The 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.
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
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