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Newsletter #7

April 2021

Participation of PoliRural in the “Rural Vision Week – Imagining the future of Europe’s Rural Areas”

PoliRural participated in the “Rural Vision Week – Imagining the future of Europe’s Rural Areas”, an event that took place between 22-26 March 2021, and was organized by the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) in close cooperation with the European Commission.

The interactive event brought together many diverse European stakeholders: policy makers, European projects, rural communities, industry, and service providers, to name a few. Working together they helped to contribute to the preparation of a long-term Vision for the future of EU rural areas in relation to which the Commission is scheduled to adopt a Communication later this summer.

PoliRural has contributed to the event with a virtual stall, that included main info about the project, relevant documents and promotional materials. PoliRural ambassadors also had several meetings with other participants (e.g. JRC, Rubizmo, Red2Red) to present project results, exchange ideas on the rural vision and establish a platform for future cooperation.

Further information on the “Rural Vision Week – Imagining the future of Europe’s Rural Areas” can be found here.

Sofia Cunha (Sociedade Portuguesa de Inovação) &
Pavel Kogut (21c Consultancy)

SEGÓBRIGA 21st century: developing an interactive app for tourism innovation

The PoliRural Spanish pilot aims to explore the possibilities of a better tourist performance of the Segóbriga Archaeological site (Roman city from the 6th-7th centuries), as a catalyst for a greater economic revitalization of the territory and employment. Within this pilot strategy, an interpretive app is being developed, with innovative technologies such as augmented reality, image recognition, insertion of 3D objects, etc., which allows tourists to visit the site in a personal and unique way.

An initial version of the app was presented on April 16, 2021, in a demonstration meeting attended by representatives of the territory's policy makers, who were able to understand the multiple possibilities offered by the application. Moreover, this app allows to include a considerable amount of information and resources without the need to install disruptive elements of the landscape, putting the value of its versatility and suitability to the interpretation of different types of heritage.

The application allows to enjoy recreations of some elements of the museum as well as discover the archaeological remains outside, by following a geolocated map with information, automated voice warnings and 3D recreations. From now on, the work to be done would be to improve some technical issues of the app, taking into account the feedback of the visitors. In May, a test version will be available for the public visiting the park. The final version is expected at the end of 2021. Another very important aim is to connect the app with the economic development of the territory, and analyze what effects are to be expected in the area, within the foresight activities.

The territory is suffering a serious depopulation crisis (an average loss of 12% of the population since 2010), that triggers a shortage of young people willing to start businesses in the area. In 2019, more than 80% of the visitors to the archaeological park stayed in the territory for just one day. In 2020, the number of visitors related to rural tourism has fallen by 70% due to the pandemic, therefore it is a very weakened sector at this moment.

During the presentation day, ideas were exchanged in this regard. New discussions with other stakeholders were agreed to further define the strategy. At the demonstration meeting, an informative video of the project was also presented, which can be visualized here.

San Segundo Barahona, Patricia (TRAGSA)

Lessons learned from PoliRural: PoliRural Greek Pilot recent developments

In Central Greece, the pilot activities revolved around the evaluation of the Measure 41 of the local Leader Program 2007-2013, entitled "Initiative for sustainable and sustainable development of the Fthiotian countryside". The measure was assessed in terms of effectiveness, relevance, and coherence, by using questionnaires and conducting interviews with the people involved. The results indicated that the implementation of the measure is considered to be generally successful to a moderate and great extent. However, the responses revealed a lack of information regarding the bio-economy activities and EU policies, stressing the fact that significant learning and capacity-building activities are required to ensure the potential of measures utilised by LEADER. According to the respondents, some of the obstacles that were identified and caused delays in the measures’ implementation were the complexity of bureaucratic procedures, multiplicity of laws, political instability, and the adverse effects of the long economic crisis during the 2010-2013 period. Furthermore, the need for additional measures was highlighted (measures that will target the support of vulnerable groups and the attraction of new entrants to the countryside). A combination of linked policy approaches is necessary to entice newcomers to rural areas, considering that it is a long-term objective.

As part of the Foresight process, the STEEPV inventory that was developed within the project was circulated among the participants of the stakeholder panel. The changes that take place now or in the near future in the Region of Central Greece were pointed out, as well as the importance of the effect of the forces driving those changes. During February, two strategic on-line conversations were held on the “drivers of change” to analyse the social, technological, economic, environmental, political, and other factors that affect local development. For this purpose, online meetings were held with local bodies from the academic field, the business world, the local government, as well as representatives of the society from all the prefectures of the Region of Central Greece.

Online meetings organized by the pilot.

