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Making Europe – and especially rural areas – climate neutral

What kind of transformational changes are needed, effective and just to reach climate neutrality by 2050? EU-funded SHERPA project has just published a new position paper “Climate change & Environmental Sustainability” that focuses on finding answers to the: How do policies facilitate the transition? And what research gaps still exist? Sustainable Hub to Engage into Rural Policies with Actors (SHERPA) is a four-year project (2019-2023) with 17 partners funded by the Horizon 2020 programme. The special thing about the SHERPA project is how it works with the local stakeholders and generates policy-relevant research together at the local level and delivers information to the EU level. Nordregio is a partner in the SHERPA project and steers the work of several of these Multi-Stakeholder Platforms (MAPs). The MAPs have identified local threats and challenges to living and working in ways that will enable transitions towards climate neutrality, and opportunities which could be created and pursued. Based on these discussions, the new Position Paper highlights pathways for a just green transition, including adaptation to climate change. Read the latest Position Paper “Climate change & Environmental Sustainability”  Nordregio has been part of several SHERPA publications: Slätmo, E., Löfving, L. (2022) MAP Position Paper (Sweden) – Digitalisation in rural areas. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7243911 MAP_PP-SW_final.pdf (rural-interfaces.eu) AND MAP_PP-SW_Swedish-version_final.pdf (rural-interfaces.eu) Stjernberg, M., Salonen, H. (eds.) (2022) MAP Position Paper (Finland) – Digitalisation in rural areas. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7235125 MAP_PP-FI_final.pdf (rural-interfaces.eu) Mändmets, A., Kärk, K. (2022) MAP Position Paper (Estonia) – Social dimension of rural areas DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7249600 MAP_PP-Estonia_final.pdf (rural-interfaces.eu) Ormstrup Vestergård, L., Refsgaard, K. (2022) MAP Position Paper (Denmark) – Land use and climate change. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7251683 MAP_PP-DK_final.pdf (rural-interfaces.eu) AND MAP_PP-DK_Danish.pdf (rural-interfaces.eu)

Exploring the bioeconomy status quo in the Baltics

The BioBaltic project has published a storymap series that overviews the bioeconomy development in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Both – Nordic and Baltic countries are rich in biological and renewable resources and have a long tradition of utilizing them for generating social and economic benefits through the traditional sectors, such as forestry, agriculture, and fisheries, as well as in manufacturing and related sectors such as tourism. As we transition into a green economy, there is a huge potential for innovation to develop new goods and services from biological resources while creating value locally. In the past year, the project partners across the Baltics have investigated the state of the art of bioeconomy and developed their visions for further bioeconomy development. Their learnings have been summarised in the following storymaps. Press on the picture to access the storymaps: About the project The BioBaltic project provides a platform for generating awareness of different bioeconomy models through peer-to-peer learning and building networks across Baltic and Nordic countries. This collaboration will enable knowledge generation and exchange on different aspects of the bioeconomy transition, including financing aspects, industrial partnerships and symbiosis or the opportunities of digitalisation. Project partners from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are running so-called “Mobile Learning Hubs” and the overall project is coordinated by Nordregio. Funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers, the project runs from October 2021 until September 2023.

Nordregio contributed to the OECD Rural Development Conference

27-29 September, Nordregio contributed to the OECD Rural Development Conference in Cavan, Ireland with several presentations. Research Fellow Ágúst Bogason presented fresh results and upcoming activities from Nordregio’s Remote Work and multilocality project. The key messages from the conference were similar whether you are from the Nordics, Canada, Ireland or the UK: Remote work is a new reality that will not fade away along with lifted restrictions caused by the pandemic, but it is also a fact that remote work is only beneficial for certain sectors and not all regions and rural areas can benefit from this. Although the opportunities are generally seen as outweighing the challenges, increased remote work has also some side effects that pose challenges for smaller communities, mainly related to increased housing costs and increased pressure on infrastructure. Nordregio’s Research Director, Karen Refsgaard moderated the session Strategies to Empower, Attract and Keep Youth in Rural Areas. The key messages from the youth session were that in order to make good, sound decisions and investments, the youth need to be included in the decision-making, both in the private and public sectors. For this to be possible youth need to be empowered and in order to create entrepreneurship and jobs, education provision needs to match with local businesses/industries in rural areas. Discussions on building pride and capacity among local youth the urban and rural norms must be dispelled through exchanges, visits and storyboards. The event was hosted by the OECD in cooperation with the New Irish Ministry for Rural Affairs and provided  Nordregio with the opportunity to present its work to a diverse group of people: ministers, senior officials, policy makers, researchers and other stakeholders from high level international institutions. More information about the event can be found at OECD Rural Conference website and the sessions and discussions…

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. 

