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The role of academia in the Rural Pact

BLOG – 26/06/2023
by Leneisja Jungsberg (Nordregio)

In 2021, the European Commission launched the Rural Pact, a framework for cooperation among authorities and stakeholders dealing with rural development at the European, national, regional and local level. On May 2023, Leneisja Jungsberg from Nordregio participated and intervened on behalf of the SHERPA project during the Rural Pact Conference, held in Sweden. In this blog post, she further reflects on the role that academic actors should take in supporting the roll-out of the Rural Pact.

Academia and research: a crucial role for the Rural Pact

The Rural Pact is an initiative launched by the European Commission to bolster the development of rural areas in Europe. One primary objective is to support local communities and stakeholders in their endeavors to address challenges faced by rural areas. Academia and research can play a crucial role in supporting the Rural Pact. The research framework is often designed to involve citizens, civil society, the local public sector, and various living labs and multi-actor platforms.

Leveraging these established mechanisms, academia can contribute to the Rural Pact in the following ways:

  • Knowledge Generation: academia can conduct research studies and generate knowledge on rural development, identifying key challenges, opportunities, and best practices. This research can provide valuable insights for designing effective policies and interventions under the Rural Pact.
  • Data and Analysis: academia can contribute by providing access to relevant data sets, conducting data analysis, and utilizing advanced analytical techniques to assess the impact of rural development initiatives. This can help policymakers make evidence-based decisions and evaluate the effectiveness of the Rural Pact programs.
  • Collaboration and Partnerships: academia can actively collaborate with local communities, stakeholders, and policymakers to co-create knowledge and solutions. By engaging in participatory research and fostering partnerships, academia can ensure that the Rural Pact is aligned with the needs and aspirations of rural areas.
  • Dissemination and Capacity Building: researchers can play a role in disseminating research findings, best practices, and innovative approaches through publications, conferences, workshops, and training programs. This can contribute to building the capacity of rural communities, policymakers, and practitioners to effectively implement the Rural Pact.

SHERPA: paving the way for academic contribution in multi-actor platforms

The SHERPA project  has contributed to the general formulation of policies relevant to rural areas. One key activy of the SHERPA project has been the establishment of 41 multi-actor platforms to create science-society-policy interfaces across Europe. Academic and research actors are one of the three typologies of actors involved in these platforms.

Multi-actor platforms have the potential to foster collective decision-making, encourage stakeholder involvement, and enhance the effectiveness of rural development initiatives. Furthermore, the multi-actor platform model employed by the SHERPA project holds potential as an inspiring tool for Local Action Groups and a potential asset for the Rural Pact.

Rural Pact as a sustainability strategy of the SHERPA multi-actor platforms?

To assess the viability of continuing this work, the SHERPA project conducted a motivation assessment among the members of the multi-actor platforms. The results have been encouraging, with 80% of participants expressing their intention to  continue the activities. However, it is evident that specific resources are required to ensure smooth facilitation, adequate preparation for thematic discussions, processing of outputs, and provision of suitable meeting venues.

The continuation of their activities could contribute to the Rural Pact. It is crucial to acknowledge that the effectiveness of the Rural Pact hinges on rural actors receiving adequate funding to carry out their work. However, bureaucratic hurdles and excessive administrative procedures can pose significant barriers to accessing funding, particularly for smaller or less established organizations. To genuinely support local actors and foster inclusive growth, it is imperative to streamline and simplify the process of accessing grants and funding.

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