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Nordregio Strategy 2021-2024

The Nordregio Strategy 2021-2024 outlines our main mission and core research focus areas, which have been carefully aligned to address the key objectives and needs of policymakers and practitioners outlined within Nordic cooperation steering documents. In recent years, there has been a convergence of several global megatrends which are having a major impact on all aspects of the Nordic economy, society and environment. Climate change, migration, rapid demographic developments, digitalization and automation, increasing urban-rural divides, and growing socio-economic inequalities are some of the main threats facing the Nordic Region. Nordregio is focused on identifying practical Nordic policy solutions to help overcome these challenges and promote socio-economic growth and environmental sustainability across the Nordic Region. The Nordregio Strategy 2021-2024 has been written as a collaborative effort by our staff members in close cooperation with Nordregio’s Board of Directors, which represents the Nordic countries, Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland. The overarching goals that guide Nordregio’s research are outlined in the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Action Plan for Vision 2030, which is approved by the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation. The Action Plan defines the work to achieve the objectives of the Vision through a series of initiatives linked to the Vision’s three strategic priorities: a green Nordic Region, a competitive Nordic Region, and a socially sustainable Nordic Region. During the 2021-2024 period, Nordregio is committed to delivering high quality scientific, evidence-based research designed to provide policymakers and practitioners with sustainable policies to help overcome the main challenges faced by Nordic regions and municipalities. Our research will contribute substantially towards Nordic cooperation and synergies, while also showcasing Nordic policies, experience and competences internationally. The Board approved the Nordregio Strategy on the 15th of April 2021.

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.

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.

Polar Peoples in the Future: Projections of the Arctic Populations

Projections of the future size, composition and distribution of the populations of the Arctic states and regions are useful for policymakers for planning purposes. This paper presents and analyses the most recent population projections undertaken for the Arctic states and regions. Global population growth is projected to continue rising, from the current total of 7.4 billion to 10 billion in 2055. The population of the Arctic, as defined here, is predicted to change little, with a projected population increase of just 1%. However, there will be considerable variation in growth rates among the Arctic regions. Among the Arctic regions of Alaska, Yukon, Nunavut, Iceland, Troms, Khanty-Mansiy okrug and Chukotka, substantial population increases are projected, amounting to more than 10% over the projection period specified for each. Nordland, Finnmark, Pohjoil-Pohjanmaa (North Ostrobothnia) and Nenets autonomous okrug are projected to experience a more modest rate of growth of between 5% and 10%. The population of the Northwest Territories, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Västerbotten, Norrbotten, Lappi, Yamal-Nenets okrug, Yakutia and Kamchatka oblast are projected to remain roughly the same, neither growing nor declining by more than 5%. Kainuu in Finland, Karelia, Komi, Arkhangel’sk, Murmansk, and Magadan in Russia are projected to undergo reductions in population of more than 5% each. Common trends identified for nearly all Arctic regions in the future are aging populations, more balanced gender ratios between men and women, increased concentrations of population within larger urban settlements, and the depopulation of smaller settlements. Research for this article is part of a project entitled Polar Peoples: Past, Present, and Future. This is supported by a grant from the U. S. National Science Foundation, Arctic Social Sciences Program (award number PLR-1418272). I would like to thank Olivia Napper, graduate student in the Department of Geography at George Washington University, for creating the…

Enabling vulnerable youth in rural areas not in education, employment or training

