Globalization and Europe’s Rural Regions – Ashgate

Globalization and Europe’s Rural Regions is edited by John McDonagh, Birte Nienaber and Michael Woods. Read their Introduction: Globalization and Europe’s Rural Regions – Challenge and Opportunity. Check the Contents or have a Preview.

This book examines the multiple ways in which rural regions in Europe are being restructured through globalization and the regional development responses that they have adopted. It provides an understanding of the key challenges and opportunities for rural regions arising from the major economic, social, political and cultural changes associated with globalization, including trade liberalization and economic deregulation, increased international migration, and the rise of global consciousness about environmental issues. Drawing on examples and findings from a major European research project, DERREG, the book presents detailed case studies of ten regions in different parts of Europe, exploring the factors that lead to different experiences of globalization in each of the regions, and highlighting examples of good practice in regional development responses. The book concludes by proposing a typology of regional responses to globalization and considering the policy implications of the research findings. As such, ‘Globalization and Europe’s Rural Regions’ is important reading for geographers, sociologists, planners and economists interested in understanding the impact of globalization in rural regions, and for rural development professionals seeking to mobilize effective responses.

Chapter 3 Raising Self-efficacy and Resilience in the Westerkwartier: The
Spin-off from Collaborative Leadership by Dirk Roep, Wiebke Wellbrock and Lummina  (Ina) Horlings is a contribution of the Rural Sociology Group. Continue reading

Well-working operational interfaces – PhD-thesis Wiebke Wellbrock

December 4 Wiebke Wellbrock succesfully defended her thesis (can be viewed at

Well-working operational interfaces: A key to more collaborative modes of governance

This thesis comprises five chapters that are independent scientific publications. In the first chapter, I show how the ‘learning region concept’ and ‘triple helix thesis’ can be reframed to address support for collaboration in rural areas. In the second chapter, I reflect on the experiences of using the conceptual lens as a research tool for studying the operational features of arrangements supporting joint learning and innovation in the case study area of Westerkwartier, the Netherlands. In the third and fourth chapters, I deal with the question of how to best arrange support for collaboration by comparing the operational features of arrangements across the German and European case study areas. This thesis concludes with a discussion of the lessons learnt concerning: 1) wellworking operational features of arrangements supporting collaborative modes of governance, 2) the development and refinement of the conceptual lens, based on experiences of using it as a heuristic research tool, and 3) the potential of the refined framework to effectuate more collaborative modes of governance.

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Four more DERREG films: 9 films in total

Earlier I reported (see post) on the five short films made of the DERREG case study areas. Next to  films of Comarca de Verin (Spain), Alytus (Lithuania), Westerkwartier (Netherlands), Roscommon (Ireland) and Regierungsbezirk Dresden (Germany), four more have been uploaded at the You Tube DERREG Films Channel:  a second one on Regieringsbezirk Dresden, one on Saarland (Germany), the South Moravian region (Czech Republic) and one on Oevre Norrland (Sweden).

DERREG Special Issues European Countryside

The EU FP7 funded project DERREG has come to an end, but various publications are foreseen. The first set of 11 articles are published in two Special Issues of the European Countryside, an open access Journal, edited by Michael Woods and John McDonagh:

Special Issue 1: Volume 3, Number 3 / 2011

Special Issue 2: Volume 4, Number 1 / 2012

 The 11 articles are listed below including a hyperlink to the full text in pdf. Continue reading

5 DERREG films: Dresden (G), Roscommon (Irl), Comarca de Verin (Sp) and Westerkwartier (NL)

Students from the University of Aberytswyth, assigned by DERREG coordinator Michael Woods and instructed by the respective partners, made video clips of four case study areas to highlight some of the particular developments in these rural regions. The video clips of Comarca de Verin (Spain), Roscommon (Ireland), the Westerkwartier (NL) and the two video clips of Regierungsbezirk Dresden Part 1 en Dresden Part 2 (Germany), are accessible at You Tube. Earlier Wiebke Wellbrock already posted a blog on the Westerkwartier film. Have a look at the DERREG Channel:

The DERREG project has come to an end. Results are published at the resource centre of the DERREG website The online Journal European Countryside will soon publish two special issues on DERREG findings. Ashgate will publish a book based on the case study areas.

