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State of the Nordic Region 2020 -Wellbeing, health and digitalisation

This Special Edition aims to complement State of the Nordic Region 2020 by taking an in-depth look at some of the factors that contribute to wellbeing and health in the Nordic Region, and exploring how digitalisation in health care and social care can contribute to wellbeing. The theme of the report connects to the Nordic vision to become the most sustainable and integrated region in the world. This will be achieved by, among other things, promoting a socially sustainable Nordic Region which is inclusive, equal and interconnected with shared values and strengthened cultural exchange and welfare. National statistics and international comparisons provide an overview of how the countries are performing on different indicators relating tohealth and wellbeing. In order to learn more about wellbeing in different parts of the Nordic Region, we have also zoomed in on the regional and local levels. The report illustrates the central role of demography, whereby the composition and the spatial patterns of the population together with socioeconomic factors contribute to shaping the living conditions and wellbeing in different parts of the Nordic Region. Although life expectancy is increasing, the loss of healthy years due to non-communicable diseases and poor health-related behaviours remain obstacles to further improvement of health and wellbeing. Socio-economic factors such as education, employment and income have important roles to play as regards health and well being. Despite a general pattern of urban regions being richer, more well educated and living longer, we also find many thriving rural areas attracting new young residents. Digital infrastructure plays a crucial role in the development of those rural areas, and digitalisation in health care and social care also holds a promise of increasing equal accessibility to welfare services in rural and remote areas. A prerequisite for this is however to secure internet access to all…

Synergies between Nordic studies on resilience, digitalisation, smart specialisation and skills development

Regional (economic and social) resilience determines how capable the regional economies are to cope with change (negative or positive shocks or stress) and continue to develop. Regional resilience is achieved through regional actions that turn global perspectives into strengths and opportunities. Generally speaking, regional resilience is adesirable place to be in, and this should be supported by all different policies and regional actions. Rather than being and end result, regional resilience should be seen as a continuous effort of addressing and adapting to global trends and other developments that may threaten the economy and social wellbeing. Global drivers such as demographic trends and industrial changes, sustainable development, and green transition, need to be met in Nordic regions through place-based actions. Smart specialisation strategies, skills development, and actions supporting the digital transition are examples of place-based actions that strengthen regional resilience. This dynamic state of being reflects the Nordic Vision 2030 of a green, competitive and socially sustainable Nordic region. In addition to synergies between the major themes, the study also revealed topics of high common relevance for all themes of the TG2 work. These relate to the importance of bridging across governance levels and sectors and finding new models for leadership and engagement. This section explores the more general regional development measures needed to support the development towards innovative and resilient regions.

Transport for Regional Integration – Insights from three Nordic cross-border regions

Acknowledging that cross-border transport infrastructure is paramount for the Nordic Region to reach the vision of becoming the most sustainable and integrated region by 2030 (Nordic Council of Ministers, 2020), this report discusses the challenges of planning and developing transport connections across national borders.  It draws on the outcome of studies of transport infrastructure in three cross border areas. The first case study discusses what could be the effects of the introduction of faster train service on the urban development of small and medium-sized (SMS) cities located along the Oslo -Stockholm corridor (Grunfelder et al., 2019). The second analyses the impact of the ferry link between Umeå and Vaasa has in the cross-border cooperation and integration of the Kvarken region (Stjernberg and Sigurjónsdóttir, 2020). The third explores the planning challenges and opportunities resulted from the different transit-oriented development strategies employed by four SMS-cities from Sweden and Denmark to handle their engagement in the railway system of Great Copenhagen Region (Grunfelder et al., 2020). The report concludes outlining the role of Nordic institutions to facilitate the work of the national transport authorities. Commission studies that investigate the value of cross-border links for the development of the countries and create forums to mediate discussions between stakeholders from different governance levels, are pinpointed as mean to overcoming obstacles and improving the integration of the Nordic Region.

Local smart specialisation: An approach to increasing preparedness in rural communities with resource-based industries in the Northern Periphery

A common challenge for Northern communities is how to retain a local benefit from resource-based industries. This study assesses the process of developing a local smart specialisation strategy in two municipalities, Storumanand Sodankylä, both located in the Northern Periphery. The assessment framework applied is based on the concept of ‘strategic dimensions’(Healey, 2009), along with a qualitative set of process and outcome criteria(Innes and Booher, 1999). Our assessment of the strategic process indicates that all dimensions required for strategic planning were represented within it, but that they were mostly responsive rather than transformative in character. When comparing results from process criteria and outcome criteria, the process criteria score significantly higher. The strategic process engaged social networks and involved local stakeholders in discussion and joint prioritisation. According to the participating stakeholders, the local smart specialisation strategies in Storuman and Sodankylä enhanced local preparedness. However, a significant limitation was a lack of long-term human and financial resources to address challenges in relation both to resource-based industries and local, territorial development. This article is published by the European Journal of Spatial Development, which in turn is published by Nordregio and Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment.

