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Urban challenges in the green transition hashed out during Nordregio Forum 2022

How can we use urban planning to create greener, healthier, and more inclusive cities? This was the core question explored on the second day of the annual Nordregio Forum hosted last week in the Innlandet region of Norway. More than 130 Nordic professionals and policymakers came together in the budding town of Hamar, which is known for its stunning bike trials and impressive diving tower in Lake Mjøsa. This proximity to nature is what Erik Vieth Pedersen, Deputy Director General at the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, argued citizens value most in a city. “It seems we like to live in cities, but we also long for green spaces,” he said in his opening remarks. Serving people and nature This theme was expanded on by Nordregio Senior Researcher Luciane Aguiar Borges who presented the NORDGREEN project, which looks at how high-quality green spaces in cities can promote equity, health and wellbeing. She noted that urbanisation is a key challenge for public health, and that even before the pandemic around 27% of the adult EU population suffered from mental health problems. “Green public spaces are resources for improving well-being and preventing illnesses, but smart urban planning is the key,” Aguiar Borges explained. One city that has embraced innovative tools for green space planning is Espoo, the second largest city in Finland. With funding through the NORDGREEN project, they have carried out a map-based survey that has reached more than 6,600 Espoo residents, including 2000 children. “We asked them to mark places that are meaningful to them on the map, as well as ideas for development and almost 70,000 marks were made in total,” stated Johanna Palomäki, former Espoo city representative in the project. She explained that together with Aalto University they were able to analyse a significant amount of…

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…

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…

New tool measures impact of gardening on urban sustainability

Urban agriculture contributes to food security, provides health benefits for the population, and is a valuable resource for urban regeneration. However, it may also have social and environmental externalities that need to be considered when evaluating the benefits to city sustainability. In a new article “Monitoring the contribution of urban agriculture to urban sustainability: an indicator-based framework”, Nordregio researchers studied four key enablers of sustainable urban farming and analysed the case of Arhus in Denmark. In this work, researchers present a novel indicator-based evaluation framework for urban agriculture that captures the contribution of gardening practices to urban sustainability. The article discusses enablers, such as environmental resilience and resource efficiency; food security and income generation; inclusive society; and a novel sustainable urban design criterion. The framework was applied to Fællesgartneriet Brabrand, a community garden located in the city of Arhus, Denmark. According to the researchers, the framework provides a great way to assess the benefits and potential externalities of urban agriculture in a systematic yet adaptable way. “This framework can support local governance processes for sustainable urban design at other stages of the policy cycle. It is also expected to contribute to on-going academic debates about the role of urban agriculture for increased environmental and community resilience”, says Carlos Tapia, Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio. The results show that the framework can be consistently applied to address simultaneous needs at the city and community levels. Moreover, the framework can be reliably applied to the analysis of smaller gardens and in situations where data constraints apply. Read the article here.

Smart Planning for Healthy and Green Nordic Cities

The integration of people’s well-being and the access to green spaces into city planning, the support for urban settlements to be liveable, resilient, and sustainable are some key goals for city planning in the Nordics. These and many more subjects were discussed during a Nordregio webinar, organised together with NORDGREEN and SMARTer Greener Cities. During the online event, Nordregio researchers Ryan Weber and Diana Huynh, together with participants from seven other organisations and institutions, discussed how to build on existing methods in the planning and management of urban green spaces, but also touched upon the subject of finding new ways toward sustainable and just approaches for improved futures.  “It’s about updating systems and structures of ‘getting things done’ for local communities while integrating and enhancing collaboration between researchers and practitioners with new technologies. Along the way, novel methods can support shifting the so-called silo approach that too often curtails much-needed green space development we need to see in urban areas”, says Diana Huynh, Junior Research Fellow at Nordregio. The webinar also brought perspectives on the importance of citizen engagement and new methods for public participation. The panellists presented and commented on a knowledge database that gathers information provided by citizens. The webinar concluded with the speakers offering some ideas on how to continue sharing knowledge and experiences in these projects, both from researchers’ perspective and how this process would contribute to the development of new approaches to planning and management of greenspace in Nordic cities. The webinar is part of the EU Green Week 2021 as a partner event. The projects discussed during the online event are funded by Nordforsk under the Sustainable Urban Development and Smart Cities programme.  Watch the recording of the webinar on our Youtube channel.