This report concludes work within the Nordic Thematic Group on Sustainable Rural Regional Development as part of the Nordic Co-operation Programme on Regional Development 2017–2021. The working title of the project is “A rural perspective on spatial disparities of education and employment outcomes”. Part of the curiosity that drove this project was to understand better the situation of vulnerable and marginalized youth in rural areas of Norden, which arose from the Nordic Arctic Working Group 2013–2017 where we identified some local and regional processes with serious mismatch problems relating to youth education and validity in the local and regional labour market. Placing YOUTH IN FOCUS is response to the Nordic Council of Minister’s cross-sectional strategy on Children and Youth 2016–2022 as well as the Nordic Co-operation Programme for Regional Development and Planning 2017–2021. It stresses the importance of promoting social sustainability in relation to regional development. The Icelandic chair in 2019 has young people as one of three main priorities. It relates to SDG4, the fourth UN sustainable development goal, in that young people should have a key role in achieving the goal, they should be encouraged to actively participate in society and should have access to important decisions shaping the future (Norræna ráðherranefndin, 2018). Furthermore, the project also relates strongly to both European, Nordic and in some cases national policy emphasis on inclusive labour markets for youth with reduced functional capacities. This report concludes work within the Nordic Thematic Group on Sustainable Rural Regional Development as part of the Nordic Co-operation Programme on Regional Development 2017–2020. The working title of the project is “A rural perspective on spatial disparities of education and employment outcomes”.

Bringing attention back to the city centre – six Nordic examples

Many small and medium-sized Nordic cities are dealing with challenges related to the role and development of their city centres. They use strategies related to urban planning, governance and business development, to aim for greater compactness, attractiveness, economic development and sustainability. What can we learn from the Nordic countries’ different approaches to city-centre development? This policy brief summarises investigations in six small and medium-sized Nordic cities. The discourse and practice of contemporary urban planning focuses strongly on densification and the compact city as the ideal and model for sustainable development. In the Nordic countries as well as elsewhere in Europe, there is a pervasive urban norm associated with planning, development and lifestyles. According to this norm, the compact city, and life in this city, is sustainable, attractive and safe. In parallel with this, sprawling urbanism has come to symbolise the environmental, social and economic problems of contemporary cities. Added to this, the central part of a city is a limited space for which there are high expectations related to the urban norm, expectations that can be particularly challenging for smaller cities. Our studies indicate that appropriate city-centre development requires co-operation across sectors and actors, recognition of the regional role of the city core, and investment in both the city centre and its periphery to create a balance that attracts residents, visitors and consumers. The policy brief summarises a project funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Nordic Thematic Group on Sustainable Cities and Urban Development. The Nordic Thematic Group for Sustainable Cities and Urban Development 2017–2020 aims to help improve national, regional, local and cross-border strategies for sustainable cities. This is done via research projects and other communicative activities, addressing the following themes from the Nordic Co-operation Programme for Regional Development and Planning: 1) social sustainability and gender equality; 2)…

The Compact City of the North – functions, challenges and planning strategies

In this report, the characteristics and consequences of the compact city ideal in Nordic cities, and more specifically in their city centres, are investigated. The research was done in the form of a series of small case studies of city centre development, and they are presented thematically. They focus on public spaces and the threat from external shopping, densification as a planning strategy, new housing as a planning tool, and finally governance and actor collaboration. The Nordic region is dominated by small and medium sized cities, and we chose the following cities for our investigation of city centre challenges and planning strategies: Bodø (Norway), Kokkola (Finland), Mariehamn (Åland), Mosfellsbær (Iceland), Sorø (Denmark) and Västervik (Sweden). The cities were investigated through planning and policy documents, interviews and observations, and the work was guided by the following questions: What does “the compact city” mean in the investigated cities – and how is it operationalized? What are the main planning problems related to city centres, and what are the visions for the future in relation to these? What can we learn from different ways of approaching city centre development across the different Nordic countries? Two strong themes related to development in city centres, and to the commonly held view that the city core needs to be strengthened, regenerated or recreated, are competition from external shopping centres, and urban sprawl. These themes point to the challenges to the central city as the one and only centre. The examples from the Nordic region show that the competition from external shopping is very real, and that planning regulations do not always have the desired effect on the competition. This has led to a variety of responses – new central housing, new attractive spaces, new types of plans and new governance collaborations. In addition to their different…

Local land use planning: Guidance on spatial data, geographic information systems and foresight in the Arctic

