Ann sofi

The theme group "Smart Rural Areas in Swedish Finland and the Nordic Countries" - a look back at the past year.

During the year, the theme group collaborated with many parties. Special collaboration exists with Nordregio, the Nordic Council of Ministers' research institute in Stockholm and its thematic group "Green and Inclusive Rural Development", where the coordinator is also a member. The coordinator also lectured on the work of the thematic group, the Rural Network, EU funding, smart villages and rural areas, as well as on other innovative themes at events organised by external actors .
Despite high hopes at the beginning of the year to be able to arrange the Finnish-Swedish Rural Parliament physically in Loviisa in March 2021, an event which had been postponed from autumn 2020, we again had to change the event into a one-day webinar. Malin Rönnblom from Karlstad University (SWE) talked about location policy in light of the pandemic, and new opportunities for rural areas. Business analyst Kjell Lindström (SWE) talked about future trends and organisations, and leadership. Participants were also asked about current issues in rural policy/the National Rural Policy Council and rural development/the Swedish Rural Network. In addition, discussions were held using Timeout breaks to gain a deeper understanding of what constitutes a good life in rural areas. (Timeout is a dialogue method for generating constructive discussions between people with different backgrounds.) A special thank you goes to SILMU r.f. for their commitment to the realisation of the Rural Parliament despite the circumstances.

During the spring, a three-part webinar series was arranged: The New Rural Habitat; The New Rural Collaborative Environment; and The New Rural Business Environment, with many interesting lecturers sharing information about best practices and projects. For example, issues/projects were highlighted regarding multi-locality, habitability, ease for doing business, change requirements (SITRA), remote work hubs, the village as a creative place, migration slots, sustainability and social responsibility, partnership agreements (third sector municipalities), modern associations, and collaboration at local levels.

In addition, in June the theme group organised a Swedish-language information session on the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility (recovery funding), smart villages and broadband funding.

In the autumn, programmes for the Rural Parliament in Kurikka in October were planned and prepared. Together with the Swedish Rural Network and JSM, the theme group organised a bilingual workshop on the theme “Smart Rural Areas”, and launched the concept “Youth in Rural Areas” (through Timeout dialogue breaks) together with the Bildningsalliansen (an umbrella organisation for non-formal adult education in Swedish in Finland). They also arranged, together with Nordregio and the SHERPA project, a Swedish-language workshop on the rural vision for 2040, and important themes from a Finnish point of view.

In November, major effort was put into a Nordic webinar to see what we can learn from each other in terms of rural development. Finish Minister for Nordic Cooperation and Equality, Thomas Blomqvist, opened the webinar and lecturers came from all over the Nordic region and from Nordregio. They contributed and shared their expertise, insights, research and best practices. It was gratifying that the webinar also attracted many participants from the Baltics.

At the end of the year, “Youth in Rural Areas” Timeout dialogues were initiated with youth, in cooperation with the Bildningsalliansen. First up was the high school in Pedersöre. A virtual Timeout dialogue was also held in December where the theme was “The Future of Åland”.

We’d like to extend our thanks to the theme group's members, the Rural Network and other partners for for their efforts over the past year.

New year - New opportunities!

Ann-Sofi Backgren


Date updated: Jan 31, 2022