Work on the six thematic activities, which are receiving support under the EU Europe for Citizens Programme, are underway, as part of the ERP SPARCE Project. Each theme is being led by an ERP Partner organization, and involves many other organisations as project partners. The work with each theme will be undertaken through virtual exchanges with rural citizens, typically involving questionnaires, surveys, workshops and face-to-face meetings between the theme partners. For each theme, at least 250 people will be involved in these exchanges and 25 to 50 citizens, drawn from 6 or more countries, will then take part in ‘lifeshop’, travelling workshops, or other format of meeting. This is designed to provide a strong ‘reality check’ of rural conditions and success stories, and an active multi-national exchange of ideas. This will aim to clarify key issues and identify and publicise case studies. The work with each theme will aim to find consensus on how citizens can participate in shaping policy and taking action related to each theme. The results will be discussed at the 3rd European Rural Parliament and disseminated throughout Europe.

Information about the ongoing work on each theme will be posted here

Below is a short presentation of each of the six initial thematic projects, currently underway:

1. Provision for young people in rural areas, and preparing for a European Rural Youth Parliament
2. Welcoming refugees and economic migrants in rural areas
3. Tackling poverty and social exclusion in rural areas
4. Sustaining rural services and infrastructure
5. Strengthening local and sub regional economies
6. Integrated rural development, and promotion of LEADER and Community-Led Local Development

1. Provision for young people in rural areas, and preparing for a European Rural Youth Parliament

This theme is led by ERCA, through project leaders:  SYTY – the Village Action Association of Finland and the Latvian Rural Forum.  The Project Managers are Kim Smedslund of SYTY and Anita Selicka of LRF. The main activities are:

  • gathering ideas and case studies related to the needs of young people in rural areas, and how these needs may be met
  • building a network of young people and their organisations in rural areas within the framework of the European Rural Parliament
  • including events for young people at local, regional and national levels
  • organising the first European Rural Youth Parliament
  • making the youth thematic activities an on-going part of the ERP process.

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2. Welcoming refugees and economic migrants in rural areas

This theme is led by HSSL - Hela Sverige ska leva, the Swedish rural movement, and will involve project partners from Austria, Estonia, Finland, Serbia, Turkey, Hungary and Slovenia.  The Project Manager is Josefin Heed of HSSL.
The work will gather examples, experience and knowledge from rural Europeans who are working with initiatives to welcome refugees and migrants into their communities. It will aim to involve over 200 responses in an on-line survey and will arrange several virtual think tanks (structured meetings) with over 40 people.  The aim is to exchange ideas, draw conclusions and build strategies for the 3rd European Rural Parliament.
Contribute to the survey and register for the virtual think tanks here!

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3. Tackling poverty and social exclusion in rural areas

This theme is led by PREPARE through project leaders the Polish Rural Forum, FAOW and will involve partners from across Europe. The Project Managers are Ryszard Kaminski and Urszula Budzich-Tabor of the Polish Rural Forum.  The work will be undertaken through virtual exchanges with rural citizens on experience of enlisting the participation and meeting the needs of socially excluded citizens. FAOW has established cooperation with universities to participate in the work on this theme, and a two-day practitioners’ workshop will be organised in or near Cracow in May or June 2017 be attended by approximately 40 practitioners and researchers from Poland and at least 5 other countries.

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4. Sustaining rural services and infrastructure

This theme is led by ACRE, Action with Communities in Rural England. The Project Manager is Deborah Clarke of ACRE.
We hope the work can also be combined with work on the themes of “Small Towns” and “Integrated rural development and promotion of LEADER and Community-Led Local Development”
Services and infrastructure are important to everyone, and to rural residents, but raise different issues. Part of the work is to establish which rural services and infrastructure are the most important for people across rural Europe and how such services are provided. The main aims are:

  • to clarify key issues when considering rural services and infrastructure
  • to identify case studies to show how rural services can be sustained by communication
  • to offer conclusions, recommendations and to share knowledge of how citizens can participate in shaping policy and taking action to ensure services.

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5. Strengthening local and sub regional economies

This theme is led by PREPARE through project leaders, the Slovenian Rural Network. The Project Manager is Goran Soster of PREPARE and the Slovenian Rural Network.
The aims of the work are:

  • to clarify key issues on the central theme by surveys, travelling workshops and events
  • to identify successful case-study examples of how rural economies can be strengthened and diversified
  • by reference to those examples, to find out which are the most significant drivers of success, which are the main motives of stakeholders to join the common initiatives, and how citizens can participate in shaping policy and taking action related to this theme. 
  • to estimate the potential of the local and sub-regional economies in the areas involved in the survey
  • to present a report and recommendations

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6. Integrated rural development, and promotion of LEADER and Community-Led Local Development

This theme is led by ELARD, the European LEADER Association for Rural Development. The Project Manager is Kadri Tillemann of ELARD.
The activities are based on a definition of the theme as being an ongoing process involving local stakeholders aiming to improve the lives of people living in rural areas, and the main aim will be:

  • to clarify to what degree development of rural areas is done as an integrated process between stakeholders and central, regional and local authorities
  • to identify case studies to show the differences between top down and integrated development
  • to identify case studies to show advantages and disadvantages of using LEADER, CLLD or other methodologies in rural development, as administered today
  • to conclude and declare suggestions to how different methodologies can improve the development of rural areas by involving stakeholders.

We also hope to be able to soon launch more of the themes mentioned in the ERP Manifesto – including:

  • The well-being of small and family farms
  • The crucial role of small towns, and rural and urban cooperation
  • Climate change and its implications for rural areas
  • The role of civil society networks in rural areas
  • Leadership in rural development
  • Education in rural areas
  • Partnership between civil society and governments in rural development
  • Rural development in the western Balkans and the Black Sea regions

We will also be launching work on National Rural Parliaments, to enable mutual sharing and learning from the experiences of the many countries which now have successful Rural Parliaments.

If you are interested in being part of any of these thematic activities, please make contact with the ERP Co-ordinators.

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