Land use plans range from an overall strategic document for a municipality or a region, to a detailed plan describing development of a specific locality. Land use planning also provides foresight by identifying options for how a future vision may be achieved through land use development. In this context, land use planning is also understood as a process, involving public authorities, private sector actors, and of course, the political sphere. Within land use planning, information is used to add knowledge to the process – as input that supports decision making and as output that documents processes into concrete “plans”. Geographic information systems (GIS), and the data they use, are often fundamental tools of local land use planning. These applications are wide ranging, with different programmes addressing diverse sectors and themes and delivering both insight into current land use patterns and foresight into expected or desired outcomes. Such a wide range of tools and possible uses means that knowing what is available for local planning is a complex issue. At the same time, planning departments in relatively small municipalities, five of which are participating in the REGINA project, often have less well-developed GIS knowledge base due to their lower availability of human and capital resources. In response, this report provides a general guidance for these types of municipalities that want to learn more about their options for land use planning using GIS. As part of the REGINA project, we focus on northern and Arctic communities facing the development of large-scale natural resources-based industries alongside existing economic and socio-cultural activities. Information is provided based on four key topics: Spatial data types and data sources GIS tools Local competencies of REGINA partner municipalities Land use foresight planning – GIS and stakeholder participation

Local smart specialisation: a step-by-step guide to social impact management in remote communities with resource-based economies

The regina project (Regional Innovation in the Nordic Arctic and Scotland with a special focus on regions with large-scale industries) is a 3-year project that focuses on developing a local smart specialisation strategy (L3S) model for implementation by remote and sparsely populated areas that depend heavily on resource based economies. Five municipalities from the Nordic-Arctic and North Atlantic region have participated in the project and each partner municipality has implemented the model. Broadly speaking, each LS3 aims to identify and develop the place-based strengths of each community, while mitigating potential risks and challenges. Three strategic planning tools developed by the REGINA project form the core components of the LS3 model: A demographic and labour market foresight Model (DFM): that suggests ideas and initiatives for the recruitment of a new labour force and strategies for improving the competence and capacity of the local labour force. A Social Impact Management Planning Tool (SIMP): that aims at identifying, monitoring and managing social impacts of large-scale industries. A Local Benefit Analysis Toolbox (LBAT): that supports the retention of local economic benefits through development of the local supply chains and growth of complimentary or spillover opportunities presented by new industrial activities. This report focuses on the SIMP tool and separate reports outline the results from our work with the demographic foresight model and the local benefits analysis toolbox. SIMP tool is designed to provide strategic planning benefits for municipal planning, private sector industry and local residents alike. For municipalities, it is a tool for predicting and planning local developments in relation to large-scale industries, which helps to improve social sustainability and retain the local benefits of industrial growth. For industry, it offers a way to gain a social license to operate (SLO) and obtain local acceptance for the project. It can also help the industry…

REGINA Policy brief 2017:1: Local Smart Specialisation: a strategy for remote communities with large-scale resource-based industries

Smart specialisation is the new regional innovation policy concept that is expected to provide EU regions with innovation, investments and jobs based on regional capabilities and assets. But is the smart specialisation concept also applicable for communities in remote and sparsely populated areas? Would a local smart specialisation approach that is complementary to a regional strategy provide added value to communities that often have less capacity to mobilise community resources for strategic planning? The REGINA project provides a laboratory of five northern communities to explore the issue. Retaining local benefits from large-scale resource-based industries is a key question for many municipalities in remote and sparsely populated areas of the Northern Periphery and Arctic. Often, however, these small communities, with equally small planning and policy capacities, find themselves facing complex decisions and negotiating with international corporations wanting to develop large-scale industrial projects. In this policy brief, we tackle this mismatch by introducing the local smart specialisation strategy (LS3) concept as a planning toolbox and policy framework for small communities. The framework of the LS3 concept for the Northern Periphery and Arctic region is based on the experiences of five municipalities that are implementing it within the REGINA project. We will lay out the process for how an LS3 strategy can effectively address demographic and labour market change, land use planning and management, and the retention of local economic benefits.