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Imagining the future of Europe’s rural areas

BLOG – 27/04/2021
by Blanca Casares & Roxana Vilcu, AEIDL

At the end of March this year, the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD), in close cooperation with DG AGRI, organised the virtual event ‘Rural Vision Week: Imagining the future of Europe’s rural areas’. It was the first of its kind and hopefully it will become a yearly event.

This online yet interactive event attracted an impressive number of participants. Over 800 attendees registered to participate, varied types of stakeholders from across Europe and beyond, to actively contribute to the process of the Long-term vision for rural areas, launched by the European Commission.

“The Rural Vision Week was a really imaginative initiative. It worked well for us as a ‘mix zone’ for ideas between research, policy and practice. I look forward to contributing to the next edition of Rural Vision Week in 2022!”

David Miller, James Hutton Institute, SHERPA Partner

The event included high-level presentations and discussions, workshops, fringe events organised by different stakeholders and a virtual marketplace.

SHERPA was invited to participate and present at the Workshop 8 on “People, policy, practice -proofing and implementing a new rural reality”. The aim of this session was to explore and foster inclusive governance mechanisms that will provide rural communities with the resources and tools for realising their full potential.

Our colleague and partner, Louise Vestergård from Nordregio, delivered a short presentation to kick-start the group discussion on Rural Intelligence. The main messages focused on how rural intelligence is not just about data, but equally about people. And in this sense, SHERPA relies on a network of rural interfaces that are Multi-Actor Platforms (MAPs) implemented across Europe. Another key message spoke about the improvement of the data availability about rural communities to better inform the design of rural policies.

“This is an important prerequisite for developing place-based policies. The temporality of data should be improved and there is a need for a wider range of variables and indicators, for example, on wellbeing and quality of life.”

Louise Vestergård, Nordregio, SHERPA Partner

The presentation spurred discussions about quantitative data, about rural communities and qualitative data. A last point discussed was the need to raise awareness about the value of data, as reluctance is met from citizens and farmers in sharing data.

In addition to speaking at the workshop, SHERPA was present also at the Marketplace, having a virtual stall that presented the main results of the project achieved so far, specifically focusing on the SHERPA Position Paper contributing to the Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas. The virtual stall can still be visited by clicking here.

The Marketplace feature of the event gave a starting point to rural stakeholders, EU organisations, research projects and local communities to showcase their practices, results and present their views and contributions to the future rural vision.

“The Rural Vision Week was organised at a perfect time for our SHERPA project. In February, we published our contribution to the Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas, and the Rural Vision Week gave us the opportunity to share our results with the participants. As the event took place when we were planning our activities for 2021, the discussions have further inspired our future work. The Market Place was also a great initiative, it allowed us to make connections with other rural networks, inviting each other to future events.”

Olivier Chartier, Ecorys, Project Coordinator

The fringe events provided a space for various stakeholders and organisations to present their perspectives and messages within their own rural vision session, further engaging with participants and making meaningful connections between projects and initiatives.

As the SHERPA coordinator mentioned above, the event was organised at a high time for the future of rural areas, taking into account the development of the Commission Communication on the Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas to be published before summer 2021.

The Rural Vision Week was an excellent opportunity to get acquainted with a wealth of information and initiatives from across Europe, learn more about the different visions put forward and how they link to each other. The constraints of the pandemic much obliged to move this activity online, yet the organisers sought to give way to interactions and information exchange through the platforms chosen and the dynamic workshops and working sessions.

All presentations and materials of the event are available online on the ENRD website.

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