Transit-oriented development in the Greater Copenhagen Region – Insights from small- and medium- sized cities

Cross-border cooperation has long been a strong element of the Nordic Region’s efforts to become better integrated, while simultaneously working towards shared ambitions in the areas of economic, environmental and social sustainability. During the Covid-19 pandemic, for instance, challenges inevitably emerged as countries shut down borders. This effectively put cross-border cooperation into gridlock. Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, however, the Greater Copenhagen Region (GCR) had been chosen to illustrate the potential challenges of planning and development in a Nordic cross-border context. This is the scope that this working paper is operating within.  The aim of this report is to provide a backdrop for future discussions about ways in which spatial and transportation planning, particularly in small- and medium-sized (SMS) cities, can ensure sustainable mobility solutions and enhance local and regional  integration, supporting regional development in Greater Copenhagen, and Nordic collaboration more broadly.  The research questions that have been explored are:  How can an enhanced understanding of transit-oriented development (TOD) characteristics and mobility planning in small- and medium-sized (SMS) cities contribute to a more integrated Greater Copenhagen Region?  What are the multi-functional roles and potentials for the development of areas surrounding railway stations in small- and medium-sized cities from a planning and design perspective? 

Klimatomställningen och relationen stad och land

Denna rapport syftar till att ge ett kunskapsunderlag om hur stad och landsbygd i Norden påverkas av klimatomställningen och vilken effekt detta har på sammanhållningen i Norden. Trots skillnader mellan stad och land när det gäller befolkningsutveckling, utbildning och inkomst, ser vi att utvecklingen skiljer sig mer mellan olika typer av städer och olika typer av landsbygder än mellan stad och land i sig. Det är i allt väsentligt dessa ekonomiska utvecklingsmönster som skapar olika förutsättningar för att leva och verka i olika delar av Norden. Vi finner här mycket lite som indikerar att polariseringen mellan stad och land generellt ökar. Däremot ser vi att inkomstskillnaderna inom kommunerna ökar, vilket pekar på att det snarare är skillnaderna mellan olika socio-ekonomiska grupper i samhället som ökar än skillnaderna mellan stad och land. Vi finner också indikationer på att tilliten till samhällets institutioner är minskande hos socio-ekonomiskt svagare grupper i samhället, samt hos dem som redan har låg tillit till samhället.Europeisk forskning kring den så kallade missnöjets geografi (geography of discontent) visar att en ökad andel röster på antietablissemangspartier,framförallt uppstår i områden med långvarig ekonomisk nedgång. Åtgärder som syftar till att minska koldioxidutsläppen, till exempel ökad beskattning av fossila bränslen för transporter, ökad andel fossilfri el och vindkraft, eller åtgärder för att öka konsumtionen av utsläppsfria och resurseffektiva varor och tjänster, kan få olika effekter – både positiva och negativa – för olika sociala grupper och för invånare i stad och på landsbygd. För att få en bättre förståelse för effekterna av klimatpolitiska åtgärder, finns behov av mer systematiska genomlysningar av hur klimatpolitiken slår mot olika geografiska områden och/ eller sociala grupper i samhället. De nordiska regionerna är här en relevant analysnivå för att analyseraklimatpolitikens effekter, men regionerna är också en viktig aktör i klimatomställningen – med närhet till invånarna och vana…

Simone Grind: Promoting a self-sustaining lifestyle through community support agriculture

Simone works at Under Tallarna, a small-scale farm initiated by a bunch of young enthusiasts passionate about self-sustaining lifestyle and sustainable living. The farm is managed under the community support agriculture (CSA) model, where the clients become members of the farm. This eliminates the need for intermediaries securing a more fair and stable income for the farmers and a reliable product to the clients. Farming farmers is, however, Simone’s biggest ambition. She organises events for anyone to try out what it is to be a farmer and to learn about sustainable living. This storymap is a part of the BeUBio storymap series – about young people whose business ideas, jobs and other activities lead the way towards a different and more sustainable economic path. With a variety of different examples, young people from across the Baltic Sea Region, inspire new ways of making business while having a positive impact to the environment and society. The overall aim is to build a community of like-minded people, by sharing our stories and inspiring each other. This initiative comes from the BeUBio project, a collaboration between different partners across the Baltic Sea Region pushing for youth participation in the transition to a bio-based economy, and create synergies with other actors and initiatives addressing the SDGs. 