Triple-helix collaboration to promote Nordic urban development

The Nordic Council of Ministers has as its vision to develop the Nordic region to become the world’s most sustainable and integrated region by 2030. Therefore Nordregio, the Nordic City Network and the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Task Force for Sustainable Cities are initiating a collaboration to promote exchanges between research, policy development and practice. Through a partnership, the three organizations aim to accelerate green transition, build economic resilience and create equal and inclusive cities and communities. – Together, we create a triple-helix effect with the exchange of knowledge and experience between research, policy and practice, says Marcus Horning, chairman of the Nordic City Network. Agenda 2030 as the ultimate goal Tackling the global challenges we face requires collaboration between different actors at different levels. The sustainable societies of the future are created by actors defining problems and solutions together. By applying current research in pilot projects, evaluating existing practices and sharing knowledge and inspiration each other through conferences and seminars, the three organizations want to contribute to the fulfillment of Agenda 2030 and to make the Nordic region more competitive globally. – Goal 11, which focuses on sustainable cities and communities, is crucial to achieving the agenda. Public spaces in the form of safe and inclusive green areas can contribute to social sustainability as well as meeting the challenges of a changing climate. On these matters, we have a lot to learn from each other in the Nordic region, says Patrik Faming, Chairman of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Task Force for Sustainable Cities. Rolf Elmér, Director Nordregio fills in: – This collaboration provides us with a great opportunity to spread Nordic solutions for sustainable urban development both within and outside the Nordic region. The three organizations Nordregio, established by the Nordic Council of Ministers, is a leading Nordic…

Open call for picture submission

Help Nordregio to visualise life in the Nordic cross-border areas during COVID-19 Do you live in a Nordic cross-border area? Or have you visited any of these areas before or during the pandemic? Maybe you took a bunch of pictures there? The cross-border communities are facing many challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic and closed borders. Life is not the same any more – many have had to change their daily life and work routines. Nordregio researchers are working on several projects in relation to this situation and you will hear about them very soon. To complement the studies and raise awareness about the current challenges, we would like to ask you to contribute with pictures from Nordic cross-border regions. Guidelines for submission: The submitted picture is made by the person who is submitting; One person can submit up to 5 pictures; The pictures are taken in cross-border areas in the Nordics; The caption describes the location, time and situation portrayed; If people are portrayed in the picture, and their face is recognizable, their signed consent to publish a picture should be provided; If people in the picture are under 18 years old, the parents’ signed consent to publish the picture should be provided; The pictures size is min 1 MB – max 16 MB; The picture formats are jpg, jpeg, png. Share your pictures by the 5th of March! The pictures will be used to illustrate Nordregio’s scientific publications and communications material related to the studies. The submissions are not subsidized but a clear reference to the author will be made. If you have any questions or concerns, please, contact vaida.razaityte@nordregio.org

Nordregio is hiring: Head of GIS Department

Nordregio is inviting applications for a senior position as Head of GIS Department. Working at Nordregio means an opportunity to become part of a truly international research environment with a focus on sustainable regional development in the Nordic region and beyond. It offers significant career development potential in terms of enhancing your competences through applied and policy relevant research, achieving an international network of contacts, as well as getting extensive experience in team and project management. You will also get rich opportunities to collaborate with regional and municipal stakeholders in the Nordic countries. Nordregio is currently seeking a new Head of GIS Department with: Expertise in GIS, geo-data, quantitative analysis, and applied research in the field of regional development. Experience in leading a team and managing projects as well as a successful track record in grant applications. Knowledge in geographies and socio-economic trends in the Nordic Region and beyond. A drive for working in teams and in an international applied research environment. Eagerness to present and disseminate results to different stakeholder groups, both orally and in written format. Competences and qualifications As Head of GIS Department, you both lead and manage the GIS-team by planning and organising tasks and activities, communicate with each team member and contribute to their development. You are also a project manager with responsibilities to attract, initiate and lead externally funded research and innovation projects. The geographic scope of your field of interest includes a European and international perspective and expert knowledge in at least one of the Nordic countries. We appreciate abilities in external networking and in communication with stakeholders. Internally we appreciate analytical and creative skills, complemented by abilities to both cooperate and work on your own. For this position, you have at least 6 years of relevant work experience and an extensive network…

Matching skills for future labour market

Regions and regional labour markets are facing many challenges such as the ageing population and lack of skills, digitalisation and automation of the economy along with the current Covid-19 crisis. Education and skills are cornerstones for contemporary societies in trying to deal with these changes.  The project “Skills Policies – Building Capacities for Innovative and Resilient Nordic Regions” has analysed how Nordic regions work with skills assessment and anticipation, skills development and skills governance. Which skills will be needed in future? And what are the enabling and hampering factors for skills development? We are happy to share our main findings in a report and a policy brief, including recommendations for policymakers on how to create skills ecosystems for resilient societies. The topic was also featured in the third session of Nordregio Forum this year. The project is a part of the Nordic Thematic Group for Innovative and Resilient Regions 2017-2020.

