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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The Social Innovation family: what about the social economy and digital social innovation?

During the European Industry Days, taking place in Brussels, on 5-6 February 2019, a special focus was given to the wider family of social innovation including social enterprises and digital social innovation. Both the European Economic and Social Council (EESC) and DIESIS, the EU network specialised in supporting social economy and social enterprise development, organised events taking stock of the current policy situation and providing concrete examples.Continue reading

Social innovation and other forms of innovation: experiences from the Forum Carpaticum meeting, Eger 2018

The Forum Carpaticum brings together the science community interested in social and biophysical sciences in the Carpathians every two years. In the programme notes it is stated that “the 5th Forum Carpaticum will specially highlight prioritized topics on biodiversity conservation and sustainable tourism development and education for sustainable development (ESD).” Overall, there was an emphasis on the biophysical sciences, especially ecology, forestry and fluvial geomorphology, but there was a range of social scientists represented and some of the natural scientists are now moving towards interdisciplinary work with social scientists and also transdisciplinary work.
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A new SIMRA brochure of inspiring examples of social innovation in mountain areas!

SIMRA’s fourth brochure collecting examples of social innovation in marginalised rural areas has just been published. This collection of brochures aims at concretely illustrating social innovation through the presentation of local on-going initiatives throughout Europe and the Mediterranean basin, taking turns addressing different marginalized rural areas. This brochure addresses mountain areas.

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Register now to the RUMRA breakfast on Smart Villages

With the support of SIMRA, Euromontana is co-organising with MEP Franc Bogovič (EPP) a RUMRA breakfast on “How can social innovation help villages become smarter?”.

The Breakfast, organised within the framework of the European Parliament Intergroup on Rural, Mountainous and Remote Areas (RUMRA), will be held at the European Parliament, in Brussels, on 27 June 2018 and will focus on the new concept of “Smart Villages”.

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“SIparte”, here we go! The Innovation Action in northern Italy has been launched

The opening

Do you live around Belluno, Alpago or Feltre (in the Province of Belluno, Northern Italy) and have an idea or desire to start an innovative business/entrepreneurial activity?

This invitation brought about 60 local people from all sectors – politicians, students, farmers, architects, volunteers, cooperatives and associations among others-, to the inaugural meeting held in Belluno on May 8th.

Figure 2. Sign-up sheets and brochures of SIMRA and Etifor. Belluno, 8th May 2018. Photo by Kamini Vicentini.
Figure 2. Sign-up sheets and brochures of SIMRA and Etifor. Belluno, 8th May 2018. Photo by Kamini Vicentini.

During the opening meeting of the Innovation Action, the Local Action Group (LAG) Prealpi e Dolomiti, the University of Padova and Etifor, introduced the program by contextualising it within the geographical area of Prealpi and Dolomiti, providing a brief overview of the present situation, its characteristics and trends. The director of the LAG discussed how the topic of youth entrepreneurship was relevant to the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically linking the program to SDG n. 8 (decent work and economic growth).

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People, places, cracks and light

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Leonard Cohen, Anthem

Introduction to social innovation by Leonard Cohen

There is a widely known song from Leonard Cohen, his “Anthem”, whose hook allegedly refers to a parable told by Jack Kornfield:

A young man who had lost his leg came to a Buddhist monastery, and he was extremely angry at life, always drawing pictures of cracked vases and damaged things, because he felt damaged. Over time, he found inner peace, and changed his outlook, but still drew broken vases. His master asked him one day: “Why do you still draw a crack in the vases you draw, are you not whole?” And he replied: “yes, and so are the vases. The crack is how the light gets in.”

And how does this song, how does this parable relate to social innovation? That was the challenge Robert Lukesch, SIMRA partner from ÖAR GmbH took up at the International Workshop on “Social Innovation in Public Policies” organised by the Secretariat of Social Coordination of the Brazilian Presidency (Brasilia, 7-9 March 2018).

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Welcome spring! Welcome forests!

The 21st of March is the official first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. The day of the equinox, in which plants start to blossom and sprout as warm air begins to invade our latitudes. Not only this, this day is also celebrated throughout the world as the International Day of Forests, established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012, to raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests and trees for biodiversity and the livelihood of human communities around the globe.

Trees and forested areas cover one third of the Earth’s land, playing a key role in enhancing plant and animal diversity and in regulating carbon fluxes, mitigating the impact of anthropogenic climate changes. Additionally, forests are crucial resources for sustaining communities around the world. Water, flood prevention, fruits, leaves, branches, and wood are only a few of the key ecosystem services that they entail. Lastly, forests are of increasing importance for urban areas, providing a cooling green infrastructure in which citizens benefit from recreational activities and healthy lifestyles.

In rural areas, forests are a prominent feature of the landscape, especially when demographic changes increase spontaneous afforestation in former farmlands. For these reasons, forests are often the source of innovative projects aiming to alleviate social, environmental, and economic burdens of rural communities.

SIMRA database collected several examples of forest-based social innovations, spanning agroforestry schemes in Guadalupe, community woodlands in the UK or central Europe, to fire prevention groups in Spain and Portugal. Here is a selection of these forest initiatives:

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