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07.2 Community based research. Outcomes and impact in transitioning rural regions

5419.0114 (Kapteynborg)
Tuesday, June 27, 2023
15:45 - 17:15


David Spenger
FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg

The quest for a new research ethos in participatory research with migrants in rural areas


Based on experiences in conducting participatory oriented research projects, focusing on vulnerable groups such as refugees, we argue for a research design that anticipates the limitations of participatory research in rural areas. The overall intention is to involve the diversity of local practitioners, e.g. professionals and volunteers as well as the population concerned, while academics should enter into a process of co-learning with local communities (Snjider et al. 2020).
While participatory research very much relies on physical co-presence of participants, large distances often exist in rural areas and need to be overcome - a time consuming and expensive matter. Similarly, with regard to time, established practices, such as commuting and a limited amount of working hours per week and limited project duration, have a negative effect on participant’s time sovereignty.
For the co-creation of knowledge, the participation of various groups of local communities is crucial. However, some groups often draw on their establishment privileges and therefore access respective formats and localities easily. In order to include voices of those seldom heard or vulnerable groups, it is important to understand their life-worlds and accordingly address their preconditions for participation.
Finally, an expectation management of potential outcomes has to be communicated, especially if participants do not have experiences in collaborating with researchers: while building up networks that bring together various people, sensitizing for emerging topics and reducing power imbalances is rather easy to fulfil, implementation measures, in contrast, are much more difficult to realize and challenge sustainability.
Dr. Hanneke Pot
Senior Researcher
Hanze UAS

Reflections on a collaborative effort between engineering, social science, and residents in an seismic strengthening experiment


Groningen faces enormous challenges because of earthquakes and soil subsidence caused by decades of gas mining. Continuous soil movements cause damage to houses, and negatively affect the experienced livability, in particular residents’ mental health, and the social cohesion within communities and society. Due to poor governance a second order crisis has emerged; many residents who are in processes of house strengthening and damage repairs are stuck in a system in which bureaucracy and legal aspects dominate. Recently, community participation has become more prominent in developing solutions to restore the livability.
In this paper we reflect on the various roles of applied researchers from engineering and social science in the context of a citizen-participation experiment in the village of Krewerd. Our planned roles were providing technical expertise to develop and coordinate a revolutionary different way of preparing seismic strengthening plans for houses and to evaluate the effects on residents’ resilience. Organically, we also developed a close collaboration between disciplines in which we established ways to strengthen each other’s work. Unexpectedly, we also provided psychological aid, leveraged with the government on behalf of the residents, played a signaling role to the benefit of the village cooperative, and provided input for other participation trajectories related to the strengthening operation.
Our paper shows the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration between engineering and social science in relation to a challenging problem such as this, and the need for continuous critical reflection on the various roles of applied researchers in participation trajectories within a complex institutional landscape.
Shiyu Huang
Faculty Of Spatial Science
University of Groningen

Arts as a diverse and dynamic process playing a role in rural development


The role of art in European rural communities has been regarded as enhancing resilience, identity, and multi-governance, and most studied on the artists in residency and arts festival of a single case (Crawshaw, 2019; Mahon, 2019). However, its function is less powerful than imagined (Bell, 2010). Arts-led rural development projects in China show the exciting potential to expand and diversify the role of arts in rural areas. This research is based on an analysis of news reports and literature, as well as participatory observation and interviews of typical cases.

Firstly, we classify cases into three dominant modes according to the situation in 2018: Artist Mode, Arts Festival Mode, and Arts Village Mode. The Artist Mode is initiated and led by a particular artist or a group of artists and tries to achieve cultural value. The Arts Festival Mode is led by a combination of artists, firms, and local government, and focuses on boosting cultural entrepreneurship. The Arts Village Mode is dominated by local government and artistic firms, aiming to create an artistic image for the village through physical transformations, creative industry, and daily life. Upon further research, one of the three modes sometimes overlaps with others, or one mode develops into another by adjusting the targets and practices. That means the role of arts in rural areas can differ and provide various possibilities to form a dynamic rural development process. Therefore, we advise practitioners to consider the fitting arts approaches to react to diverse and changing realities and visions.
Leon Jank
research associate
Technical University Dresden

The Erzgebirge. Transformative place-making with-in a region.


In his collection of essays, The Practice of the Wild, poet and environmental activist Gary Snyder argues that “one's sense of the scale of a place expands as one learns the region”. In this statement he makes two points which are highly relevant for planning contexts. The first one is that there is a need to re-link regions to the discourse of place. What seems self-evident for cities or neighborhoods and leads to a relational understanding of actors, resources and infrastructures, often stays blurry and schematic on the regional level. The second point addresses the process of learning. There is little knowledge of how to instigate participatory processes for a socio-ecological transformation on a regional scale. By bringing together the concept of place and transformative learning, a form of transformative regional place-making as a collective knowledge gathering process can evolve.
The paper will present insights and findings from the ongoing co-creative process in Germany. Out of an academic critical cartography seminar, different thematic regional mappings as an atlas and a mobile exhibition-system are building the base for different dialogic formats in the region together with different actor groups – from hiking to playing. The urban planning department of the Technical University Dresden initiated this dialogic process within the Erzgebirge, a mountainous region on the border with Czech Republic. The region has been and is currently again undergoing a multifaceted transformation process (extractivism, climate change, tourism, production shifts) and is being portrayed as structurally suspended with politically problematic right-wing tendencies.
Dr. Sigrid Kroismayr
Vienna University Of Economics And Business

Methodological challenges of a transformative research design


The TRANSREAL project focuses on the connection between visionary/transformative targets with pragmatic/incremental measures in order to enable effective climate actions. In specifying our research interest, we investigate the spatial structure of unsustainable land use and land consumption, which are perceived as one of the key drivers of the climate crises and loss of biodiversity. As empirical showcases we selected two rural municipalities, St. Johann in Tyrol and Pöllau in Styria (Austria).
First, we conducted one workshop in each municipality to identify the most urgent issues with key stakeholders in both regions/municipalites. Second, we organised a visioning workshop where decision makers on the one hand, young people on the other, brought forward forward their ideas in order to imagine both, pragmatic steps and radical changes to improve climate-friendly living conditions in the region/municipality. In the third workshop, participants of the workshops continue to work on their ideas and try to translate them into concrete calls for transformative action.
The talk will reflect on the following questions:
• To what extent do institutional logics of the project team (university, federal institution, activist association) influence the design and outcomes in the workshops?
• How can “visions” of climate-friendly living conditions be generated?
• What role does the function/position of the participants play in the production of results?
• How does one deal with existing hierarchies?
• How can committed people on the ground be supported in their concerns?

Session host

Elles Bulder
Hanze University of Applied Sciences

Korrie Melis
HAN University of Applied Sciences



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

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