Interreg project Rural Alliances: final report

ra_eu_logo_stackedThe Interreg project Rural Alliances brought together 12 partners from North West Europe to tackle the challenges of demographic change in rural areas. These challenges included: young people leaving rural towns and villages; the elderly becoming increasingly isolated & in need of social and medical care; shops, post offices, pubs, public toilets and telephone boxes closing; and increasingly difficult environments for setting up and running sustainable businesses.

The project tackled these challenges by actively bringing rural communities and businesses together, capitalising on their two distinct attributes: rural businesses with their “make it happen” attitudes, with the values of rural communities of loyalty, pride and self-esteem to create over 76 Rural Alliances. Together they have reshaped their areas to make them friendly, buzzing and vibrant, creating a more stable future for all their residents.

Ina Horlings from the Rural Sociology Group was a member of the Policy and Advisory Panel of Rural Alliances. The project developed handbooks on rural governance and financial engineering, inspiring videos, a skils plotting exercise, and various fact sheets and policy papers, all available on the website. For communities who want to know how vibrant their community is, a new tool was developed to measure rural vibrancy.The final report can be downloaded here.

Learning in Local Collaboration, Groningen – MSc thesis Iris Bekius

Inspiratiedag

By: Iris Bekius, MSc Leisure, Tourism and Environment.

Below a summary of my MSc thesis: Learning in Local Collaboration; A reflexive case study in Groningen, Northern Netherlands.

At the moment, the Dutch government is in a process of deregulation, commonly referred to as participation society. Throughout the country municipalities translate policies in line with this political goal, among which my hometown Groningen. For the municipality of Groningen deregulation includes calling on citizens to come up with ideas for neighbourhood initiatives, which will then be evaluated by civil servants on their potential to succeed.

One initiative that is supported by the municipality is Pad2Wijken (Path2Neighborhoods), initiated by a committee in the neighbourhood Helpman to secure a green zone: a 10 kilometre long ecological edible green walking path through the neighbourhoods Helpman and De Wijert. Since the opening of the path in May 2014 groups of residents, schools and organisations in the neighbourhoods can adopt green plots along the path. On their plot they can create a flower meadow, orchard, vegetable garden, insect hotel, or anything else green and sustainable. Continue reading

Take back the economy 2: how do we value work?

The social side of capital

In my last blog I talked about Robby and Elena: two people both aged 24 but each having a completely different working life. Echoing the authors of “taking back the economy”, I wondered which bright ideas could help our Robby’s to earn a decent living and our Elena’s to achieve a better work-life balance. Based on your reactions and my thinking, I would like to argue there is a need for a changing value system in our economy. This could be done in many ways. And luckily there are already real life examples to proof this is an ongoing development. In this blog I will show a few of them.

Let’s start with Robby. He has a range of experiences and qualities. He is motivated to work for all jobs that he endorses. Yet he usually ends up with work which is not or very badly paid. His…

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Take Back the Economy – 1. Reframing the economy, reframing ourselves

Inspired by the presentation of Katharine Gibson on Wednesday September 4 and her latest book book ‘Take Back the Economy: an ethical guide for transforming our communities’ (http://takebackeconomy.net/) Michelle Steggerda started her weblog on which she will post her reading of the book and her effort to take back the economy.

The social side of capital

In Dutch we have the famous proverb: keep business and private life separately. But what if you plea for community building on every academic congress, but don’t even know your own neighbours? Or the other way around, what if you are very proud of the newly installed solar panels on your roof, while you work 40 hours a week for a company that invests in polluting energy? Is there not something strange here? In the book take back the economy they say: “Reframing the economy means taking notice of all things we do to ensure the material functioning and well-being of our households, communities and nations.” That’s a nice quote where not a lot of people would disagree with. But how can we do this if the companies we work for are mainly concerned with making a profit? How can we change our economy if most influential people still mainly…

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VALUES IN PLACE – MSc Thesis opportunity on the role of values in sustainable places

At the rural Sociology Group we would like to do research on values, place and sustainability. Therefore we are looking for students who are interested in doing a MSc Thesis.