Apply to the Nordic Arctic Co-operation Programme

The Nordic Arctic Cooperation Programme of the Nordic Council of Ministers has opened up its call for new project applications for financial support in 2021. Deadline for sending in proposals is 1st February 2021 (12:00 CET). The aim of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Arctic Cooperation Programme 2018-2021 is to create sustainable and constructive development in the Arctic and for its people based on the four P’s: planet, peoples, prosperity and partnerships. The programme is administered by Nordregio, with one round of applications per programme years.

16 Dec: How regional policies are greening the EU Social Housing sector?

Welcome to the Final Conference of Social Green project online Pathways to Greener Social Housing in Europe on the 16th of December at 10-12.30 (CET). This event seeks to provide an enjoyable experience for everyone promoting interaction and boosting shared learnings from the Social Green projects around EU. Social Green partners will disseminate the results & benefits from the implementation of the regional Action plans. Read more about the event and sign up: https://www.interregeurope.eu/socialgreen/news/news-article/10263/pathways-to-greener-social-housing-in-europe/ More about the Social Green project: https://nordregio.org/nordregio-magazine/issues/people-and-cities/social-green-making-social-housing-more-energy-efficient-and-affordable/

How are the Nordic regions feeling?

Two new articles are published on regional development in the Idunn library. How regional development potential looks in different parts of the Nordic Region and how the regional balance has developed over recent years? The first article compares the development potentials in the 66 Nordic regions. The second article is about the demise of the rural Nordic region and analysis of regional population trends in the Nordic countries, 1990 to 2040. The population of the Nordic region has grown substantially during recent decades, though most of this growth has been in urban regions. While the Nordic countries are projected to see continued population growth in the future, almost all of the increase will be concentrated in urban centres, with population decline or stagnation in many rural municipalities. This will make it difficult for these regions to remain economically competitive and for national governments to provide a uniform level of services across entire countries. This article provides policymakers at the national, regional, and municipal levels with projections of the size, composition, and geographic distribution of rural populations in the Nordic countries in 2040. In total, remote rural regions will not become depopulated and are projected to grow moderately from 5.3 to 5.5 million persons to 2040, though many will experience significant declines in their total and working-age populations and will have much older age structures. The first article about the regional comparisons is published by Julien Grunfelder, Johanna Carolina Jokinen, Gustaf Norlén & Kjell Nilsson: https://www.idunn.no/nordisk_valfardsforskning/2020/01/how_are_the_nordic_regions_feeling_acomparison_of_develop The second article about population growth is published by Timothy Heleniak & Nora Sánchez Gassen: https://www.idunn.no/nordisk_valfardsforskning/2020/01/the_demise_of_the_rural_nordic_region_analysis_of_regional

Stronger cross-border cooperation after the pandemic

Cross-border activities came dramatically to a halt in the spring of 2020 as a result of measures adopted to limit the spread of the Coronavirus. The ability to work, socialise, do business and use services across borders is an integral part of daily life in border communities all across the Nordic countries and Europe. Since the pandemic hit, border communities have faced extraordinary challenges as national borders were suddenly closed and various other restrictions were put in place. These obstacles were at the centre of attention at an online event “Strengthening cross-border communities: Lessons from Covid-19” organised by Nordregio together with the Bothnian Arc and Svinesund cross-border committees on the 12th November 2020. By Páll Tómas Finnsson, Communications consultant at Finnsson & Co Increased awareness of the value of cross-border cooperation “In times of crisis, it’s always possible to find opportunities,” said Martin Guillermo Ramírez, Secretary General of the Association of European Border Regions. He gave a European perspective on the challenges facing border regions, not only because of the pandemic but also in light of political developments such as Brexit and the increasing nationalism throughout Europe. In his talk, Ramírez emphasised that the current challenges should be regarded as an opportunity to further boost cross-border collaboration in the future. “Many of the nation states in Europe decided to close their borders to contain the pandemic, but in some cases, they were reopened less than 24 hours later because of the high level of interaction in the border areas,” he explained. According to Ramírez, the situation has brought the importance of integrated border communities higher up on both the national and European agendas. “This represents an important turn of events, considering that we started the year with the announcement that there would be a budget reduction for cross-border cooperation in…