Two intensive days at the OECD Rural Development Conference in Cavan, Ireland came to an end yesterday. Agust and Karen represented SHERPA partner Nordregio at the conference which this year was themed Building Sustainable, Resilient and Thriving Rural Places. While Karen moderated a session on strategies to empower, attract and keep youth in rural areas, Agust presented results from the remote work project as well as participating in discussions on the subject in a session about digitalisation of working and the opportunities it can entail for rural communities.
The key messages from the youth session were that in order to make good sound decisions and investments youth needs to be included in the decision-making, both in the private and public sectors. For this to be possible youth needs to be empowered and in order to create entrepreneurship and jobs education provision needs to be matched in rural areas with local businesses/industries. Discussions on building pride and capacity among local youth the urban and rural norm must be dispelled through exchanges, visits, story boards.
The remote work session provided remote rural work perspectives from the Nordics as a whole, Canada, Finland, Ireland and the UK. The key messages were that remote work is a new reality that will not fade away along with restrictions caused by the pandemic, but it is also a fact that remote work is only beneficial for certain sectors and not all regions and rural areas can benefit from this. Although the opportunities are generally seen as outweighing the challenges, increased remote work also has some side effects that pose challenges for smaller communities, mainly related to increased housing costs and increased pressure on infrastructure.
All in all, the OECD event well organised together with the New Ministry for Rural Affairs being the host was a very inspiring and fruitful gathering which Nordregio can be proud to be invited to participate in. It gives us an opportunity to present our work for a very diverse group of people since it included ministers, senior officials, policy makers, researchers and other stakeholders from high level international institutions and from places beyond Europe, for example Colombia, USA, S-Korea, Brazil, Turkey and Canada. Within Europe especially the North with Scotland, Sweden, Finland, Slovenia, Austria, Latvia, Romania, Germany and many more did bring in many inspiring perspective.
Likewise, it is healthy to hear perspectives on rural matters from places that Nordregio does not normally work with. Although the challenges they are facing are more often than not the same, the context and perspective can be quite different.