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Smart Villages: follow the guide!

The European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) has published new briefings on Smart Villages earlier this month, offering guidance for national, regional and local policymakers in the implementation of the concept.

Smart Villages has been a growing topic since the European Commission, together with the European Parliament, published in 2017 a document called “EU Action for Smart Villages”. Supported by DG Agri, DG Regio and DG Mobility and Transport, the Action Plan aimed at making opportunities for villages and rural communities more visible. The document also announced the creation of the ENRD thematic group on “Smart Villages”, of which Euromontana is part of on behalf of SIMRA, along 30 other expert organisations. Launched in 2017, this group meets 4 times a year to discuss options to revitalise rural services through both digital and social innovation by identifying examples, formulating recommendations and providing guidance and tools.

To complete the already existing resources on Smart Villages, briefing documents have been published. They aim at providing guidance for national, regional and local stakeholders involved in the development of the concept or in its concrete implementation on the ground. As social innovation is a key element to develop the Smart Villages concept beyond its digital dimension, these new briefing documents can be a useful tool for SIMRA partners.

To provide national policymakers and implementers with background knowledge on the concept and on its potential implementations at national level, a briefing document on “Smart Villages: How to support Smart Villages strategies which effectively empower rural communities?” was published. It exposes options to support Smart Villages at national level in the current programming period but also in the next one, for instance in the in the framework of the post-2020 CAP’s strategic plans.

As for SIMRA, the most interesting briefing papers however are the following ones, better targeting local level stakeholders and addressing the issue of governance:

How to provide financial support to Smart Villages?

When it comes to financially support local initiatives, various options exist. The briefing document “Smart Villages: How can LEADER/CLLD support Smart Villages?” explores barriers of these funding possibilities and presents recommendations to fully exploit their potential while another briefing document focusing on the support to Smart Villages using non-LEADER/CLLD cooperation to support Smart Villages, for instance within the CAP Strategic Plans for the period 2021-2027.

How to ensure an inclusive governance?

To guide local stakeholders towards a good implementation of the concept, the ENRD also published a briefing document on “Business models for rural services” to help identifying the most relevant model depending on local populations’ needs. To make sure these are considered, it is also important to develop the concept in consultation with citizens. If overcoming the digital divide in rural area under the next CAP is for instance crucial, changes arising from it need to benefit rural communities. Governance being a key tool of Smart Villages, citizens must be involved from the diagnosis phase to the implementation one. Thus, decisions must be co-adopted between local communities and policy-makers in a balanced approach mixing bottom-up and top-down governance while co-designing and co-planning villages services.

For more information on Smart Villages, visit the ENRD Portal, where you can find examples, events and studies collected within the thematic group “Smart Villages”, and consult our good practices database. SIMRA’s own policy recommendations will be revealed during our final conference, in February 2020 – stay tuned!

Author:

Blandine Camus (Euromontana)

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