Nordregio – part of the Rural Revitalisation Thematic Group

Senior Research Fellow Elin Slätmo will participate in the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) thematic group on Rural Revitalisation as a representative from Nordregio.  This thematic group is one of the means through which the European Commission implements the Vision for rural areas by 2040. The Vision identifies the challenges and concerns that rural areas face and highlights some of the most promising opportunities available to these territories. The initiative aims to revitalise rural areas so that by 2040 the areas in question are stronger, more connected, resilient, and prosperous. Nordregio contributed to the development of the Vision via the 20 multi-actor platforms (MAPs) as part of the H2020-project SHERPA.  “As a member of the newly established ENRD thematic group for Rural Revitalisation, I will bring insights from Nordic rural research to Europe. I foresee synergies with the work Nordregio is doing for regional policy and planning in the Nordic countries,” says Elin Slätmo. The Thematic Group on Rural Revitalisation aims to identify and understand the key enabling conditions to drive rural revitalisation across Europe, explore the needs, and develop ideas and recommendations to help shape the future. Read more about the ENRD thematic group here.

What is the Nordic perspective on rural areas?

Nordregio Senior Research Fellow Anna Karlsdóttir will attend the “Nordic perspective on rural areas of the future – what can we learn from one another?” webinar presenting some of the latest news within rural research in the Nordics. The Nordic countries are investing in the future of rural areas and the provision of prerequisites for a good life, thus laying a rich and solid foundation for cooperation. The webinar will serve as a forum for Nordic institutions to learn from each other and discuss current research and themes within rural development in the Nordics. “There are a lot of programmes and pressing issues for rural areas to thrive now and in the future. But the real benefit for the Nordic Cooperation in this field is that we can learn from each other’s good and bad experiences”, says Dr Anna Karlsdóttir. The “Smarta landsbygder i Svenskfinland och Norden”, a working group within the Finnish Rural Network, is organising the event in cooperation with the National Support Unit. The languages of the webinar will be Swedish and English.  Find the recording of the webinar 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…

Nordregio and SLU host a conference “Ruralities and Regions in Transition”

The Division of Rural Development (SLU) in collaboration with Nordregio gather all the Swedish rural researchers together in a unique setting in Åkerberga, 11-12 November. Ruralities and Regions in Transition is a conference that offers the opportunity to meet, share and discuss the recent research topics of rural and regional development in Sweden. The organizers have received a wide range of contributions seeking to present theoretical advancements, offer novel methodological insights and provide new empirical evidence related to rural research. This in turn can contribute to more robust policy initiatives and planning practices in Swedish rural and regional development. Karen Refsgaard, Research Director at Nordregio, will be one of the main speakers at the conference. Anna Karlsdóttir, Elin Slätmo and Leneisja Jungsberg from Nordregio have submitted their abstracts for the conference book and will attend the event to learn more about the topic and change the experience with others. “The conference Ruralities and Regions in Transition is an opportunity to meet and engage with other scholars. I will present the work we are doing in SHERPA on rural multi-actor platforms. I hope to get insights from the perspectives that the Swedish researchers bring, and maybe find researchers interested to be part of the platform Nordregio and Rural Sweden are about to establish,” – says Elin Slätmo, Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio. In the conference, Research Fellow at Nordregio Leneisja Jungsberg will present the outcome of her PhD thesis. “It has been a 4-year process where I studied local strategies and how rural communities can overcome territorial challenges such as population change, economic benefit retention from resource-based industries and adapting to environmental change such as permafrost degradation,” she says. The themes of this year’s conference: Sustainable rural areas: site development and rural ‘livelihoods’ Entrepreneurship and social innovation in a rural context…

Rediscovering the assets of rural areas

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the public attitude toward the rural areas has significantly changed. Peripheries became a refuge for maintaining health, wellbeing, strengthening community ties and local economies. This was clearly highlighted by experts from the Nordic and North Atlantic research organisations in the Nordic Talks discussion hosted by Nordregio. The word “peripherality” is often associated with negative meanings, e.g. under-developed, slow, backward and remote. However, as the study “COVID-19 Economic Impacts & Recovery in the Northern Periphery & Arctic” suggests, the pandemic has challenged the way many see rural and peripheral regions and revealed peripheral factors that have been advantages in the crisis. Well-being and resilient places during the crisis “We have seen for the first time in many years that population is coming back to rural areas for a lot of different reasons. Covid-19 has accelerated that because of the huge amount of extra flexibility in terms of work practices – where people might live and work, how they can combine commuting and working from home,” says Liam Glynn, a practicing GP (community doctor) in an Irish village of just over 250 people, and also Professor of General Practice, School of Medicine at Limerick University, Ireland, and lead partner for the CovidWatch-EU-NPA project. Some factors that define peripherality, such as close-knit communities, adaptation to the challenges of remoteness and pluralistic life and work patterns, have helped peripheral communities to respond more effectively to Covid-19. As Liam Glynn pointed out during the discussion, this response had more positive effects on the health and local economies of rural areas than of many urban centres. Peripherality has demonstrated its resilience factor for local economies. Rural communities have noticed, that many are seeking to move to rural or remote areas as good places to live in. “Our research across the Nordic periphery…

