Helka Urponen Learning villages in Portugal_ Italy and Lapland by goodbaby

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									21st EUCEN European Conference Barcelona 16-19 May 2001

Helka Urponen Ph.D, Director Continuing Education Centre University of Lapland Finland

LEARNING VILLAGES IN PORTUGAL, ITALY AND LAPLAND

Introduction
In all European countries society expects a university to be a builder of the future and it has to produce widely experienced experts and wise decision-makers. University continuing education is central to the basic university tasks of research and education. More clearly, a university acts as a service provider for the community. University continuing education includes also regional development besides of the higher education and the professional development. Universities, particularly in Finland, have a special role to support the social and economic development in their surrounding environment. This has been done by action research, pilot activities and training. The European Union membership has given a lot of new and fresh chances to participate also into international projects. Not only people can learn, but also regions are able to exchange their expertise by networking. I am working in the northernmost university of the European Union, at the University of Lapland. Our center is a service provider particularly for the northern Finland and Lapland. The province of Lapland consists of one third of the hole Finland by square kilometers, but only a little less than 200 000 inhabitants. So, the region is a sparsely populated European periphery. But the infrastructure of the community is well-developed and the people are as well educated as in the southern part of Finland. So, the prequisities for collaboration together with the educational institutions including the university are exellent. We have a lot of challenges and much to do, i.g. to develop information society and global society. My experience in this work in the previous ten years is that the doors of the university have been open. And especially the continuing education centers in Finland have had the key role. The strategy of the University of Lapland by 2010 is saying explicitly that the university must develop and serve for every inhabitant in Lapland by some way. The life long learning concept must be taken seriously. Active citizenship is the aim of the life long learning approach in the EU. The human resources cant be forgotten in regional, community and village development. By networking people can learn more and sooner. Best practices and benchmarking can be used as the learning methods. But, a facilitator for the learning processes is needed. It is us, we university continuing education professionals.

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A case study for networking
I was asked to tell about an international networking project in the regional development. The partners are in Italy and in Portugal. I am concentrating in this paper to describe our experience. Networking processes can be classified into the following categories: At first; inside of the university. It means that we are serving a learning plattform also for the graduate students in the faculties. Real life and a challenging surrounding where the student can operate to interview, to do small explorative studies, to do study visits etc. The professors and the other supervisors can also get a concrete touch to the social, economic and cultural life. We think this is an added value about the project work. And for the rural and village people university is not an closed strictly academic world. However, there are problems with the academic language, ”some lingvistic challenges”, but anyway, we are going forward. Secondly, in the regional and local level we have numerous partners. We are trying to work better together for the village people. The old working modell is to act separately, sector by sector. Now we are speaking in the round table about the aims, methods and our own expertise opportunities to react. This is like an integrated regional development modell where the focus, i.g. village people are playing a key role. The grass-root principle will take time and learning processes are going slowly. But I think this is the only way to work. When the process has started it is like a snowball effect at its best. The villages are learning from each other. We are facilitating networks between the villages in Lapland. The first step is to see best practices near and then to learn more through foreign case studies. Attitudes are often the most important hindering factors. Thirdly, the international inputs are needed, not only in the urban areas but also in the marginal regions. In this process rural entrepreneurs and local people welcome international contacts and innovative ideas which they can compare and maybe adapt later some features to their living conditions.

Learning sustainability
Within the frame of Recite II Programme for international interregional cooperation is going on a project called ”Learning Sustainability”. Recite II is a programme of the European Commision –DG ”Regional Policy” for exchange and co-operation between regional and local authorities within the European Union. ”Learning villages” is the undertitle of Finnish activities in this main project. The main objective of this project is to increase the capacities of the regions and to face key challenges for the sustainable development of remote and peripheral areas.These mariginal areas have similar acute problems as emigration of young generations from rural villages, mismanagement and loss of natural and cultural resources and difficulties for local SMEs to compete on the market.
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The project is developing tools and methods for the sustainable development of marginal rural areas in Europe (mountainous, Mediterranean and Scandinavian) through interregional co-operation between TRENTINO (Italy), LAPLAND (Finland) and ALENTEJO (Portugal). The orientation is towards individuals and rural people, decision-makers, professional leaders, local authorities and associations. The project is developing a network at the international, interregional and interlocal levels. The project began by the feasibility research in 1998-1999 and the real implementation phase is 2000-2001. The principal and the leader partner is The Autonomous Province of Trento in Italy. The copartners are in Portugal The University of Evora and in Finland The Continuing Education Centre at the University of Lapland. These three regions have their regional partners so altogether there are 19 authorities. For example in Lapland we are working with The Regional Council of Lapland, The Regional Environmental Centre, The Lapland Rural Advisory Centre, The Arctic Centre of our University, The Lapland Forestry Centre and The Employment and Economic Development Centre of Lapland. The focus group is villages who have been selected by open call so that we are working with 6 rural villages from 6 municipalities in Lapland.

