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33.1 Making space for and with rural youth – well-being, belonging and participation of youth in rural areas

Thursday, June 29, 2023
9:00 - 10:30


Maria Carla Lostrangio
European Association For Innovation In Local Development

Re-attracting youth to the mountains: climbing up the political agendas


A vast majority of mountains areas across Europe suffer from alarming rate of brain drain. 2 out of 3 mountain youth would like to remain their regions, but they leave because of the lack of studying and job opportunities and limited essential services. The year 2022 was declared as European Year of Youth by the European Commission. In conjunction with this flagship initiative, several mountain organisations have launched a new attention to youth in the mountains: from publishing new studies on the needs and wishes of youth in mountains (e.g. Euromontana’s youth study, Giovani Dentro), to consulting youth and supporting youth engagement in mountain policy (e.g. Officina Giovani Aree Interne, Trans Pyrenean Youth Forum) and integrating youth into existing governance structures (e.g. EUSALP and Interreg ALCOTRA Youth Councils). This presentation reviews existing initiatives to integrate youth voice and participation into regional, national, interregional and European mountain policy-making through critical lenses, and it develops some early conclusions on the lessons learned from examined cases. Even though, the study shows a raising attempt to make youth voices heard and make them authors of mountain transformation into more attractive and livable places, this promising trend is mostly voluntarily based and have just started so it is difficult to predict how it could evolve in the future.
Henk Hofstede
University of Groningen

How to deal with a rural identity? Future horizons of Dutch and German students living in rural areas


This paper presents insight into how rural young adults in the rural areas of Oost-Groningen, The Netherlands, and Südharz, Germany, deal with their rural identity with regard to different future horizons. The paper applies future horizons instead of intended future plans to emphasize the open and uncertain nature of young adults’ aspired future. Based on 15 biographical interviews and a survey to geographically contextualize these interviews, the results show how rural young adults can have parallel future horizons to maintain several options open in which they can preserve a rural identity. It illustrates how rural young adults compromise a rural identity with aspirations elsewhere in a staying or rural horizon elsewhere. In addition, the results show how they deal with rural identities by further internalizing and externalizing their rural identities with variations of embracing aspects of a rural identity with regard to different future horizons. This paper concludes that young adults can be considered, however also out of uncertainty about the future, as active participants of their future who apply parallel and temporal horizons and still preserve a rural identity.
Dr. Mireia Baylina
Senior Lecturer
Autonomous University of Barcelona

Emotional geographies of children in postcovid rurality (Catalonia, Spain)


In the post-pandemic context, some rural schools in Catalonia (Spain) show an increase in pupils, which corresponds to back-to-the-land movements of urban families with school-age children. Families say they are attracted by "the natural environment, the freedom, the possibility to spend more time with the family, the autonomy that children acquire, the mutual help between families and the tranquility", discourses that are in tune with the traditional 'rural childhood idyll'. In this paper we explore post-covid rural childhoods through children's relationship with their spaces of reference. Specifically, we want to delve into the emotional geographies of children with the places they use in their daily lives.
Using a qualitative methodology with Relief Maps, children between 9 to 12 years old from four rural schools in Catalonia express their emotions in relation to their experiences in these places. By linking the psychological, geographical, and social (gender) dimensions, the children become individually aware of the subjectivities that the movement through different spaces provokes in them. The research highlights the depth of the lived experience, brings out controversial feelings and unique spaces. The voice of the children themselves can be a mirror in which to reflect the discourses of the new residents nowadays.

Session host

Britta Restemeyer
University of Groningen

Elen-Maarja Trell
Assistant Professor
University of Groningen

Agenda Item Image
Gwenda van der Vaart
Assistant Professor
University of Groningen



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

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