Nordregio at Rural Research Day 2021

Research has shown that rural areas own enormous development potential when it comes to value creation and employment in green conversion. Public-private partnerships, industrial communities, and sustainability as common goals are among the tools that ensure green success. This topic is the focus of a presentation given by Dr. Karen Refsgaard, Research Director and Deputy Director at Nordregio at the Rural Research Day 2021. Rural Research Day is part of a larger plan to bring together researchers and practitioners from areas that are important to rural development, with the hope of promoting knowledge-based rural development. Proximity, sustainable development in rural areas, and the connection between country and city are among the main themes of this year’s conference hosted by “Landdistrikternes Fællesråd” in Denmark. During the conference, Dr. K. Refsgaard will give a presentation about the green transition in Nordic rural areas and will discuss best practices and paths to success. The Nordregio Research Director will also describe some of the challenges that can hinder the process of a fair green transition. “What is the green transition without rural areas? The bioresources and their related human and institutional resources are very much located in rural and coastal areas in the Nordic countries. Green investments from pension funds are ready to invest in long-term sustainability. Digitalization demands new skills and new businesses for development in rural areas”, says Dr. K. Refsgaard. According to the Nordregio Research Director, the Covid-19 has put in a boost for new working habits and new ways of living in rural areas. She highlights that there is a need for rural areas in order to improve the green transition. In the conference, examples from BeUBio project (Young people leading the way to a sustainable economy) will be highlighted during the presentation. Find more about the project and read…

Why territory matters for implementing active subsidiarity in EU regional policy

There has never been a more opportune moment for the European Commission to strengthen the role of sub-national stakeholders and citizens in EU regional policy. National governments across the EU seem prepared to devolve power to lower levels of governance to help overcome systemic challenges. Nordregio researchers analysed this topic and published an article “Why territory matters for implementing active subsidiarity in EU regional policy”. This article examines the main tenets of active subsidiarity and how they relate to competing notions of territory and key regional policymaking instruments for the 2021–2027 programme period. Several EU member states have been involved in the formulation of the latest reinterpretation of the subsidiarity principle, emphasizing a stronger role for the sub-national level in EU regional policy making. “EU policymakers must embrace the concept of territory if they are to effectively implement ‘active subsidiarity’ in the field of EU regional policy. Territory matters in EU regional policy as defined regional boundaries provide an important framework for engaging sub-national level actors and bringing the EU closer to citizens. A stronger recognition of territory is required if EU policymakers are to raise citizen awareness, understanding and involvement in EU regional policy, which might help contribute towards increasing citizen support for the EU project”, says Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio Dr. John Moodie. Research Fellow Mari Wøien Meijer adds that “Territorial analysis is fundamental for understanding key challenges and opportunities in EU regions and including local experiences and knowledge in EU regional policymaking processes. By neglecting territorial aspects, we run the risk of creating EU regional policies that are far removed from the people these policies are made for”. According to the researchers, bringing EU regional policy closer to its citizens can only be achieved by empowering citizens’ active involvement in the development and implementation of policy. In this regard, the constructs of…

Nordregio is hiring two Junior Research Fellows!

Nordregio is currently looking for Finnish and Icelandic speaking Junior Research Fellows within sustainable regional development. Are you interested in working in a leading Nordic research institute within the broad research fields of regional development, policy and planning?Apply today! In particular, we are looking for two Finnish and Icelandic speaking Junior Research Fellows with an educational background and/or experience in one or more of the following fields: Sustainable rural development (e.g. policy analysis and issues concerning challenges and opportunities for rural areas) Innovative and resilient regions (e.g. green transition, resilience, skills, welfare, smart specialisation, and digitalisation) Sustainable cities and urban planning (e.g. issues concerning transport, housing, public spaces, and planning systems) Apply no later than 30 September!

