Nordregio celebrates its 25th anniversary
On 15 June, Nordregio gathered the Nordic family and friends from the world of urban planning and regional development to celebrate its 25th Anniversary. More than 100 guests were happy to meet physically and mingle in sunny Hörsalen, Nordregio’s classical meeting hall. The feeling of revival post-Covid was very present as we listened to greetings from Swedish Ministers for Regional development and Nordic collaboration, encouraging us to keep up our work for more research-based policymaking and Nordic knowledge exchange. Filmed on tour by bike, Nordic Council of Ministers’ Secretary-General Paula Lehtomäki emphasized our important role in researching solutions for a more effective and just green transition in line with the Nordic Vision 2030. Live speakers included Katarina Fellman, board member and Director of Åsub/Statistics Åland, and three of our Senior Research Fellows (Mats Stjernberg, Anna Lundgren and Elin Slätmo) looking back to 1997 and gazing into the future of regional studies – urban and rural. This was followed by a very interactive map quiz session hosted by our Head of GIS, Thomas Jensen. Clearly, the world has changed quite a bit since 1997. Katarina Fellman recalled some hard work done to deliver the new institute in parallel with her first baby and said that growth and development had been impressive with both parties. Nordregio has moved from a limited team focusing on spatial planning systems and regional governance to a full house of 48 employees, covering all aspects of sustainable regional development and planning: green transition, social and digital inclusion, and economic competitiveness. Skills provision and green value creation in rural regions are emerging topics, as well as digital solutions for healthcare and care. At the same time, our urban areas strive to be healthier and more inclusive. Future solutions must be green, smart, and place-based, continuously developed in dialogue…
How developments on agricultural land are threatening food self-sufficiency: Nordregio researcher on the radio
Dr. Elin Slätmo, Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio, participated in the Swedish radio program to talk about soil sealing and how new developments on agricultural land are a threat to food self-sufficiency. What can be done to avoid this? ”As humans, we have located ourselves close to the water and good soils for food production. This means that when cities expand, they tend to do that on fertile soils. Sweden has legislation to hinder housing on agricultural land, but it still constantly happens that municipalities decide to allow for building on agricultural lands, as other land uses tend to be prioritized in spatial planning. From the logic of the housing developers, soils are attractive to build houses on compared to, for instance, old industrial grounds, as it is usually only one owner to negotiate with, the land is flat and not contaminated,” says Dr. Slätmo. According to the researcher, there are several solutions that municipal and regional planners can work with: plan and develop compact and higher cities, develop them on already hard surfaces such as parking lots or old industrial grounds. It is also important to clearly motivate the decisions for housing locations, so they can be assessed with long-term perspectives. Dr. Slätmo says that we need to raise the awareness that it takes around 1000 years to create good soil and that it is the fundament for food production. Listen to the radio program in Swedish here.
Ministers: “It’s important that people have access to key services wherever they live. “
What’s required for Nordic rural areas to be attractive places to live, settle and work in? The Nordic ministers responsible for regional policy want to know how young people in sparsely populated areas would answer that question. At the Minister’s meeting on the 10th of May, Nordregio’s two research projects were discussed: essential services in rural areas and remote work. The ministers reviewed new innovative solutions that are emerging around the Nordic Region to safeguard essential services in sparsely populated areas. At the meeting, the ministers also brought with them examples from their countries on new ways of safeguarding the public and private services, thereby increasing public confidence that it’s possible to invest, live, and work in sparsely populated areas. “It’s important that people have access to key services wherever they live. Throughout the Nordic Region, we’re seeing interesting examples of grouping services into service points and that new digital services are making everyday life easier for rural residents. It gives people security and is a prerequisite for them to be able to live wherever they want,” says Sigbjørn Gjelsvik, Norway’s Minister of Local Government and Regional Development and host of the Nordic ministerial meeting on 10 May. The distance to the nearest grocery store, pharmacy, library, or school gradually increases the closer you live to the northern borders of Sweden and Finland, and the further west from Copenhagen you live in Denmark. In Norway, the geographical patterns aren’t as clear, but even here there are large differences between the municipalities in sparsely populated areas and large cities. A new knowledge overview Essential rural services in the Nordic Region by Nordregio describes the fundamental need for services in rural areas in the Nordic Region and was the basis for the ministers’ discussion. Swedish service points and Danish education for…
Nordic Talks: The rural way
When Covid-19 hit countries with lockdowns and foreign travel restrictions, rural areas suddenly got overwhelmed with visitors who overpowered the infrastructure. On the other side, people got more open-minded about rural living, more aware of the potential mental and physical health benefits, as well as more sustainable lifestyles. All these changes and benefits were discussed in the newest Nordic Talks podcast hosted by Nordregio, CoDel and the University of Limerick. Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio and head of the Nordic Thematic Group on Green Inclusive Rural Regional Development Anna Karlsdóttir, together with other researchers from Scotland and Ireland, shared her insights on how rural communities in the Nordics and around the world turned the Covid-19 crisis into an opportunity. According to Karlsdóttir, rural and remote areas have received much more interest as touristic places which could be both advantages and disadvantages for the locals. “Sustainable tourism development needs to balance between being a good place to live for inhabitants and a good place to visit. It is hard to connect sustainable well-balanced community development with the well-being of the inhabitants along with the tourism development,” says the researcher. Speakers also discussed how we can develop thriving, but still sustainable rural areas over the coming decades. This Nordic Talks event was organized by the University of Limerick in Ireland, Nordregio in Sweden, and CoDel in the United Kingdom.
UppTalk 29 March: Local communities need local energy production
There is a need to promote locally-owned energy projects in Sweden. The EU emphasizes this as a key to the sustainable energy transition. In this week’s UppTalk, Johanna Liljenfeldt (Uppsala University) and Elin Slätmo (Nordregio) will talk about how to increase successful local ownership of energy by sharing knowledge, and studying opportunities, risks and the values of local energy ownership for local communities across Sweden. The session in UppTalk is based on the project Local ownership in transitions towards sustainable energy systems (Lokalt ägandeskap i omställning till hållbara energisystem), funded by the Swedish Energy Agency (Energimyndigheten). UppTalk Weekly is a popular science seminar series by Uppsala University. It takes place on Zoom where you can take part in interesting conversations. UppTalk 29 March at 12-12.30 (CET), in Swedish. Join here: https://www.upptech.uu.se/kalendarium/evenemang/?eventId=69964 Visit project website: https://nordregioprojects.org/locally-owned-energy/
Leneisja Jungsberg, Nordregio Research Fellow, defends Ph.D thesis
On 11 March 2022, Nordregio Research Fellow Leneisja Jungsberg has succesfully defended her Ph.D thesis at the University of Copenhagen. The thesis, a result of five years of work and research, focuses on how local strategies can create local development in rural areas in Nordic and Arctic regions, zooming in on sustainability in three areas: the economic, social and environmental. Among the topics analysed are community-driven social innovation, local smart specialisation processes and the adaptive capacity to manage permafrost thaw in Northwest Greenland. “The most exciting about the research is that it shows the enablers of the local level to manage social challenges, economic challenges, and environmental challenges. The enablers can be new activities and collaboration models that generate, e.g., a social innovation initiative. However, it can also be community members helping each other out mending structural damages to houses due to permafrost degradation,” says Jungsberg. “Rural communities responding to territorial challenges in the Nordic Region” is an industrial PhD study, financed by Nordregio, Copenhagen University, Nordic thematic group for demography and welfare, Northern Periphery and Arctic programme – REGINA and Horizon 2020 Nunataryuk project.