During the discussions, emphasis was placed upon the need to support employment opportunities, public services, transport, as well as more systematic informative actions on the region's programs to attract people to the area. In addition, shortcomings in connectivity and the level of digital skills were reported, highlighting the need to improve network infrastructure and provide well-organized training opportunities in modern technologies. At the same time, participants acknowledged the issue of piecemeal approaches and the need for structured and linked policies that are clearly perceived by those directly involved in order for them to thrive. As mentioned during discussions, collaborative actions between agri-food production and processing units with business and tourism, will contribute to the effective promotion and diversification of local products, as well as the stimulation of business activity. Other issues raised including renewable energy sources, circular economy activities, and the financial capacity to support technology investments in smart farming, especially for small and medium-sized agri-food units.

The next step of the pilot activities will include discussions and Deep Dives on issues of significant importance such as the impact of COVID-19 in order to understand the negative effects of the pandemic, evaluate how well the region responded to the event, and the measures needed to assure recovery from the pandemic.

Nicoleta Darra (Agricultural University of Athens)

Tools for Regional Foresight: The STEEPV Inventory of Drivers of Change

One of the most important activities of the PoliRural project is the execution of 12 regional Foresight initiatives. The project has high expectations of this activity in the sense that each region is expected to develop a complete Foresight “package” consisting of a VISION for the growth and development of the region, an ACTION PLAN containing the measures needed to achieve that vision, and a ROADMAP that lays out the sequencing of measures and the actors responsible for their implementation. Success for each region corresponds to having this package ENDORSED by key economic and social stakeholders of the region and ADOPTED by appropriate actors in public administration, who will see the program of measures through to implementation. This is a daunting task, especially for those that unfamiliar with the machinery of “how policy gets done.” And so, the project provides support for those teams based on the organization of collective efforts to create high quality tools and other inputs to the regional Foresight processes in a timely fashion.

One of the most important tools developed so far is an “inventory of drivers of change.” Before describing this tool and how it was created, some context is provided to explain why such a tool is needed in the first place.

The early stages of the Foresight process involve the identification of key challenges the region should address in order to achieve some future state of well-being and prosperity. This task is carried out with careful attention to stakeholder engagement to ensure that the fullest range of human interests are taken into account.

Part of this work is based on examining of issues that arise in the present and recent past, and which must be addressed as part of the effort needed to achieve some future vision. These typically include systemic issues that may need to be corrected, as well as the continuation of policies that are already underway and which may need to be scaled-up or otherwise completed.

This backward-looking issues analysis is accompanied by a structured reflection on new and emerging issues, a task that goes to the very heart of Foresight. In this part of the Foresight process, regional stakeholders work under the guidance of the local foresight team, to develop a deeper understanding of change, what is driving change at regional level, the time scales over which these changes are likely to unfold, and how public policy can work with these dynamics of change to achieve a shared vision for future growth and development.

The 12 regional teams of the PoliRural project worked together to co-create an inventory of drivers of change, serving all regions as a starting point for their work with local stakeholders on the analysis of drivers. This work was divided up among teams based on the well-known STEEPV mnemonic, which groups drivers under the major headings of Social drivers, Technological drivers, Economic and Environmental drivers, Political drivers, and Values.

The use of the STEEPV mnemonic is intended to ensure that the search for candidate drivers is as complete and comprehensive as possible. In this case a total of 64 drivers were identified and described with two-to-three-page notes indicating why these are worth investigating, along with the opportunities and threats they might present for rural regions.

The inventory was completed by a set of methodology notes explaining how the regional teams might use it as an input to their Drivers’ Analysis task. It clarifies the kinds of results they should aim to obtain. In particular, a prioritized list of challenges that the region must address, based on a deeper understanding of change, what is driving change at regional level and how regional actors can work with the unfolding of such change to achieve a shared vision of the future.

So far, about half of the 12 teams have conducted drives’ analysis tasks. As results are obtained, they are briefly described in a compendium document, updated on a periodic basis. Other tools are under development to help the regional Foresight teams in their ongoing work. These include a series of guides to deep-doves on issues such as the regional response to COVID-19, the Green Deal, the EU biodiversity strategy and CAP reform, as well as an inventory of policy options. These will be reported on in future editions of this Newsletter.

Further information and resources include:

  • The “STEEPV Inventory of Drivers of Change” available on the PoliRural website here;
  • The latest update of the compendium of PoliRural pilots, with descriptions of intermediate results from each of these initiatives is available here;
  • General information on the 12 Foresight initiatives available here.

Patrick Crehan (CKA)

New entrants and new activities in the Flanders PoliRural Pilot

The rural economies in the twelve pilots of the PoliRural project are characterized by their own challenges and dynamics. To illustrate the diversity and complexity of the rural economies in the twelve PoliRural pilots, case studies on new entrants and new activities in the twelve PoliRural pilots are gathered. Eventually the case studies on new entrants and new activities in the twelve PoliRural pilots will be available on the PoliRural project website and on the Best Practices Atlas.