Junior Research Fellow within sustainable regional development in rural and urban areas

Nordregio is currently seeking to expand its capacity by adding a new Icelandic speaking Junior Research Fellow to the team. In particular, we are looking for candidates with an educational background and/or experience in one or more of the following fields: Sustainable rural development (e.g. policy analysis and issues concerning challenges and opportunities for rural areas) Innovative and resilient regions (e.g. green transition, resilience, skills, welfare, smart specialisation, and digitalisation) Sustainable cities and urban planning (e.g. issues concerning transport, housing, public spaces, and planning systems) Requirements The position as Junior Research Fellow requires a bachelor- or master’s degree (300 ECTS) or equivalent. The degree should be in a social science discipline aligned with at least one of the research fields above (e.g. economics, political science, sociology, geography, planning or similar).  A Junior Research Fellow is expected to have up to two years of relevant experience in research or practice after graduation.   Highly motivated with the ability to work independently, as well as the skills to work effectively in a cooperative research environment. Strong analytical skills and the ability to take a creative approach to complex problems. Well-developed communication skills including the ability to network and work collaboratively with a range of stakeholders and partner organisations. Ability and willingness to contribute to Nordregio’s goal of being an environmentally conscious, supportive and equal working place. Fluent in English and Icelandic and if not already fluent in a Scandinavian language, the willingness to acquire a working knowledge of Danish, Norwegian or Swedish within a short period of time. The geographic scope of your fields of interest includes in-depth knowledge of at least one Nordic country as well as a pan-European perspective. Main Work Tasks Participate in research projects under the supervision of senior researchers. Work independently with the collection and processing of…

Second-home population needs more attention in Nordic policy and spatial planning

About half the population of the Nordics has access to second-homes and use them during the summer or winter seasons and weekends. Regular retreats to rural areas by people from the towns and cities have an impact on small towns and municipalities. But it is lacking attention in policy and spatial planning. These and other issues facing small towns are analysed in a recently published book “The Routledge Handbook of Small Towns”. Nordregio Senior Research Fellow Dr. Elin Slätmo has contributed with a chapter about urban-rural integration through second-homes. The chapter ”Urban–Rural Linkages” is based on an analysis of Nordic statistics and qualitative fieldwork in five Nordic municipalities. It seeks to investigate if and how second homes and seasonal tourism are being embraced as part of the Nordic spatial planning and policy agenda. It also looks at the implications of second homes and seasonal tourism for urban–rural integration throughout the Nordic region. “There are several ongoing processes that enforce the urban-rural blurring when focusing on second homes in the Nordic countries. The dynamic between the urban and rural is continuously created by activities such as multilocality and mobility towards second homes,” says Dr. E. Slätmo. According to the researcher, it is crucial to actively include the second-home population into local policy and planning. Because these people are using infrastructure and services in the areas they inhabit, and they contribute to the local economy and social life in rural areas. But the variability of the population due to second-home usage or tourism is still largely ignored in policy and spatial planning in the Nordic countries. The book also addresses issues related to the development of small towns and their role for regional growth in different countries. Read the chapter here. The book is available here.

New article provides fresh insight into the issue of rural shrinking in Europe

Many rural regions across Europe are threatened by declining population; an increasingly common phenomenon now referred to as ‘rural shrinkage’. Building on the concept of ‘shrinking’, a new article ‘European shrinking rural areas: Key messages for a refreshed long-term vision’ has been published.  The paper highlights the distribution of shrinking rural areas across Europe and explores the evolution of EU interventions to alleviate the effects of shrinking. Also, it enhances the general understanding of the social, economic, environmental, and territorial drivers of shrinkage, and the adaptation and mitigation policies as potential solutions to the problem.  How can coordination and effectiveness of rural shrinkage policy interventions be improved? Read some of the key messages below. The article builds on key findings from the ESPON ESCAPE project where Nordregio has been a project partner.  “Locally-tailored and targeted policies are required to help rural areas to overcome the challenges posed by shrinkage. These policies must reflect broader societal objectives than just economic growth, such as social inclusion, spatial justice, citizen wellbeing, and foster support for the implementation of a Just Green Transition. This can help improve the quality of living for citizens living in isolated and peripheral European rural regions”, says Nordregio Senior Researcher Dr. John Moodie.   Key messages for a refreshed long-term vision for rural areas:  A very substantial share of rural regions will be depopulated, others are projected to move into negative territory during the next couple of decades.  It is impossible to exaggerate the need to strengthen the ties between evidence and policy approaches,  avoiding “one size fits all” interventions, expressing sensitivity towards regional and local environments and pathways, and at the same time building upon signs that the future is likely to present new opportunities.  The authors reiterate calls which have been heard through several decades, regarding the need for systemic, integrated and coherent approaches, at all levels, and for greater continuity when tackling inherently long-term demographic issues.  In the realm…