Thematic areas for the project
The project is divided into several areas of activity focusing on key issues for the sustainable development of marginal areas in Europe such as: sustainable tourism, quality management, participatory multiple-use management of rangelands, cooperation and relationship between cities and rural areas. Partners intend to follow after the Community support a network of multipolar centres for exchange of experience between regional and local authorities on the sustainable development of less favoured areas in Europe. There will be an Arctic pole in Lapland, a mountain pole in Trentino, and a Mediterranean pole in Alentejo. The thematic areas were selected for the project, particularly the three main areas (tourism, quality and rangelands) correspond to priority issues for the sustainable development of the regions involved, and the specific objectives correspond to concrete needs expressed locally. Tourism For tourism in marginal areas, there is a need to find alternatives to mass-tourism, which is concentrated on some areas (beaches in the Mediterranean, mountain resorts in the Alps). There is a need to develop more diffuse forms of tourism, with less detrimental impacts on the environment, better distribution of social and economic benefits in time (longer season) and space at the regional level, and susceptible to bring added values to the regional development. The project will give the regions involved the opportunity to promote their skills and develop alternative forms of tourism responding to the local needs. In Lapland where tourism is concentrated on a few centres, and strongly connected to untouched nature, Sami culture,

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the Arctic Circle, Santa Claus, and Christmas, there is a need for Lappish people to rediscover their own roots and resources and develop tourism in villages nowadays set aside from tourism development. And in Alentejo, where tourism has been recently well developed around the cultural heritage of a few cities, there is a need to develop employment through new forms of nature and rural tourism in the depopulating montados areas, and derive the flow of visitors from the overcrowded southern coasts of Portugal. Quality To maintain local people, keep visitors and complete with other more-favoured areas on the market, marginal areas have a few options. One of them is to deliver well identifiable goods and services of recognised quality. Small enterprises dominate in these areas, and are generally facing many difficulties to adopt and manage quality standards. In Lapland, transferring the local experience on quality self-management from farms to rural SMEs is today a regional priority. In Trentino, where the depopulation of mountain areas is a major regional concern the quality of retail shops and services is essential to maintaining people in remote villages. In Alentejo, as in many Mediterranean countries facing seasonal drought and water scarcity, maintaining the quality of water is a basic requirement for regional development. Rangelands Marginal areas are those areas where, apart from tourism and a limited industry, principally mining, husbandry is playing a major role. It is generally developed on semi-natural rangelands and plays an essential role in maintaining open and balanced supporting multiple use and functions (ecological and hydrological equilibriums, forestry, recreation, landscapes, etc). There is however a need to maintain a sound balance between the multiple use and interest, and grazing management plays a central role. In Lapland, where reindeer herding has become somewhat artificially developed and detrimental to the environment, there is a need to develop new practices through a consensual approach involving all stakeholders, especially those concerned with husbandry, forestry and tourism.

Implementations and actions
Next, I will concentrate on some concrete aspects what we have done in order to demonstrate our role in the regional development. Actions can be classified into two levels: a) actions carried out at the inter-regional level, and b) actions carried out at the intra-regional level. At first, what has happened at the inter-regional level in the area 1, tourism? I will speak only about tourism area, not the other areas. Learning by networking has been possible in the inter-regional planning meetings and in the inter-regional exchange of experience sessions in each region.