In the last weeks the Flanders pilot has started to collect case studies on new entrants and new activities in the rural economy of Flanders. In Flanders, many farmers diversify their activities in order to get additional income. These activities are often not directly related to food production. For example, in 2018, 361 farms received an additional income from tourism, accommodation or leisure activities and 252 farms produced energy for sale. New or diversification activities on farms have often a strong social and environmental focus. For example, in 2018 there were 424 active care farms in Flanders. In 2020, there were nearly 8000 management agreements with farmers for nature, environment and landscape management. These agreements comprise erosion control measures, field edge management, small landscape element and botanical management and species protection. This illustrates the positive impact farmers have on the rural economy in terms of employment, activities, processing and tourism.

A nice example of how economic diversification is central on most farms in Flanders is given by the testimony from the Van het Lindeveld farm: “We have a cattle farm with Belgian Blue and Black Angus cattle. Since November 2019 we have started selling our own farm meat. Since March 2020 (COVID-19), this has grown into a concept of a drive-in Open Air Shop and together with fellow farmers we offer more products. In addition, we are also working on a project on more natural calving at our Belgian White Blue breed and we have also built a knowledge network around this with people from the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland. We will soon also be offering short-term accommodation from summer 2021 onwards in our converted cattle wagon.”

Astrid Vannoppen (VITO)

Van het Lindeveld Farm activities (© Boerentrots and © Van het Lindeveld)

COVID-19 and the Digitalisation of the Galilee

Israel has a world record in the vaccination against the corona virus, but the COVID-19 pandemic has other consequences as well – it pushed many people to work from home, and many companies allow now their employees to work, at least partly, from distance. This created special conditions for people to resident and work at the Galilee remote periphery and as a result, we see requests from young families to examine possibilities to resident in the Galilee.

This emphasised the work done at the Galilee region, in the SWOT and Foresight exercises, to concentrated on the upgrading of the digitalisation infrastructure of the region to a much higher level that exists today.

We are aware that the failure rates of digital transformations in the world and companies remain high. These failures are mostly due to the unique challenges associated with digital change, including the transition from a current to digital culture and a more entrepreneurial culture needed. The world now is also emphasising the need to work in cross-disciplinary teams while the norm is to focus on specific areas and dealing with keeping up with accelerated time schedules, due to the need to quickly meet customer expectations and to adapt responses to the evolving target situations.

In the Galilee, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the innovative Israeli character, most business leaders and regional authorities understand that the digital transformation is not just about technology: above all, it is about people. This makes the plan for change complicated - so a new approach is required for managing the change.

The “Core Team” of the Galilee PoliRural project therefore has defined the upgrading of the digitalisation infrastructure of this peripheral region to emphasis three key "imperatives" in successful digital conversions and regional economic development. These commands shaped the proposed methodology for management change in the current plan:

  1. Establishing an integrated approach, based on tangible elements, such as technology and processes, on the one hand, and intangible elements, such as social interactions, on the other; in other words, the integration of teams, in a lengthwise manner, "a transformation journey" in the whole region;
  2. Quick action by proactively updating required changes to meet both current and emerging needs, effectively suiting the targets;
  3. Adapting "classic change management levers", such as communication, leadership, team definition, training, etc., to the needs of digitalization, in an integrated manner.

In order to achieve the PoliRural goals, the MIGAL - Galilee Research Institute join the Eastern-Galilee Cluster of the municipalities and are seeking now for a company that will examine the current situation, but mainly the needs for 2040 and develop a business plan. The plan aims to be submitted to the Israeli government in a PPP (Public-Private-Partnership) approach to implement the PoliRural programme in the Galilee. We already approached some Israeli and European entities and are waiting to find out if we will get proposal that could be submitted in this PPP approach and convince them to invest. We are open for discussions.

Prof. Uri Marchaim, MIGAL – Galilee Research Institute

Building Synergies: SHERPA’s (Rural Science-Society-Policy Interfaces) Contribution to the Long-term Vision for Rural Areas

The SHERPA’s contribution to the development of a future vision for rural areas has been published and it aims to feed into the ongoing debate. The Position Paper presents the key issues identified by the 20 regional and national SHERPA Multi-Actor Platforms (MAPs), and by the EU-level MAP.

The work carried out by the MAPs helped them identify their desired visions for 2040, alongside enabling factors, opportunities to seize and challenges to overcome. A key message that resulted from MAPs contribution can be summaries as follows: “European rural areas are attractive in their own right and, as a consequence of the high quality of life available, many such areas are appealing places to live, work and visit.”

MAPs made a strong call for mechanisms to ensure that rural matters are addressed in a coordinated and coherent manner in all areas of policy. The hope is for the future Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas to reflect the outcomes of this exercise, setting out the principles and instruments for achieving the vision overall, and its realisation at different territorial levels, respecting the diversity of rural Europe and following the principles of equality, innovation and environmental sustainability.

The Position Paper is also available in the Publications Library of the website.

Roxana Vilcu, Communications Officer for SHERPA


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


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