LAMO – New ideas for marginal mountain areas. Participation labs of students and communities

Improvement of services / infrastructures, Entrepreneurship

LAMO has introduced social innovation by bringing together 24 university students from different disciplines (engineering, philosophy, nutritionists, economics, international studies, etc.) and local communities to design innovative proposals for the development of two marginal mountain areas in Trentino: Vederne in the northeastern part (within Primiero valley) and Boniprati in the southwestern part (Giudicarie valley).
Throughout the project, stakeholders and local residents met with students in a systematic way (at least once a day for two hours) and discussed with them the proposals, evaluating their strengths and weaknesses, potential and limits. In addition, dwellers collaborated with the municipalities in welcoming and hosting the students. The municipalities provided accommodation, and the inhabitants prepared meals for the students. These informal conditions are an integral part of the LAMO project, to facilitate dialogue between locals and students and to allow students to gather information in a short time.
Born by the encounter of the need for new ideas from local administrators and the need for studies application from university students, LAMO is an opportunity to encourage the development of ideas in an open dialogue between different local actors, public administrations and young people with multidisciplinary training. The objective is to develop concrete, innovative and strategic proposals, that is, economically, socially and environmentally sustainable in the short and long term.
During a residential week, students were divided into six groups. Using the participatory method called “Charrette”, each group dialogued with 24 local stakeholders types (e.g. municipalities, local associations and actors of economic activities) and dwellers, while visiting the marginal mountain areas and looking for suitable best practices of development on the web. At the end of the week, each student group presented their proposal to the local communities. Proposals aim to offer new visions to the marginal mountain territories and innovative projects for their relaunch. The two projects that were awarded for their innovativeness and are now part of the planning of the municipalities are:
– “Floating Innovation” in Boniprati. This project idea proposes the adoption of new technological tools that facilitate a new approach to places and make the area suitable for particular categories of tourists. Valorising the existing pathways and the morphological characteristics of the environment around Boniprati, students propose to introduce: electric wheelchairs for disabled, set up for trails and snow paths and suspended curtains between trees for temporary accommodation and immersion in nature.
– “GiovAzione” in Vederne. Considering the processes of land abandonment and forest growing, population ageing and shortage of differentiated job opportunities, students have proposed to strengthen the formation of local youth on two themes that are considered strategic for the development of the territory and the valorisation of the its peculiarity: the wood chain and rural activities, in continuity with the local tradition. The project’s operational goal is the construction of a “hive” of young graduates from Primiero valley (and not only) who, thanks to training from local and foreign figures, participate in developing the valley’s wellbeing, taking into account the needs of the territory compared to a specific service.

Networking, Public participation, Experimentation
6 municipalities, 2 local high schools, STEP (the local research centre on landscape governance), the University of Trento, and local experts (foresters and tourism agencies).

LAMO has been a new experience of bottom-up design both for two marginal mountain areas and for Trentino with positive social and cultural impacts on involved actors.
Administrators have experienced a new way of proposal design, which is bottom up, affordable, able to value the potential of the territory and of the young people and able to take into account the opinions and needs of dwellers. Since students are not resident in the mountain areas, the proposals are genuine and put forward without prejudice. This is a great advantage to make proposals easily acceptable by administrators.
The students have experienced how all the theoretical studies and personal background can be useful in solving practical problems. Stakeholders and dwellers have experienced that innovation is possible if the human capital is enhanced. Moreover, they have touched the value of the university, that is usually perceived as distant from the needs of marginal areas.

“LAMO is a good example of social innovation for marginal mountain areas with low number of inhabitants. Actually, LAMO can involve and enhance the human capital of each of them by stimulating it with new ideas (brought by university students), useful for the local development. Ideas help to address two issues specific of mountain areas, the issue of depopulation and of the natural heritage enhancement.”

* Information at the level of NUTS 3 or local regions.