are reflected in changes to the output parameters.

With assistance from 22SISTEMA, the regions taking part in the project developed their own regionally adapted POE, based on regional specific data, and reflecting the policy issues they wanted to explore. After the design phase of work, each region elaborated a ‘Statement of Expectations’ which laid out what they hoped to achieve from using the model, along with a “Design of Experiment” document in which they explained how they intended to test their POE. They were then asked to test the use of their POE, following the experimental methodology they had designed, providing detailed feedback on their efforts, and commentary on how closely the tool fulfilled the initial expectations. The feedback from all regions was analysed by CKA. This analysis includes feedback on the models themselves, the user experience and tools provide to use the models, the challenge of obtaining data with which to populate the models, the extent which they appear to represent reality, and the value they provided in the context of the local Foresight exercise, as an aid to understanding complex regional dynamics, and as a tool to support the selection of appropriate policy mixes intended to realise the future vision for each region. These results are very encouraging and our fundings are described in detail in a document entitled “Results of the POE Trials,” available here. This should be read in conjunction with D5.5, available here, for clear ideas of what now needs to be done to achieve a significant breakthrough in the large-scale application of SDM to the exploration of policy options in the context of regional Foresight.

Patrick Crehan (CKA)

Monitoring mechanism functional in Slovakia

The Monitoring Committee to monitor and track the progress with the implementation of the Action Plan was established at the closing national conference in June 2022. First seven members were nominated, including stakeholders and a former minister of agriculture. Youth is represented by Youth Rural Parliament in Slovakia. Later policy makers’ representatives were added representing: Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Governmental Office for the development of civil society engagement.

Leadership role was taken over by the Rural Parliament in Slovakia. There are two co-chairs responsible for convening the meeting, organizing it and preparing minutes.

The kick start meeting of the newly established Monitoring Committee was organized online and took place on 16 September. The Chair of the parliamentary Committee for Agricultural and Environment participated and engaged in the discussion regarding the new legislation in pipeline supporting rural areas.

The main role of the Monitoring Committee is to review and oversee the successful and thorough implementation of the Action Plan. The guiding principle for its proceedings and composition is the partnership among all concerned partners and equal treatment of all.

The next meeting will be physical in Bratislava on 17 October a day before the Rural Day in the National Parliament.

Marieta Okenková (Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra)

Experience of the Monaghan Irish PoliRural foresight pilot

The Monaghan Irish PoliRural pilot’s Foresight activities have directly involved 0.3% of the county’s total population of 61,386 so far, driven by its PoliRural Stakeholders Panel with broad representation reflecting the dynamic and complex rural county.

The PoliRural Foresight Process has concluded that Monaghan is at a pivotal “Moment of Change” due to drivers such as the climate change, EU Green agenda, Brexit, Covid-19, Ukraine war, etc, which present big challenges, but also opportunities, particularly in the context of the EU Long-Term Vision and policies for Rural Areas.

The Monaghan Foresight Action Plan, which has been iteratively developed in the Foresight process, aims that by 2030, Monaghan will be a strong, connected, resilient and prosperous rural region, with a vibrant and inclusive community, involving the highest proportion of non-traditional new entrants and young farmers in Ireland.

To achieve this transformation, Monaghan’s local community will take control of its own rural region’s future, to counter-balance Ireland’s current over centralised governance and policy making, by using the LEADER methodology of locally-orchestrated “bottom-up to meet top-down policies and funding” to proactively improve the rural attractiveness of the region.

The pilot is now progressing endorsement and adoption of the Action Plan by formally integrating it into the Monaghan LEADER Programme and long-term strategic planning of Monaghan Integrated Development (MID), the county’s community development company. It is planned to establish permanent monitoring/governance and progress tracking by continuing and enhancing the Stakeholders Panel beyond the end of the PoliRural project, and data collection and analysis of annual KPI’s, relating to specific actions/targets listed in the Action Plan and an end-of-LEADER programme evaluation in 2028.

John O’Flaherty (The National Microelectronics Applications Centre)

PoliRural Polish and Italian pilots’ session at ERDN Annual Conference in Mielno (Poland)

On 14th-16th September 2022 the PoliRural partners took part in the conference “Cooperation and experience of science in support of policies for rural development” organised in Mielno (Poland) to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the European Rural Development Network (ERDN). The conference was attended by the ERDN members and sympathisers, rural researchers and practitioners representing Poland, Italy, Austria, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Turkey, the UK, Kosovo, Moldova and Ukraine.

The aim of the conference was to exchange methodological experiences and research results as well as to integrate the different approaches to rural systems in European countries. The conference speakers addressed the most current issues that affect social, economic and environmental development in rural areas in Europe. Special attention was given to visions for rural and agricultural development in the face of the challenges of climate and demographic change, green transformation of the countryside and agriculture, as well as alternative and innovative activities in rural areas.

The conference was an opportunity to summarise and discuss the main achievements of the PoliRural project, and to present the unique tools developed as part of the project, including Semex, System Dynamic Modelling and STEEPV Inventory of Drivers of Change, show best practices we collected, but also the results of PoliRural deep dives' exercises related to the most current global challenges.

