The rural regions of the Nordic countries comprise an abundance of natural resources and a big bioeconomy potential. Sustainable development of these rural regions is important for the entire Nordic region. On this page, you can learn about our latest projects related to rural development.

Sustainable Rural Development

In the Nordic region, there are increasing regional imbalances between urban and rural areas in terms of population change, economic development, access to services, and social outcomes. The Nordic thematic group on sustainable rural development 2017-2020 explores these development paths and policies supporting or mitigating the changes. Find out more about the thematic group for sustainable rural development. Find the projects related to the thematic group below.

Rural attractiveness in Norden

The attractiveness project seeks to capture the reasons behind why people choose to leave sparsely populated / remote and urban adjacent rural areas, why they move there, and why they always have stayed there. Find out more about the project.

Rural tourism in the Nordic region

This project looks at the challenges facing the development of a more sustainable rural tourism in the Nordic regions. Find out more about the project.

Rural housing dilemmas: De-population and empty houses, as well as lack of housing

This project addresses the housing challenges in the rural areas by mapping the scope of the housing issue in the Nordic region and studying examples of how these problems are being dealt with at national and local levels. Find out more about the project.

Rural Norden in 2050: Spatial perspectives on demographic and economic futures

The purpose of this project is to provide policymakers at the national and regional levels an idea of what the size, composition, and geographic distribution of the rural populations in the Nordic countries might look like at mid-century. Find out more about the project.

Regional collaboration on service provision and social innovation

The main objective of this project is to identify and analyse good practices that serve as examples for learning and finding tools, methods and approaches to improve service provision. Find out more about this project. 

Rural perspectives on spatial disparities of education and employment outcomes

The project analyses spatial disparities of youth education and unemployment from the rural perspective in the Nordic region. Find out more about the project.

Regional disparities and the geography of service within the Nordic countries

Territorial cohesion and balanced development are key goals within regional development policy in the Nordic countries. In order to better understand progress towards the goal of a more balanced regional development, this project analyses regional disparities in the Nordics at different geographic levels. Find out more about the project.

Sami Youth Involvement in Regional Development

The purpose of the analysis is to provide insight into the priorities and initiatives of Sami youth and Sami education institutions regarding economic development. Find out more about the project.

Unlocking the potential of silver economy in the Nordic Region

This project examines what types of policies there are to promote silver economy and other related concepts such as healthy and active ageing in the Nordic countries. This study seeks to uncover what types of policy action has been taken at the national level during recent years, but also what types of regional and local initiatives there are to promote economic and social participation among older people. The project has a specific focus on rural areas and border regions. Find out more about the project.

Other Nordregio projects on rural development

Urban-rural flows of seasonal tourists – local planning challenges and strategies

Reviewing the contemporary Nordic research on planning for second homes and seasonal tourism in the Nordic countries it is clear that the role of seasonal flows of people and the second-home phenomena is still not fully understood. Further research on multi-residentiality and the flows of people travelling to rural areas for leisure and recreation is needed. Therefore, in this study the focus is on seasonal tourism and second homes as a spatial planning challenge in the Nordic countries. Find out more about the project.

Digitalisation in rural and sparsely populated areas – joint Nordic-Baltic learning

The Nordic‐Baltic Region is at the forefront of digitalisation in Europe. Despite overall positive development, the impact of digitalisation on economy and society is unequal; with rural and sparsely populated areas often lagging behind with respect to the availability of digital infrastructure and the adoption of digital technologies. Find out more about the project.

The Sustainable Hub to Engage in Rural Policies with Actors (SHERPA)

The project aims at engaging citizens, stakeholders, scientists, and decision-makers in formulating recommendations with the ambition to redefine European development policies and research agenda for rural areas. Find out more about SHERPA.

MAMBA (Maximised Mobility and Accessibility of Services in Regions Affected by Demographic Change)

The MAMBA project aims to promote “people-to-service” and “service-to-people” mobility solutions in rural areas, as well as residents’ participation in rural mobility design processes. MAMBA is funded by Interreg Baltic Sea Region. Demographic change and limited public finances endanger the accessibility of services, goods and social life in many rural areas in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR). It is becoming increasingly difficult to ensure not only individual “people-to-service” mobility, but also the supply of “service-to-people” mobility (e.g. home care for elderly or various delivery services) in these sparsely populated regions. The MAMBA project aims to improve both dimensions of mobility through a number of activities. Find out more about MAMBA.

Health care and care with distance-spanning technologies

The Nordic countries face similar challenges regarding an ageing population and depopulation of the rural areas. This poses challenges to the traditional health care systems. One way of dealing with these challenges is to take advantage of the ongoing solutions that are made possible through digitalisation. Find out more about the project.

Agenda 2030

The project analyzes the implementation of the Agenda 2030 at the local level in the Nordic countries. Find out more about Agenda 2030.

Evaluation of Åland Rural Programme 2014-2020

The project aims to contribute to the better targeted support for rural development of Åland within the framework of the programme and to support a common learning process regarding to the monitoring and evaluation. Find out more about the project.

Evaluation of Åland “Entrepreneurship and Competence” Programme 2014-2020

The aim is to improve the quality of the Åland’s “Entrepreneurship and Competence” programme implementation and to assess its effectiveness and impact. The assignment is done in close cooperation with the programme’s administrative authority (The Government of Åland). Find out more about the project.

RELOCAL (Resituating the local in cohesion and territorial development)

Location matters. Where one is born and raised (still) determines to a considerable extent one’s opportunities and constrictions and it also impacts on one’s personality. After a long period of catching-up for most of the disadvantaged regions, inequalities among regions within Member States are now growing again. Find out more about RELOCAL. 

Social Green – Regional Policies towards Greening the Social Housing Sector

The Social Green project intends to address the issue of green social housing in order to contribute to reduce the GHG emissions as well as to reduce the fuel poverty indicators in EU regions towards a lower carbon economy. Find out more about Social Green.

ESPON ESCAPE – European Shrinking Rural Areas Challenges, Actions and Perspectives for Territorial Governance

This project will investigate the future of Europe’s shrinking rural regions: trends, perspectives & new agendas for territorial governance. Find out more about the project.


Publications on rural development

The Nordic Population 2040 – Analysis of Past and future demographic trends: How strong is the urbazination trend in the Nordics in the long haul? Will the rural areas be depopulated by 2040? Nordregio did future projections based on the national statistic agencies and the previous population development trends, and as it turns out the future is not as dark for the rural areas as often predicted. The Nordics are growing slowly and steadily throughout the countries.

Vulnerable youth who are not currently employed, in education or training, often referred to as NEET, is a growing group in the Nordics. Many of them are struggling with mental health problems and might be affected by the demographic and structural trends living and growing up in small Nordic communities.

Policy brief about how youth are not thriving in the rural areas.

Social service innovation in rural areas – a user involvement guide. High-quality service provision in rural areas is becoming increasingly difficult due to social and demographic challenges, exacerbated by welfare cuts. Members of disadvantaged groups, such as the long-term unemployed, migrants and people with disabilities, may be particularly affected by shrinking social services as they often lack the resources to influence or compensate for this loss. How can user involvement in service design and delivery contribute to addressing these challenges? What is needed to make service-user involvement work?