The Common Good: what did we inherit, what do we want to leave to our children?

In this second workshop with the social innovation actors, the focus was on the ‘protection’ pillar of the VALAB initiative and the question that we aimed to address was that of the ecological heritage received of the participants and their role in transmitting it to future generations.

The workshop lasted one day and was organised on 11th May 2019, in coordination with the partners of the VALAB Operational Group. Two local experts were solicited for their expertise in the ecology of the territory. The focus of the workshop was on the North of Basse-Terre (in Guadeloupe, French West Indies) as a case study area which the participants could relate to. The workshop counted four activities that aimed to highlight participants’ representations of the territorial ecosystem, of the forest ecosystem as well as of their role within, and impact on those ecosystems. The eighteen participants we split into two groups that were guided through the activities by two pairs of facilitators and the experts in ecology. They would come back into plenary to share results and thoughts generated during the activities.

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Towards a shared vision of the Integrated value-enhancement of the Guadeloupean forest agrobiodiversity: Where are we now and where do we want to go?

At mid-term of the first phase of the VALAB project, this first Innovation Action workshop with the members of the SYAPROVAG and prospective actors of the forest understorey focused on the ‘production’ pillar of the VALAB vision. The objective of this workshop was to assess the current situation, share visions of the future, identify hurdles and potential pathways towards achieving those futures.

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Advanced Course on Social Innovation In Rural Areas

The course will be held at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza (Spain) on 18-22 November 2019.

Social innovation has been heralded as a vital part of the European recovery project since the economic crisis in 2008. It is of particular importance to rural areas, especially more disadvantaged rural areas, where multiple problems of depopulation, environmental quality decline and low levels of economic activity have been recurrent. With the trend of rapid urbanisation, the remoter rural areas will continue to be adversely affected.

This course is jointly organised by the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM), through the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza (IAMZ), and the EU H2020 project SIMRA (Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas) funded under grant agreement No 677622. The course will take place at IAMZ and will be given by an international team of well-qualified lecturers participating in this project, coming from international organisations, research centres, universities and the practice community.

The course will be held over a period of 1 week, from 18 to 22 November 2019, in morning and afternoon sessions and all participants will be exempt from the payment of registration fees.Continue reading

Social innovation in organic farming to revitalise rural areas

Article originally published in Spanish on Revista Agricultura Ecológica number 35.

Available in Spanish here.// Disponible en castellano aquí.

Traditionally, extensive farming[i] has been one of the activities that has fixed more population in disadvantaged rural areas in Europe and the Mediterranean. Moreover, it creates jobs and shapes most of our ecosystems. However, isolation and depopulation in these areas translate into the loss of their activities and the landscapes associated to it. That is why it is necessary to seek new practices that assure its social and economic sustainability.

In that sense, the European project SIMRA (Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas)[ii] shows us some examples. This project aims to make progress in the understanding of social innovation and innovative governance in agriculture, silviculture and rural development and enhance implementation in disadvantaged rural areas in Europe and the Mediterranean. It also understands social innovation as “reconfiguration of social practices, answering social challenges, looking to improve well-being and involve civil society’s actors.”[iii]
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Twitter conference on Social Innovation for energy alternatives 2050, SCENE2050

How should we arrange energy production sustainably? How can we ensure democratic and socially equitable decision-making on energy alternatives? And, how can post-industrial sites be revitalized for further use? SCENE2050 Twitter conference on the 17th of May 2019 will explore these questions and results will be discussed and elaborated in an on-site workshop to be held in Raahe Finland on the 24-25th of May.
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Social innovation in forests: buzzword or opportunity?

Article originally published on Medforest.

What is social innovation? Over the last decades, social innovation has gained significant popularity as a process able to tackle societal challenges and improve well-being via the direct engagement of the civil society. Hundreds of initiatives have claimed to be linked to this concept both in urban and rural contexts and in all topics and domains. Is social innovation yet another fuzzy word in a modern century of trending topics and well-designed marketing strategies? One of the aims of the H2020 SIMRA project (Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas) is also this one: to identify and map what are the key variables desirable for Social Innovation to occur, so as to identify success (and failure) cases, and develop methods for their appraisal and assessment.

During the VI Mediterranean Forest Week, which took place from 1 to 5 April in Brummana, Lebanon, hundreds of researchers, policy-makers and other relevant stakeholders from the wide Mediterranean basin gathered to discuss Mediterranean-wide forestry issues. Emerging topics included: the role of forests for achieving NDC targets for COP21, existing linkages between forests and other sectors (water, cities and biodiversity), forest communication, socio-ecological resilience of forests and many more. Social Innovation was indeed one of them, with a SIMRA-organised workshop aiming at exploring the role of the Mediterranean region as an incubating model for social innovation, presenting real cases that demonstrate elements for success and best practices for replication and learning purposes.Continue reading

Biela y Tierra Women

Article originally published in Spanish in Revista Soberanía Alimentaria, Biodiversidad y Culturas.

Biela y Tierra (in English crank and land) is an initiative started by Edurne Caballero and Ana Santidrián who aim to travel almost 3000 km of rural area by bike, and visit more than 80 other initiatives developed in rural areas, related to sustainable eating.

There are projects that are pure poetry: emanating passion all around, making you fall in love at first sight. Exactly what happened to me with Biela y Tierra. In these hectic times of cars invading our space and the media trying to convince us that there is no life beyond cities, Ana and Edurne have purposefully decided to hop on their bikes and show the world that our villages are full of life.Continue reading

Social food and social innovation: stimulating dialogue at the Social Food Forum

A quick look at the collection of examples of social innovation in the SIMRA database makes you realise that food is a central element in most of them. Food production is traditionally connected to rural areas shaping landscapes, diets, and even cultural heritage (local cuisines, traditions, etc.).

SIMRA was invited to participate in early March in a forum exploring the social aspects of food production, preparation and consumption and the connections among and between people and places that are developed through food, organised within the activities programmed under Matera City of Culture 2019. This Social Food Forum gathered over 15 representatives from different types of activities involved in a variety of social food projects –including one of our cases studies, the Italian VàZapp’’- to discuss how food catalyses social projects around Europe. One of our SIMRA researchers, Diana Valero (Perth College –UHI) participated in this inaugural meeting of the Social Food Forum with examples of social innovation involving food recorded in the SIMRA research database.Continue reading

SIMRA’s 6th newsletter in your mailboxes

Only one year left of SIMRA! This coming year will be full of opportunities for you to contribute to the SIMRA project: local workshops will be organised to discuss the results of our case studies and innovation actions; a training course will be open for you to attend in November 2019 in Spain; and our policy and practice guides will be tested out.

Look out for the Special Issue of Forest Policy & Economics journal (expected to be published in March 2019) edited by the SIMRA project, contributing to advancing and exchanging scientific knowledge of social innovation in the context of forest dependent communities in remote rural areas.
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