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24.2 Shaping rural transition: How to empower local communities?

Tuesday, June 27, 2023
11:00 - 12:30


Prof. Dr. Andreas Koch
University of Salzburg

Locality and Independency matter in Empowering Local Communities


Rural regions and communities are pretty often conceived as spaces that should or have to provide goods and services that urban spaces are less able or willing to produce, such as food, energy or housing facilities. Furthermore, they are perceived as less innovative, creative or progressive even though urban regions' social, economic and ecological challenges urge innovative approaches to cope with climate change crises, social inequalities and global value chain problems. From this point of view, the contribution argues for emancipation from the urban-centric view, strengthening the collective equity of relations and a relational spatial approach that supplements the prevailing territorial space concept. It does so by exploring the circumstances in which people in rural peripheries help realize their local community capabilities for a decent life from their perspectives. Plurality and diversity of needs, aspirations and wants are considered axiomatic fundament. Within the theoretical context of spatial planning and regional policy approaches, the paper promotes both a relational geographical thinking that rejects 'forms of spatial totality' and a relational sociological thinking that explicates singularity, reciprocity and communality as relevant ingredients in empowering local communities. Decentralization is considered a general key issue. Two examples from Northern Sweden illustrate these emancipation potentials empirically. One example illustrates the successful establishment of self-organization and cooperatives in education and tourism. The other example outlines the problems of sustainably offering local eHealth technologies as a substitute for the traditional care infrastructure in tiny and demographically shrinking villages.
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Diogo Miguel Pinto
Phd Student
University of Porto

Evaluation of the receptivity of the rural communities in the Alto Tâmega Region to the "Village Condominium" program


After the extreme fires of 2017 in Portugal, several government programs were created, including the "Village Condominium - Integrated Program to Support Villages located in Forest Territories" in 2020. Derived from the Portuguese Landscape Transformation Program (LTP), this is a support program for villages located in vulnerable forest areas, which is implemented through management, planning and forest reconversion actions with the goal to increase the resilience of these areas, thus ensuring the safety of the population, property and biodiversity with regard to rural fires, especially in an area of at least 100 meters around the settlements.
The primary objective of this work is to assess the receptivity of rural communities in the Alto Tâmega region to the "Village Condominium" program. For this purpose, we based the research on qualitative analysis of data emanated from surveys, interviews and visits to the four villages of this region that had this program implemented.
The Village Condominium program is considered to lessen the burden of the fuel management on landowners by supporting the change in land use for agricultural or agroforestry purposes, and contributing to the promotion of the local economy, biodiversity, and the protection of built-up areas in wildland-urban interface.
From this diagnosis, it is proposed a set of recommendations to support the adequation of this program to the local context with the aim to assist the acceptance of the communities.
Nika Lindhout
Phd Researcher
University of Groningen

Participatory Land Consolidation and the Development of a Shared Spatial Vision


Rural territories are being confronted with a variety of complex and urgent land-use challenges, which are often interrelated. As a result, a sentiment has been growing in the planning discipline that a strategic spatial planning approach is required to be able to effectively develop sustainable rural landscapes. Strategic spatial planning is understood here as a transformative and integrative socio-spatial process through which a vision, coherent actions and means for implementation are produced that shape and frame what a place is and might become. Therefore, having a shared understanding of the current situation and a possible future can empower local communities by identifying strategic action within long-term perspectives. Land consolidation can be classified as a strategic spatial planning instrument that can be used to deal with a number of land-use challenges in an integrated manner. The aim of this paper is therefore to study how a shared spatial vision develops during a participatory land consolidation project and how this may empower the local community and other stakeholders. The research takes a longitudinal case study approach, qualitatively studying a participatory land consolidation project in the Netherlands. Results will give insights into how and under which conditions shared understanding develops and, therefore, how consensus in spatial decision-making processes about the transition towards sustainable rural landscapes may be reached more effectively.
Philipp Heuer
University of Oldenburg

Governing rural transitions towards sustainability – Where are we today? Where should we aim?


The presentation addresses spatial impacts of rural transitions towards sustainability and examines current coping approaches in Northwest Germany. The key question is how formal and informal instruments of regional and spatial planning are jointly used so far and if they are adequately used to address the most urgent threats.
Initially, the spatial implication of socio-ecological transition regarding rural areas will be presented, covering an overview of the vulnerability and exposure to different threats and the effects on land use and demand for land.
Subsequently, the current planning and adopting practises will be presented, emphasizing on its effects in shaping and supporting transitions towards sustainability. This will introduce the German traditional regulatory planning approaches, which favour reliability over flexibility, and respective problems regarding the adaptation to new trends, dynamic developments and dealing with uncertainty.
Based on this, the recent rise of governance-based practices regarding rural development and the influence of EU funding and especially LEADER will be discussed. The key findings will show the different topics, approaches, and guiding principles in existing regional development concepts in the research area.
An overall synopsis will show how well the approaches are geared to each other and if they are used to jointly and ancillary addressing the most urgent threats.

Session host

Peter Schaal
University of Oldenburg



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

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