An introduction to the study on rural development

This report capitalises on the results of nine INTERREG IVC rural development projects. The notion of ‘capitalisation’ involves collecting, analysing and highlighting the invaluable, innovative, interesting and useful aspects of the work carried out within these projects, and of the knowledge gained as a result of project cooperation, with a view to their being used or replicated by other regions and stakeholders.

The INTERREG IVC Programme enables regional and local authorities and other stakeholders at regional level to improve their policies, methods and capacities in different policy areas including innovation and the knowledge economy. The nine projects that constitute the focus of this study aim at addressing rural development.

What exactly is rural development? Rural development generally refers to the process of improving the quality of life and economic well-being of people living in relatively isolated and sparsely populated areas. Rural development has traditionally focused on the exploitation of land-intensive natural resources such as agriculture and forestry.

However, changes in global production networks and increased urbanisation have changed the character of rural areas. Increasingly, tourism, niche manufacturers, and recreation have replaced resource extraction and agriculture as dominant economic drivers. “The need for rural communities to approach development from a wider perspective has created more focus on a broad range of development goals rather than merely creating incentive for agricultural or resource based businesses. Education, entrepreneurship, physical infrastructure, and social infrastructure all play an important role in developing rural regions.”

Rural development can also characterised by its emphasis on locally produced economic development strategies. In contrast to urban regions, which have many commonalities between them, rural areas are highly distinctive from one another. For this reason, there is a large variety of rural development approaches being used across regions and the world.

This variety and these trends are also reflected in the nine INTERREG IVC rural development projects, which focus on innovation, research and technological development, stimulating entrepreneurship and SMEs and stimulating employment, human capital and education in rural areas.

Methodological approach

The approach used to analyse the results of the nine projects consists of three stages: data collection, analysis and validation, as described in the figures below.

Figure 1.1 Approach used for the capitalisation of INTERREG IVC rural projects

Figure 1.1 Approach used for the capitalisation of INTERREG IVC rural projects

Figure 1.2 Approach used for the capitalisation of INTERREG IVC rural projects

Figure 1.2 Approach used for the capitalisation of INTERREG IVC rural projects

Research questions

The report provides answers to the following research questions:

  1. What are the common features / challenges / difficulties / successes among the projects of the same topic?
  2. In particular, do these projects have similar good practices in common? If yes, what are these good practices? Are they easily transferable to other regions? Should they be further disseminated for the benefit of other regions?
  3. Did the partner regions find different solutions to the same issue?
  4. Does one region have a particularly interesting or innovative practice or policy identified which merits being made available to other regions in Europe?
  5. Has a project achieved a particular interesting result (e.g. in terms of good practices transfer or policies improved) which could be useful for the other projects in the same topic and more generally for other local/regional authorities dealing with that topic?
  6. Have the participating regions identified core pre-requisites for the successful implementation of their regional policy in the area concerned?
  7. Depending on the expert’s knowledge, are there any possible synergies between the concerned projects and initiatives undertaken in other EU programmes?
  8. Based on the findings of the analysis, can specific recommendations be made to individual projects which may not be aware of important practices / policies or which may be less advanced and experienced than other projects?
  9. Based on the answers to all the above questions, which overall lessons learnt / policy recommendations can be drawn that could be useful for policymakers at regional, national and/or European levels?

Structure of the report

This report is divided into the following parts:

  1. Introduction (this chapter 1) - describes the approach used and gives a definition of rural development.
  2. Policy context (chapter 2) - provides background information on rural development, including the main EU policy objectives, the current focus of EU rural development policy, the future focus of EU rural development policy as well as trends in rural development throughout the EU.
  3. Analysis of the rural development projects (chapter 3) - represents the heart of the study and provides an aggregated thematic analysis of the nine INTERREG IVC rural development projects.
    This analysis includes possible synergies between projects, similar issues faced, links established between projects within and outside the programme, project results and impact achieved and their relevance within the EU relevant policies). It provides details on interesting and innovative regional policies and describes nine identified good practices.
  4. Key policy messages & conclusions (chapter 4) – outlines relevant findings for other regions in Europe and policy recommendations for national and European level.

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