After more than two months of hacking, the COVID-19 INSPIRE Hackathon culminated in the awards ceremony that took place online on 19 November 2020. We’re super excited that a team co-managed by 21c came third in the competition where a total of 13 teams vied for the jury’s attention. Our team worked on Challenge #6 The Atlas of Best Practice - PoliRural Cases.
The Atlas was initially developed by the ENABLING project to provide case studies on bio based products and processes that can serve as an inspiration to regions in Europe and beyond. Recently, the Atlas was incorporated into the PoliRural Digital Innovation Hub, where it hosts case studies on rural new entrants. We believe that the Atlas can also be used in the fight against COVID-19. By providing international good practice examples of rural innovations in these difficult times, the Atlas can facilitate cross-border learning and encourage local stakeholders to take action based on tried and tested approaches from abroad.
Rural businesses and people have faced many challenges that became more acute as a result of COVID-19 and the associated lockdown measures. Demographic characteristics (e.g. a higher share of elderly population) and geographic features (e.g. larger distances to access health care centres), combined with reduced public service facilities, undermine the ability of rural regions to respond to the pandemic as efficiently as cities do. Moreover, the overall decline in demand (from restaurants, schools, businesses etc.) has affected some primary sectors, and the expected further slow-down in trade and global demand will hit rural economies severely given their higher reliance on activities such as tourism.
The aim of this challenge is to build a collection of best practices used by rural communities in Europe and beyond to address COVID-19. The results will be shared via Atlas to raise awareness of how rural areas are adapting to change in the face of the pandemic.
At the moment, 4 case studies are published on the Atlas: two from Finland (Kanta-Hame, Luhtikyla), and two from Spain (Castilla y Leon and a country-wide practice).
Kanta-Hame (FI) innovation aims to raise awareness of the local food production in Häme and to increase the visibility of local companies and farms, and through this also make it easier to find and use the services for local residents, cottagers and tourists.
Luhtikyla (FI) best practice supports the design and production of Tribe Products by raising funds for the village house where they are produced and which is an important community centre for locals. People like to wear similar clothes to demonstrate their sense of belonging to and solidarity with a region that was badly affected by COVID-19.
Castilla y Leon (ES) case study describes how rural accommodation was repurposed to suit the needs of training managers during the pandemic. Traditional office space was turned into the digital co-working space to accommodate new arrivals from cities.
The second Spanish case study talks about the recently introduced government plan to revitalise rural areas and make them more attractive in the wake of the pandemic. The focus is on saving water and improving energy efficiency, boosting the competitiveness and sustainability of agriculture, improving digital infrastructures and connectivity.
The Atlas developed during the hackathon with four case studies
Findings and potential benefits
The challenge showed that there is a huge interest in and availability of rural innovations to fight COVID-19. The Atlas can bring these best practices to the attention of decision makers in new places, inspiring them to try out practices that proved effective elsewhere. The small collection that we managed to build during the hackathon shows that dealing with COVID-19 is not just a matter for politicians. From NGOs to local community groups, it is often grassroot actors who effect change on the ground.
Case studies showcased through the Atlas can help farmers and local agri-food businesses to draw inspiration from international best practices and modify their business practices accordingly. Possible changes may include a review of occupational H&S standards, application of new business planning techniques, revision of human resource strategy in the face of reduced demand, and so on. Case studies can also support small agri-businesses indirectly - for instance, by encouraging rural community groups and NGOs to use government funds to purchase produce from local farmers whose businesses were affected by COVID-19.
Do you have a case study worth sharing with the world? If so, please get in touch via the contact form and we would be delighted to publish your best practice on the Atlas.