The SHERPA Project, which AEIDL is a key partner and which is nearing it completion (we just held our 3rd Annual Conference are organising our Final Conference at the EU Committee of the Regions on 1 and 2 June), keeps providing evidence on a multitude of rural topics and the interaction between Science-Policy and Society. A new report by Majda Černič Istenič (University of Ljubljana), puts together the evidence on the social dimension of rural areas drawn from 9 of the 41 SHERPA Multi-Actor Platforms (i.e. regions). This Position Paper acknowledges that obstacles to flourishing rural communities and a good rural life do exist. “Traditional” forms of community organisation are in decline in rural areas, while new forms that could sustain sociability are not yet in place.
Some of these include low-level participation of people, lack of volunteers and local leaders, insufficient capacity of administrative staff, and inadequate legislation. It specifically focuses on four sub-topics: Wellbeing and social relationships in rural areas; Public goods provisioning and social networks; Bridging the rural-urban gap by promoting cultural activities; Social inclusion of migrant population in rural areas. The key recommendations coming out of this paper, and more widely from the SHERPA policy recommendations, call for strengthening the social capital and public services in rural areas.
At local level this should include the creation of more inclusive spaces such as, for instance, the Vunki mano!, an Estonian “social hackathon” to develop new ways of living in rural Estonia, or a financial scheme to develop more flexible housing and renting conditions in rural areas of Wallonia, Belgium. At EU level, the notion of social capital needs to be fully embedded in EU funding instruments such as LEADER/CLLD. You can find the full study here.