The members of both pilots introduced the specifics of Mazowieckie (Poland) and Apulia (Italy) regions, related lessons learned during the project and presented technical and foresight tools intended to use after the project. The examples from Poland and Italy were of great interest as possibilities to support the planning of future development at regional and local level in other EU countries, but also found very useful as a general support to rural planning in the Candidate and non-EU countries.

The meeting was a good summary of our project, but also a fine example of the increasing cooperation between the actors forming the pilot regions under the PoliRural project. We look forward to continuing this cooperation long after the project ends, which we also wish for everyone involved in PoliRural!

Aleksandra Pawłowska, Incoronata Grazia Langianese & Paweł Chmieliński

PoliRural inspires to engage stakeholders in the regional development planning process in Latvia

By implementing the PoliRural project, the Vidzeme Planning Region had the opportunity to look at regional development planning differently. We dare to say that this is the first time such in-depth stakeholder engagement has been carried out in Latvia during the development planning process. For such an approach, the Vidzeme Planning Region has already received a positive local, regional and national acknowledgment. Open and wide-engaging approach was chosen using the knowledge and methodology accumulated during the implementation of the PoliRural project. Results of ex-durante evaluation that was carried out at the end of the PoliRural project confirm that broad stakeholder involvement has played a key role in the development of quality regional planning documents and securing their implementation. The ex-durante evaluation process was essential to identifying success factors and challenges and things that should be improved to run the strategic planning process even more smoothly.

The Vidzeme ex-durante evaluation report acknowledges that stakeholders` engagement was successful. It is evidenced by the high trust of stakeholders towards the results of the foresight process resulting in apparent spill-over effects of the foresight process and a high level of utility of the Regional Development program by other actors in strategic development processes at a municipal and local level.

At the same time, the stakeholders' sense of ownership is also strengthened. Stakeholders have more clearly realized their potential role in the program implementation. Still, additional communication efforts are needed to reach such groups of stakeholders as entrepreneurs and public administration representatives.

PoliRural activities have initiated good and strong cooperation at the local level for joint regional development. It is necessary to use the opportunity and strengthen the established relationships in joint implementation of the Regional Development program. Learning and skills are essential for future activities, enhancing stakeholders` capacities and capabilities and getting new insights on building alternative visions and scenarios together.

D6.3. Ex-Durante evaluation report – Vidzeme Pilot

At the end of project activities, an important milestone is to evaluate what has been done. For this purpose, project partners from Latvia jointly prepared an Ex-Durante report (D6.3, available here). This report reflects the results of the ex-durante evaluation process of the Regional Action Plan developed by the Vidzeme pilot team. The primary purpose of the ex-durante evaluation was to document the progress made, review the involvement of main stakeholders, and identify the first indications of intervention effects.

Ex-durante evaluation report is structured in five main sections describing: 1) the context and needs of the evaluation; 2) progress of interventions and estimated contribution to the key EU missions; 3) measurement of policy changes and testing the relevance and measurability of the measurement framework; 4) assessment of performance and engagement of stakeholders involved in the foresight process and development of the Regional Action Plan; and 5) conclusions and recommendations for the future steering decisions.

Anita Āboliņa (Vidzeme Planning Region)

Discussion panel of PoliRural Latvian partners

On 30th September 2022, a Latvian partner seminar on the results of the Polirural project was held. 88 participants applied for the seminar, who received basic information about the PoliRural project and the website of the project for obtaining additional information. All registered participants are also sent access information for both the seminar presentations and the video recording (available here). As part of the seminar, basic information about the PoliRural project was provided to 26 territory planning specialists, 22 researchers, 17 regional development specialists, 11 rural development specialists, as well as representatives of education, consulting services, welfare industry, state and local government administration, information technology and business. 39 participants took part in the seminar, getting more information about the digital tools created and used in the PoliRural project and about the experience, benefits and challenges of Latvian partners within the project.

The aim of the seminar was to share international experience with the local Latvian community, as well as to reflect the local and practical application of project results. As the Latvian partners pointed out, this international project was a new and valuable experience, which was carried out in a systematic process, combining the experience gained in the past in order to create a methodology and tools for the development of rural areas that can be used in the future. As the project partners admit, one of the biggest challenges has been the availability of data and the efforts of all participating partner countries to create a common forecasting model/tool, as each member state had its own peculiarities in data availability.

The seminar provided information on the developed tools - Semantic Explorer (Semex), A Text Mining Tool for Smart Research, Digital Innovation Hub (DIH), System dynamic modeling for rural development (SDM), as well as Action Oriented Foresight for Rural Development and Mission oriented regional development.

In the panel discussion of Latvian partners, the significance of the developed methodological materials, practical tools (Semex, SDM, DIH) that can be applied to the regional situation and used in the preparation stages of planning, as well as in creating scientific research projects, was noted.

Armands Puzulis (AREI)

 

This project has received funding from European Union’s Horizon H2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 818496.

 

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