Modernising rural settlements in Eastern Finland through learning network-cooperation

Rural settlements play an important role as local economic centres and balancing elements in regional structures. However, population shifts towards larger agglomerations have reduced their vitality. In Eastern Finland, six rural municipalities have teamed up to find ways to modernise rural settlements and increase resident participation together with the Ruralia Institute of the University of Helsinki and Spatia – Centre for Regional Research of the University of Eastern Finland. The cooperation network includes the municipalities of Heinävesi, Keitele, Liperi, Mäntyharju, Tervo and Valtimo.

— Rural municipalities in different parts of Finland face structural changes in their own way, utilising their individual strengths. It is prudent to share experiences and collect information on new solutions together. While we cannot directly copy ideas, we can expand concepts together to suit our purposes, says Research Director Torsti Hyyryläinen.

The ongoing reform of Finnish regional administration and municipal structures poses a major challenge in the development of rural settlements and villages. The results depend essentially on the ability to exploit new opportunities for service business development and, for example, adopt digital commerce solutions on a local level.

— We must clarify the role of rural settlements in a digitalising service environment. The network we are creating is designed to generate new solutions and knowledge for the extensive development of rural settlements, says Project Manager Manu Rantanen

The project, launched in early November, is entitled Regeneration of Rural Localities (Uudistuvat elinvoimataajamat) and utilises complementarities between research and development. The participating municipalities carry out development measures independently and interact closely to learn from each other. The Ruralia Institute of the University of Helsinki and Spatia – Centre for Regional Research of the University of Eastern Finland – contribute their expertise and research findings to the activities of the network of municipalities.

The project is coordinated by the Ruralia Institute and implemented between 1 November 2017 and 31 December 2019. The project is carried out in collaboration with Spatia – Centre for Regional Research – and the municipalities of Heinävesi, Keitele, Liperi, Mäntyharju, Tervo and Valtimo, which are located in the three regions of Southern Savonia, North Karelia and Northern Savonia. The project concerns approximately 28,000 residents and is funded by the Rural Development Programme for Mainland Finland.

The participants hope to engage parties who stand to gain from vibrant village life, including leisure residents, small businesses and young people, in the planning of the future of villages. It is important to bring together people who are interested in improving the vibrancy of specific localities.

Additional information:

Manu Rantanen

Manu Rantanen

Project Manager