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30.2 Local policy formation in the context of rurality, remoteness and depopulation

5419.0114 (Kapteynborg)
Tuesday, June 27, 2023
11:00 - 12:30


Maarten Koreman
PhD researcher
TU Delft

‘Not our task.’ Stakeholders sense of responsibility to fulfilling the rural future dreams of young Dutch adults.


The formation of the right policies to guide the future of rural areas is widely debated in geography. Rural areas, and especially those close to cities, appear relatively often in the future dreams of young Dutch adults. However, they foresee some obstacles that may avert their dreams. This paper discusses how relevant stakeholders plan to deal with these obstacles and make use of this apparent enthusiasm about rural areas as residential locations. Focus groups and follow-up interviews with stakeholders in the regions of Zeeland and Noord-Brabant show what policies they think should be developed and who should be responsible for this. Stakeholders are aware of residential-related and career-related obstacles to fulfilling the rural future dreams of young adults. They argue for a range of policy options to remove these obstacles. But they point at each other when it comes to responsibility for action. The results of this paper show that this lack of willingness or ability to take responsibility makes it harder to unleash the potential of rural areas in the Netherlands.
Andrea Fulgenzi
Phd Candidate
Gran Sasso Science Institute

Learning in/from transformational failures: an agency perspective on transitions in left-behind places.


The theme of left-behindness is situated amidst lively debates reflecting its complex, multi-dimensional, and spatially-diverse nature. Related challenges often stress the necessity of improving mainstream regional development policy approaches, propose alternative conceptualisations to turn from innovation to transition policies, and attempt transferring success stories across institutional or geographical-economic contexts. Adopting an agency perspective that emphasises the role of local institutions and multilevel governance actors in these processes of regional transitions, the transformational failures framework allows to intersect issues of left-behindness and ‘grand societal challenges’ with slow-burning phenomena of adaptive inertia: peripheral areas, non-urban regions, and left-behind places are hence defined in terms of the (in)capacity of their regional development actors to create new growth paths. Policy learning processes are believed to act as contextual precondition for the emergence and patterning of transformative agency among such actors, for their potential for improving policymaking and supporting structural change. By analysing multi-stakeholder, long-term, and experimental policies in a pilot national-investment area in the Abruzzo region, Italy, the research assesses how local and regional institutions can design, evaluate, and learn from innovative policy instruments for stimulating transitions in left-behind places. Baseline results provide grounded insights to recontextualise transitions from and in left-behind places, unveiling local actors’ asymmetric positioning and uneven engagement with regional development policies, and analysing the lack of harmonisation across municipalities’ and territorial governance associations’ agendas.

Acknowledgement: preliminary version of the research presented at EU-SPRI ECC Ingenio (CSIC-UPV) “PhDays2023” conference in Valencia, Spain.
Dr. Milena Panić
Research Associate, Geographical Institute "Jovan Cvijić"
Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Approach used for policy formation in context of depopulation detection and mitigation – experience from Serbia


Depopulation process encompassing not only peripheral and rural parts in Serbia, but smaller urban centers as well, continuously spreading toward bigger urban areas. For this reason, the issue of depopulation has been identified and highlighted as a pressing national problem, requiring concrete solutions, approaches and actions, mostly through policy formation at all levels, from national to local. Thus, one of the implemented initiatives for the depopulation identification and its spatial expression, involved the formation of innovative approaches and solutions, which will not encompasses previously applied methodologies and the use of official statistical data. As a result, an interactive web platform was built, as sustainable framework, which allowed detection of depopulation process and monitoring of temporal and spatial disparities on territory of Serbia. Traditional data sources that are used to express quantitative changes of population indicators in Serbia, were combined with alternative sources and datasets (e.g. satellite images of nighttime lights, digital terrain model, GHS Population Grid datasets, etc.). According to the sub-issue that they primarily refers to, the 12 indicators set was created, which provided deeper understanding of the current situation, and possibility of envisioning future trends, as well. In accordance with that, the formed solution is valuable as a basis for the formation of official national documents and strategies, or as a source of accurate, precise and often attractive products that received their role in the media, education, further scientific research, etc.
Samuli Manu
MDI Public Oy

From dismantling to re-structuring rural communities


Urbanisation generates regional shrinkage, particularly impacting rural areas. Shrinkage is primarily indicated by population loss caused by a complex combination of economic, demographic and service-related issues (Grossmann et al. 2013). We focus here on shrinkage in relation to the processes and structures of the knowledge-intensive economy in rural Finland.

In the last decade the national development politics has focused on strengthening the national competitiveness and development activities have unintentionally reinforced the centralisation of the knowledge-intensive economy to urban areas. In addition, regional development in rural areas has seldom focused on knowledge-intensive fields of expertise. The phenomenon in rural context remains unrecognised.

The rise of remote work during the COVID-19 crisis raised expectations among rural developers as the knowledge-intensive economy was elevated to the forefront of Finnish rural policy, given widespread ad hoc adoption of remote work promoting location-independence. Despite political level interest, the rural knowledge-intensive economy phenomenon generated little academic debate.

The knowledge-intensive economy literature emphasises the importance of connectivity and networks. Our observations of current rural development activities shows that local development efforts aimed at enhancing knowledge intensive business activities focus on the development of local environments and existing businesses. The need to combine exogenous and endogenous development approaches remains underdeveloped. Both processes are however required to promote local level knowledge-based value creation in rural areas.

Development activities should not only be grounded in the local environment, institutions and communities, but also focus on strengthening the connection to external resources such as investments and human capital.

Session host

Matthias Kokorsch
Academic Director
University Centre Of The Westfjords

Josefina Syssner
Linkoping University



Contact for questions about abstracts or registration: groningen@congressbydesign.com 

Contact for questions about the content of the programme: ruralgeo2023@rug.nl