SIMRA at the ESRS 2019 Congress- Exploring the role of social innovation driving transformations in rural areas

The XXVIII European Society for Rural Sociology Congress took place in June in Trondheim (Norway), and SIMRA was very present with the coordination of a Working Group, a dedicated session, and several presentations by a group of members of the team.

Diana Valero (Perth College-UHI) was the leading convenor of the WG 11 – ‘Social innovation and social farming as drivers of transformations and changes in rural areas’. The WG aimed to explore the understanding of social innovation in general and social farming in particular as drivers of rural change: from examining how concrete examples of social innovation transform social practices in agriculture, forestry, and rural development to discussing the deeper meanings that those changes may have in different socio-cultural contexts. With 5 sessions and more than 20 proposals, the participation in the WG was remarkably successful, which indicates the interest that social innovation and social farming are raising in rural studies.

The first session of the WG was exclusively dedicated to SIMRA, starting with a general presentation of the project by Diana Valero, which was followed by presentations on different research themes developed by the partnership. Kamini Vicentini (University of Padova) talked about the development of the evaluation framework, which raised lots of interest from the audience. Alice Ludvig (BOKU) talked about policies for social innovation and drew on examples from social farming. And finally, Diana Valero spoke about the diversity of social innovation in rural areas and presented results of the latest analysis conductedon the examples in the SIMRA database of examples of social innovation.

The rest of the working sessions were dedicated to other approaches to social innovation in rural areas, and the participants had the opportunity to hear from other H2020 projects working on related topics. Different perspectives ofsocial farming were the mainfocus of discussionin the last sessions of the WG. Verena Gramm (EURAC) presented results from the SIMRA Case Study ‘Learning-Growing-Living with women farmers in South Tyrol, reflecting on the impacts of this social innovation in the wellbeing of women farmers.

Also, our colleague Manfred Perlik (University of Berne) gave a presentation in WG 30 about social innovations in mountain areas hosting refugees drawing on work also developed in SIMRA.

The work done in WG11 triggered the development of interesting discussions and reflections on the role of social innovation and social farming as drivers of transformation in rural areas and how it can be incentivised and monitored. In particular, a fruitful dialogue was established with the group of experts co-convening the group and who are focused on studying the development of social farming in Poland. The cooperation and dialogue established between SIMRA and other researchers working on similar topics in diverse geographies enriches the work developed in SIMRA and enhances the knowledge exchange in this field and ultimately contributes to the development of social innovation in rural Europe.


Diana Valero (Perth College-University of the Highlands and Islands)

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