On the trail of regional learning in rural Colombia

Over the last two and a half years, we have been investigating arrangements to support regional learning in various rural areas across Europe (EU-project DERREG). This intense period of field work and data analysis has given me a first idea of just how complex this subject is, how diverse supportive arrangements can be, and how dependent their success is on the regional contexts in which they are implemented.

As if this complexity is not already enough to ponder about, my curiosity and interest in mutual learning for development has urged me to also investigate this topic outside the European Union. I was particularly interested in questioning how rural regional learning is supported in, what is commonly referred to as, “developing” countries. So, here I am in Colombia,

Downtown Bogotá, Colombia

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DERREG – Final conference and proceedings

Two weeks ago, from October 12-13, we had our final conference of the EU-funded research project DERREG (  in Murska Sobota, Slovenia. Here the major findings of the project were presented.

DERREG coordinator prof. Michael Woods first presented (see presentation) an overwiew of the project and an interpretative model (see below) on how regions are affected by and respond to forces of globalisation mediated by various catalyst and he ended with a typology of regional responses based on the research done in the 10 case study regions. See also the DERREG Summary Report by Michael Woods.


Successively the coordinators of the four Work Packages presented the main findings along four themes:

  1. Rural Businesses, Global Engagement and Local Embeddedness (presented by Andrew Copus)
  2. International Migration and Rural Europe (presented by Birte Nienaber)
  3. The Global Environment and Rural Sustainable Development (presented by Joachim Burdack & Michael Kriszan)
  4. Rural regional learning (presented by Dirk Roep and Wiebke Wellbrock)

Each overview was illustrated with findings for two case study areas presented by the respective partners.

A separate session was dedicated to policy perspective on globalisation and rural development in Slovenia and in particular the Pomurje region in the north of Slovenia were Murska Sobota is located and the Final conference took place.

At the end, guest speakers from the Goriška region in Slovenia, the Övre Norrland in Sweden, the Westerkwartier region in the Netherlands and the Steirische Mur-Drau-Bioenergie-Region in Austria highlighted four good practices of how regions can respond to global processes and benefit from it.

All presentations can be downloaded from the DEREG website: (at the bottom of the webpage).

At the DERREG resource-centre other proceedings are made accessible too, such as the WP reports, the case study context reports and case study summary reports. Look at  Finally, a database of good practice across the WP theme’s and case study areas has been built and made accessible: look  at

Last but not least: video clips are made for each of the ten case study regions and when ready these will be published on You tube and announced at the website.

The project will finish by the end of this year. The partners are now working on several scientific publications in journals and books. By the end of this year and beginning of 2012 DERREG related articles will be published in two special issue of the European Countryside, an online journal (see the content of latest issue). Next will be an edited book published by Ashgate titled ‘Globalization and Europe’s Rural Regions‘  which will capitalise the findings for the 10 case study areas.

Publications will be announced at the resource-centre of the DERREG website, as for the video clips, and information will be posted on this blog.

DERREG Policy Seminar in Brussels

Last Thursday March 31, a Policy Seminar had place to discuss the relevancy of the results from the EU-funded reserach project DERREG for EU-policies.  Although the project and the work is not yet completed, emerging outcomes and policy recommendations were presented by the project coordinator prof. Michael Woods and the four coordinators of the respective workpackages on Rural business networks, Rural migration patterns, Sustainable development and Rural regional learning. The emerging outcomes and recommendations are also capitalised in the European Policy Brief published at the DERREG website.

WU is coordinator of Workpackage 4. We focussed on how public support and faciliation of joint learning and innovation in grassroots (place-based) development activities can be best arranged. We have explored, mapped and analysed various such arrangements in six case study areas. See the example of the map of the ‘governance of joint learning and innovation’ in the Westerkwartier below.

Map of the governance of joint learning and innovation in the Westerkwartier (NL)

These arrangements and the support or faciliation given was evaluated by the beneficiaries (see earlier posts on case-study area Westerkwartier, AlytusDresden and Comarca de Verin).

Although we will extend our analysis and specifically elaborate more on ‘promising or good practices’ revealed, Wiebke Wellbrock and I presented the main findings and policy recommendations (see our presentation).

