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.
Nordregio researcher offers insight on multi-locality at ESPON event
On 17 March 2022, Nordregio Senior Research Advisor Linda Randall took part in the ESPON Peer Learning Workshop on Housing and Multi-locationality. Senior Research Advisor Linda Randall took part in a session called “Urbanisation patterns before and during the Covid-19 outbreak” with a presentation titled “Distance work: What will be the regional effects?”. It reflected on the early findings of a Nordic project that explores the long-term implications of increased distance work for cities, regions, and rural areas. How will mobility and migration patterns change? Will we see more workers making the shift to multilocal lifestyles? How should planners respond when the nature of potential changes is so uncertain? The event took place online and gathered experts from different research areas affected by multi-locality and the past two years’ changes. The ESPON Peer Learning Workshop aimed to give insight into the current policy processes targeted to the context of smaller cities in regions and combines these discussions with the presentation of results of the ESPON project SUPER, which analysed the main patterns in European urbanisation processes.
Nordic City Network seminar for stronger cooperation and project planning
Nordregio hosted a Nordic City Network seminar. The hybrid workshop aimed to strengthen the cooperation between the network’s thirteen-member cities from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the Faroe Islands. The event also sought to identify common themes of interest as a basis for joint activities and projects. Nordregio has had a cooperation agreement with the Nordic City Network for almost a year. This collaboration aims to promote exchange between research, policy development, and practice towards more sustainable cities. “As the main takeaway from the event, we identified common interests in themes such as counteracting segregation and better understanding the effects of different levels of planning as well as the importance of carrying out Nordic comparisons. Overall, there is plenty of potential for fruitful collaboration with the network while the exact form of how this could take place still needs to be concretised”, – says Mats Stjernberg, Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio who is also Nordregio’s representative in Nordic City Network’s board. During the workshop, representatives from Nordregio presented how the institution conducts research and works with different types of projects. The main presentations focused on long-term planning for inclusive cities, national claims in spatial planning, the implications of segregation in the light of covid-19, as well as on the ongoing NORDGREEN and TGA2 projects and different ways that we collaborate with various stakeholders. –> Read more about Nordic City Network here.
NORDGREEN citizen science approaches at the Norwegian conference
Nordregio Junior Research Fellow Diana N. Huynh is participating in the “Citizen science in Norway” conference, presenting the NORDGREEN project. The presentation focuses on the Public Participation Geographic Information Systems (PPGIS) survey conducted in Stavanger, Norway, one of NORDGREEN’s city partners, and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU). The survey’s purpose is to gather information about people’s green space usage and ideas for the future that will shed light on how these spaces can support the health and well-being of local communities. “It is great to share the ongoing work in the NORDGREEN project knowing that it has relevance in several contexts,” says Diana Huynh. The event is hosted by the Research Council of Norway and is the first to explore opportunities to expand a national network on citizen science. In recent years, citizen science has gained traction in research as a scientific method for collecting data in large quantities and informing decision-making processes. “For instance, the EU has emphasized the role of citizen science in its new Horizon Europe framework, reflecting that this is also a way to enable citizens to use collected data to influence policies and local and regional planning processes,” adds Huynh. Find more about the event here. Explore the Nordgreen project website here.
“Country Road, Take Me Home? – Nordic Sustainable Economy”: New podcast with Nordregio Researchers
Nordregio Researcher Director Karen Refsgaard and Research Fellow Alberto Giacometti talked in a podcast organised by the Nordic Council of Ministers’ office in Estonia. The discussion tried to identify whether the urbanisation trend may be reaching a tipping point as new opportunities for rural areas arise from the increasingly flexible labour markets and the transition towards the green economy. With the rural population in steady decline, politicians and public administrations are grappling with making rural areas more attractive places for people to live and work. But is that even something we need to be doing? The new podcast focuses on the plusses and minuses of living in the countryside and debates whether urbanisation is a problem that needs solving. “Among other issues, one argument discussed was that being rich in biological resources, rural areas can play an important role in driving the green transition. However, the need for close collaboration amongst local actors and effective policy was highlighted as key conditions to enable value creation in rural areas. Otherwise, we will reinforce the existing urban-rural dynamics, where rural areas are mere primary producers whilst added value occurs in processing plants at the urban fringe and retail companies typically based in cities,” says Alberto Giacometti, who specialises in regional development, governance and planning processes. Although many romanticise the idea of living in rural areas, many challenges stop people from taking the initiative. “One of the biggest concerns for young people is whether there will be a job and a steady income,” said a pod guest, Tanel Tang, a young Estonian entrepreneur who recently moved to rural areas and started an organic egg farm. According to Tanel, another challenge to move to rural areas is that “you need to be wealthier than the average person because you need to renovate an old…