Place based approaches to sustainable development are increasingly favoured, assuming that place specificities really matter in the form of social, cultural and institutional characteristics. People shape places which is expressed in practices, relations, rules, symbols and place-identities. A central question is how human values play a role in place-shaping – aimed at sustainable development – and how to analyze and map values.

Values are not self-standing concepts which can be analysed as atomized issues, but intertwined, context determined, culturally varied and linked to how we see our self and how we perceive our environment. A value-driven perspective on sustainable place-shaping benefits dialogues based on people’s values and beliefs, and aims to provide a more in-depth insight in what people consider as worthwhile, feel responsible for and are willing to commit to in the context of their own place. This is relevant as we can see a trend towards forms of self-organisation, the ‘do-democracy’ and the participative society where people (are expected to) take responsibility for their own environment.

Our goal is to analyse how values are expressed in places, distinguishing between the following dimensions:
• The economic dimension: adding value to places;
• The intentional dimension: why people contribute to sustainable change in places
• The symbolic dimension: how people appreciate place and attach meanings to place
• The integral dimension: how cultural worldviews and levels of human behaviour play a role in place-shaping.
Does this make you curious and/or do you have an interest in this research theme, please contact Ina Horlings at: Lummina.Horlings@wur.nl

Kunst en lokale gemeenschappen

Community Art Lab XL en  academie/ laboratorium voor kunstjournalistiek Domein voor Kunstkritiek organiseren een masterclass Future Writing about Art & Local Communities i.s.m het kunstenaarscollectief PEERGROUP (Drente) en dansgroep DE DANSERS (Utrecht),  Het Dagblad van het Noorden en De Groene Amsterdammer. Ze zijn daarvoor op zoek naar:

1. Onderwijzers en pedagogen met interesse in kunst en cultuur
2. Cultuurmakelaars
3. Ambtenaren met een passie voor kunst en cultuur in lokale gemeenschappen
4. Experts op het gebied van voeding en leefwijzen, ontwikkelingen in de landbouw, planologie, biologie
5. Alumni en studenten van de Wageningen UR Continue reading

Politics of place making in urban farming – an essay

By Anke de Vrieze

Last trimester, I had the opportunity to join the Capita Selecta course `A Global Sense of Place´, taught by Joost Jongerden and Dirk Roep. From my current working experience in the field of urban agriculture, the subject of the course – place-based approaches for sustainable development- interested me and proved valuable. In the course, different approaches to ‘place’ were discussed and related to culture, politics, economics and leadership. As we were a small group of students, we met in a weekly reading group, to discuss the literature and our written assignments.

Personally, I was most inspired by the work of Doreen Massey. Her perspective on place and space is a relational one, as she describes places as ‘temporary constellations’ or ‘bundles of space-time trajectories’. In one of her articles, she connects this relational perspective to ‘geographies of responsibility’ and shows how the ‘global’ is embedded locally as well. Taking the example of the City of London, i.e. it’s financial district, she argues against generalised understandings of the local as a product of the global, and demonstrates that indeed much of what we call ‘the global’ stems from local areas, such as the City of London. This leads her to plea for alternative globalisations, based on ‘a challenge of place’. I think, Massey’s perspective can prove meaningful for anyone studying ‘place’, whether it be in urban or rural settings.

For the final essay, ‘Growing community? Urban agriculture in the context of place-based urban development’ of the course, I discussed the ‘politics of place-making’ in a case of urban farming. By drawing on the example of an neighbourhood-based urban agriculture project, I showed how the different perspectives on place, as employed by various actors involved, creates a dynamic fields of interests regarding the ability of UA to address urban issues, and to achieve sustainable community development. Based on this short analysis, I argued for the need of a relational perspective on place, taking into account place-frames and positionality of actors, in (future) cases of neighbourhood-based urban farming.

Anke de Vrieze, anthropologist and project coordinator of FARMING THE CITY (www.farmingthecity.net), contact: ftc@citiesthemagazine.com