Looking for creative solutions and strategies at municipal level

01.08.2020 - 31.12.2021

Research group

The starting point of the research is the concept of shrinking rural area as a multidimensional phenomenon. In areas with declining and ageing populations, the conditions for increased vitality, new opportunities and well-being are approached by applying smart shrinking concept. It is obvious that the shrinking process includes structural factors such as decreasing employment in agriculture and industry, exacerbated by location-related impacts of poor accessibility and sparse population density. Increasingly, the aim of fairness regarding availability of services has also become increasingly difficult and expensive to achieve in rural areas. Shrinking demand also leads to problems in maintaining service provision.

Demographic changes put pressure on more efficient use of resources and the reorganisation of services. It is important that municipalities are strategically able to manage change and look for new opportunities. Therefore, research examines whether existing municipal strategies and actions are traditional (e.g. attracting businesses and new residents to the area, maintaining services), adaptive (e.g. reducing services and infrastructure) or innovative (e.g. exploiting digitalisation, generating new types of services).

The research focuses on the emergence, spread and deployment of service innovations. In this context, innovation refers to procedures and methods by which municipalities’ actions/policies are implemented to find new ways of delivering services. Key core idea of the research is to identify the determinants for service innovations that may vary by the type of action/policy used. We also ask whether the adaptation process in municipalities is smart, and whether it creates well-being and basis for a good life.

The research is funded by the Foundation for Municipal Development