The right to access the city: Nordic urban planning from a disability perspective

The purpose of this report is to add a disability perspective to the discussion on the inclusive city in the Nordic region. The report primarily focuses on the city and the local level, the international framework has proven to be of importance. But it seems to be especially important in countries early in the process of implementing universal design. This was done by studying Nordic municipal strategies and planning practices related to accessibility, universal design and inclusion and interviewing national and local representatives from the selected countries and cities. In addition, we have included the perspective of users, via representatives of Nordic authorities and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the Council of Nordic Co-operation on Disability. The cities in focus in the report are Trondheim in Norway, Viborg in Denmark, Tampere in Finland, Reykjavik in Iceland, Qeqqata Kommunia in Greenland and Borås in Sweden. The report points to the importance of participation and representation in universal design. All the cities in this study emphasize the insights and contributions of people with disabilities in the planning process, in most cases in the form of institutionalized disability councils. To summarize, the lessons learned from this study concern the following topics: There is growing interest in the many aspects of inclusion The UNCRPD is useful to overcome challenges of limited mainstreaming Disability issues often depend on ‘champions’ in local administration Knowledge and maintenance are key State support and funding are important for pushing agendas and local practice, but the municipalities can also become drivers Collecting data and conducting evaluations are important for learning and mainstreaming Representation is important  

The Kvarken ferry link and its importance in cross-border cooperation and integration

This report shows that a reliable transport link has been central to maintaining and developing cross-border relations in the Kvarken region. Sea traffic has been the lifeline enabling cross-border interactions and exchanges throughout the centuries, and cross-border cooperation has remained largely dependent on the ferry connection until this day. Over the decades, the depth and breadth of cooperation between the Finnish and Swedish sides of Kvarken have followed changes in the ferry connection. From the 1970s onwards, passenger traffic over the Kvarken Strait increased significantly, and cross-border cooperation became more established and varied. However, the abolishment of tax-free sales on the Kvarken ferry in 1999 was, in many ways, a turning point that led to a significant decline in traffic and had a severe, negative effect on cross-border relations. The first decade of the 21st century has been described as a low point in cross-border cooperation across Kvarken, because the unstable and limited ferry connection between Vaasa and Umeå made it difficult to maintain and develop the economic, social, and cultural ties that had been established during previous decades. Following this period of decline, joint actions were taken by actors on the Finnish and Swedish sides of the Kvarken region to reinstate a new, stable ferry connection in 2012, highlighting the importance of this traffic link to both parties. The arguments for reinstating the ferry link focused not only on improving connectivity, but on providing a new basis for re-strengthening cross-border relations and developing stronger synergies across the region, which were considered to depend on a reliable traffic link allowing frequent travel. The reinstated ferry connection has had numerous direct and indirect effects on both sides of the Kvarken Strait, such as cooperation within research, education, healthcare, and tourism, as well as new forms of cooperation between businesses, all of which…

Overcoming barriers to social inclusion in Nordic cities through policy and planning

This report examines how Nordic governments and municipalities seek to overcome barriers to social inclusion and to counteract inequality and segregation through policy and urban planning. Overcoming barriers to social inclusion is understood as the desire to improve the terms on which different individuals and groups take part in society through urban policy and planning while counteracting the negative effects of inequality. Examples of policy and planning initiatives to create more inclusive cities and communities can be found in all the Nordic countries. However, inclusion is a multifaceted issue and the specific challenges, and approaches to dealing with these challenges, vary among the countries and cities. To capture this diversity, this report examines five different thematic and geographical cases detailing strategies for inclusion from different perspectives in varying contextual settings. This report is the result of work done for the thematic group Sustainable Cities and Urban Development. The group focuses on: 1) social sustainability and gender equality; 2) spatial planning; 3) urban qualities in small and medium-sized cities, and the urban-rural relationship; and 4) the growth and development of Arctic cities. Within these broad themes the group decides what activities to conduct, and the researchers involved are responsible for the results.

Rural housing challenges in the Nordic region

A pressing problem: Are the rural housing markets frozen? There are huge dissimilarities between the rural areas of the Nordic Region – both between the different countries, and autonomous areas, and internally within them. Even so, what they have in common is that most rural areas face challenges regarding empty houses and, at the same time, a lack of suitable housing for defined needs. Good, well-functioning housing provision is essential for the continued prosperity and wellbeing of individuals and families, and it is therefore also essential for rural communities. This project focuses on understanding the character of the challenges involved in housing people in the rural areas of the Nordics. Via interviews, a picture of the predominant challenges facing the Nordic countries emerges, and the specific nature of these challenges is described in five case studies. Based on these, we have identified various mitigating measures at national and municipal level. The lessons learned from this are described in three areas: public support to bridge the financial gap (lack of capital for construction), the specific role of municipalities, and finally how rental housing can be a tool to supplement the existing, dominant, privately-owned housing structure in rural areas. The Report is a part of the work of The Nordic Thematic Group on Sustainable Rural Development 2017-2020.