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The preparatory planning meeting took place on November 1999 at the Centre di Ecologia Alpina in Trentino. The main task and result was to plan the implementation of the work programme in the area (tourism). After this meeting exchange of experience sessions focused on specific objectives in each region: nature tourism in Alentejo, cultural tourism in Trentino, and local resources based tourism and village development in Lapland. The first exchange of experience session was organised very soon after the first meeting, on December, 1999 at Mora, Alentejo. The main task was to present problems and opportuntities to develop nature tourism in Alentejo, and learn from experiences in Lapland and Trentino. We have taken with us one local villager to every visit abroad, in order to see and to learn. In Alentejo the session was attended by a large audience of 220 people, active at the local level. The conference was introduced by the State secretary on Tourism and followed by thematic sessions on nature tourism out of protected areas, resources and practices, and management and good practices. The second exchange of experience session was organised on March, 2000 at Fiera di Primiero, Cimego and Folgaria in Trentino. The main task was to present existing cultural tourism in different localities of Trentino, and in other regions of the Italian Alps, and to learn from experiences on the same subject in Lapland and Alentejo. One session of a three-day seminar was concluded by a half-day discussion with the participants. It was tested the project idea of an European network of sustainable villages. It was largely approved, especially by people from other regions of the Italian Alps. On March, 2000, an inter-regional working group meeting for project partners was organised at Kurtakko (a rural village in Lapland). The meeting was organised and attended by a group of villagers from the village Committee of Kurtakko. For the first time, they had international guests! To follow with the subject, an inter-regional meeting of the three regional responsible partners on area 1 (tourism), took place on May, 2000, in Rovaniemi, Lapland. The main task then was to plan a strategy for the project´s follow up in relation to village tourism. And, a working document was presented by Alentejo, including proposals for the definition and phasing of the creation of an European network of tourism villages. The exchange of experience session was organised on September, 2000, at Rovaniemi and the villages of Tiainen and Kurtakko. The main task was to present the methodology applied in Lapland, and discuss the first results obtained. The open conference on ”Village development and tourism” was attended by people from different localities and representatives of local authorities in Lapland. First pilot projects under development in the villages of Tiainen and Kurtakko were presented as field visits. The main result of the session was to discuss about methods and to support village development through tourism in Lapland and to find possible adaptation to the local contexts in Alentejo and Trentino.

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The results obtained concern principally the involvement of partners, and end users, the improvement of co-operation, the dissemination of the project in each region, and a new vision for the project´s follow up. All inter-regional meetings were attended by representatives of all partners. Each travelling partner was generally represented by several people, and the hosting partners had every time representatives of all local associate partners, and a group of end users. Another important aspect was the growing of a culture of inter-regional co-operation among partners, evidenced by many side bilateral exchanges among them, and particularly by the joint preparation of several projects: a research infrastructure application was presented by the Arctic Center of the University of Lapland, with the Centro of Alpine Ecology of Trento as partner. The proposal made by partners involved in tourism area has been very important to stimulate the whole project with a new vision for its follow up, through the development of an European network of villages to develop sustainble tourism. This has facilitated the involvement of end users in the preparation of demonstration actions in each region, particularly in Lapland and Alentejo. The concept of working together with villages, which started from Lapland, has been consolidated there, and first transferred with success to Alentejo. And hopefully to Trentino, also.

Actions carried out at the intra-regional level
In Lapland, the project started with the selection of six pilot-villages, after a call for proposal widely published in the regional media. Only every second village could join the project. The counterparts of the project in the villages are both the municipality and the village committee, a local association of villagers. All villages have been visited several times. A report has been prepared on weaknesses, strenghts and ideas in each village, and comparative analyses have been made. This provides background documentation to prepare a local development startegy for each village. In addition, particular projects have been discussed with some villages, some of the projects based on local nature and culture have been started. For all villages the project is providing multimedia facilities with the perspective to network the six villages for information and training. In Trentino, there has been a series of meetings with local people. In BIM Brenta area the objective is to develop a route of the imaginary based on local traditions and legends. A first survey of original local literature has been made, and contacts taken with a number of local associations. The objectives are to develop different routes for culture tourism, through a participatory approach with municipalities, local people, associations and institutions. In Alentejo, nature tourism has been developed by making a feasibility study for nature tourism. The university of Evora has been very active. To evaluate the potential interest in Alentejo for a future network of villages, a first sample of three local communities has been selected, and information meetings have been organised. Each meeting was attended with

