On 6 June 2019, LDnet organised a special session at the annual conference of the RSA in Santiago de Compostela on the topic of “Strengthening the impact of research on EU local development policies“.
The LDnet workshop presented the opportunities and challenges of involving the research community in designing and analysing EU local development policies, in particular CLLD and Smart Villages, from the perspective of practitioners (Urszula Budzich-Tabor), researchers (Nicola Dotti, Loris Servillo) and the European Commission (Nathalie Verschelde, DG REGIO).
The workshop was attended by some thirty researchers interested in the topic. Small and medium-sized towns as well as rural areas are an important reality increasingly recognised by EU policies, hence the incentives to develop place-based approaches. Solutions must be found if researchers are to go beyond the publication pressure; they must also learn to disagree and to look critically.
The Commission is very keen on building bridges between research and practice and on making sure research results are used. A community of experts dealing with local development policies might help in harvesting lessons learnt and overcoming silo mentality.
A fuller report on the workshop will be published shortly. The background paper entitled “Local development: an opportunity to bridge the gap between research and practice” is available by clicking at the end of this post.
One of the objectives of the next period’s EU funding is contributing to a Europe closer to citizens by fostering the sustainable and integrated local development and local initiatives. Policy tools available to meet this objective include a continuation of Community-Led Local Development (CLLD), implemented since 2014 under four EU Funds in rural, coastal and urban areas. New tools are also envisaged, such as “Smart Villages” proposed under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) – small-scale collaborative actions looking for new solutions to challenges facing the local community (including, where relevant, digital solutions, social innovation etc.).
In June 2018, during the RSA conference in Lugano, researchers and practitioners had a lively discussion on “What the Cohesion Policy wants (but does not get) from research: the case of local development”. In 2019, we propose to take this discussion one step further, and to see how researchers can effectively contribute to the design and evaluation of policy tools targeting local development under EU funding proposals for 2021-2027.
The discussion will kick off with an overview of challenges of connecting research with policy tools targeting local development, presented from the perspective of policy makers, practitioners and researchers. A possible practical outcome of the discussion could be proposals and recommendations for strengthening the linkages between local development policy and research, including the possibility of creating a “community of experts” around the themes of local development and smart villages.
Possible questions for discussion include the following:
- how to provide strong evidence on the results of LEADER/CLLD, especially those less tangible ones, e.g. bringing Europe closer to citizens or strengthening social capital? How to measure its contribution to innovation or local governance?
- how to assess the impact of national delivery systems on the results of LEADER/CLLD?
- how to harvest the lessons from LEADER/CLLD in a way that could help in the implementation of Smart Villages across the EU, and to ensure transfer of experience between the two types of instruments?
- how to ensure a systematic exchange between experts, researchers and practitioners of local development, to facilitate an improved design and implementation of EU policies? Would there be scope for creating a “community of experts”?
Speakers: Urszula Budzich-Tabor, FARNET/LDnet (practitioners’ perspective), Nicola Francesco Dotti, VUB and Loris Servillo, KUL/UCL (researchers’ perspective), Nathalie Verschelde, DG REGIO (policy makers’ perspective).