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strong interest by local stakeholders, including representatives of commercial, lodging and restauration establishments, associations for local development, entrepreneurs, local authorities and other entities. In Lapland, a major result is the involvment of villagers, through the village committees, in each one of the six selected pilot-villages. For the more active villages, the project has accompanied the first steps of very concrete pilot-projects, such as the ”Telatie” footpath on swamp environment around Kurtakko, or the local traditional dress project developed by a tourism familial company at Korvala in connection with a network of local enterprises. Both projects are first examplary achievements of the main project´s initial objectives in this area in Lapland, which are to help local to find their own village development systems based on local nature and culture resources, and in particular, the rediscovery of Finnish Laplanders´ heritage. For the more passive villages, the project has helped to identify conditions and opportunities for development and design training and consulting sessions based on the very spesific needs of each village, most dealing with cooperation. In all villages the village committee is responsible for the management of multimedia facilities provided by the project, and located either in the village shop or school for open access to all villagers. Some villages have started to create their own web site, and a central web site with links to the villages sites is under consideration as a main tool to start networking the villages. Another important result is the commitment of the six municipalities, including a financial commitment up to 2500 Euro each. In addition two of them have facilitated the employment of two local people in the village committees to work for the project. In Lapland, partners have invested much attention to communication from the beginning, and the project has gotten quite much publicity. There have been about 50 articles on the project in newspapers and magazines, and several stories and interviews on the radio. Many papers have been published to report about the work done at village level and the project is now well known in Lapland as the ”learning villages” project. In a summary, the project has a good image in Lapland. And an international label, too. All the other areas have been carried out by the same way as tourism area. I mean quality and rangeland (grazing). Many planning meetings and exchange of experience sessions. But I don’t speak about them anymore.

A short visit to villages in Lapland by Internet
At the end I would like to show some results about the villages by the Internet. These pictures and web sites have been planned during the project and with the help of the local people. An expert has only finished the work. I will demonstrate the villages of Kurtakko and Tolva. Homepage addresses are: http://www.kurtakko.fi/ http://www.posio.fi/tolva http://www.enontekio.fi/english/e.index.html http://personal.inet.fi/koti/joutsijarvi/

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You can see that the remote location does not need to be a hinder for access. The villages need various links to market their services and products. In the future the internet connections can be also a very useful basis for an European Network of sustainable villages. I have with me a video from Korvala familial tourism company. The pictures can tell more than a thousand words. This film has been made by our project and you can see the tectile and dress results here. Clothing based on cultural tradition in this region.

Conclusions
Our Arctic, Mediterranian and Alpine – project ”Learning Sustainability” is going on until springtime next year. Through this project we have had various opportunities to learn from each other, to build thematic networks between the regions, villages and people. I think this has been a real learning process for everyone involved. We have had exchange of experience in the regional and particularly in the rural development. The project time is always short, but anyway it has sifted a need for European networking, and given a touch about it. We have seen that networking is a learning process. The interregional partnership has given new perspectives and Italian and Portugese collaboration will continue by some way after this Recite II project. We do our best to have a multipolar centre network; it is an Arctic pole in Lapland, a mountain pole in Trentino and a Mediterranean pole in Alentejo. In the near future this network will have a role of experience of exchange between regional and local authorities on the sustainable development of less favoured areas in Europe. This year on October 30-31 we will organize in Trentino an European conference for regional development with a special attention on the relationship between cities and rural areas. And thirdly, there is an idea to continue project activities by some way. The objectives of this project are very challenging; many partners in every country, to manage it is not easy; differences in the project culture, misunderstanding, learning by mistakes; too heavy EU byrocracy, never seen before; in Lapland we took maybe too many pilot villages, it will take too much time and we have not succeeded with every village; etc. However, for us in Lapland this project has been pretty useful because we and with us also the University of Lapland have really ”landed” on the villages in different parts of Lapland. Without this project it could not have been possible so soon. From the beginning of the project we have made evaluations by organizing surveys and questionnaires. Later we will be able to consider which will have the impacts of the Recite II -project. More information: http://www.cealp.it/english/recite/recite.htm http://www.recite.it/index-en.html

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