Key to our findings is that the effectiveness of support policies depends on well working operational interfaces between public policies, grassroots development initiatives and (knowledge) facilities to support joint learning and innovation. These interfaces get shaped in agreements between various public and private partners but it are operational agents or agencies fulfilling various intermediary task and roles connecting different ‘worlds’ that make them work (well).

Rural regional learning in ‘Upper Lusatia’ (Oberlausitz), Germany

Following my visit to Alytus County, Lithuania in October, I travelled to Leipzig, Germany to visit our DERREG project partners Michael Kriszan, Robert Nadler and Joachim Burdack (Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography) in their case study area ’Upper Lusatia’. In this blog, Michael, Robert, Joachim and I would like to share some of our experiences.

We first discovered that the case study regions Westerkwartier and Upper Lusatia are very different in their geographical and demographical characteristics. The LEADER region Westerkwartier in Groningen province comprises four municipalities on an area of 374km² and has a population density of 173.4 inhabitants/km² (as of 2007). In 2006, its GDP per capita was estimated at 55,400 Euro and the area has recently witnessed a population increase due to its popularity amongst young families who work in the city of Groningen and value the countryside as their residential area. The Southern part of the Westerkwartier is thus characterized by a high population density and a number of conflicting interests regarding the use of the countryside while the North of the Westerkwartier is primarily used for agriculture.

Upper Lusatia consists of the two Saxon districts Landkreis Görlitz and Landkreis Bautzen that have only been established in 2008 in the process of a reform of the administration units in Saxony. The case study region has an area of about 4,500 km² and has a population density of 135 inhabitants/km². It comprises 122 municipalities- of which 30 are urban centers- and had a GDP per capita of 18,329 Euro (district Görlitz) respectively 19,396 (district Bautzen) in the year 2007 . The region is divided into ten rural development areas, six ILE regions and four LEADER regions. In contrast to the Westerkwartier, the population of Upper Lusatia is shrinking rapidly. Young inhabitants are leaving the area due to a lack of employment opportunities, leaving the elder people behind. Rural development in this region is therefore not only affected by an aging population but also by a shrinking human capital available for development purposes. Through the reform of administrative units altogether four previously distinct districts (Landkreise) and two cities (kreisfreie Städte) have been incorporated into the two “new” districts of Görlitz and Bautzen. The previous Landkreise, however, are very distinct in their physical appearance. The former district Niederschlesien-Oberlausitz for example is characterized by a low population density and shaped through past and present coal mining activities while the hilly district Löbau-Zittau is recognized as a touristic area and winter sport resort. Due to the lack of a common history and the physical distinctiveness, there is no regional identity of the population within both districts.

To evaluate the support and facilitation available for learning and innovation within local grassroots development initiatives in Upper Lusatia, Robert, Michael and Joachim organized a workshop for regional stakeholders.

Workshop in Upper Lusatia, Germany

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Inspiring encounters in the Westerkwartier

On Wednesday evening, I participated in a Plattelandscafé (countryside-café) at the Natuurboerderij Lammerburen (nature development farm) in Oldehove, Westerkwartier, Groningen. The aim of the gathering was to present results of past projects, ongoing projects and project ideas aimed at ensuring the sustainability of the predominantly rural Westerkwartier. Jan Oomkes, chairmen of the LAG Westerkwartier (LEADER) and alderman of Zuidhorn municipality, opened the evening with a summary of activities in the Westerkwartier, including activities of the citizen action group (WSI), the Westerkwartier as LEADER-region, the community house in Grootegast and numerous projects which have been realised using money from the EU (LEADER), the Rural Area Programme of the province of Groningen as well as the different municipalities. Thereafter, the word was given to different project leaders and the present 60 visitors were informed about ongoing projects and activities.

With regard to my upcoming DERREG  (see previous post) research activities on rural business networks and the support of rural initiatives and regional learning in the Westerkwartier, the presented projects were highly interesting. For instance, one suggested project idea described the construction of hiking routes through the Westerkwartier, improving the touristic infrastructure and stimulating tourism as a new economic source for the region. Potentially, the project would thus provide possibilities for farmers to engage in side activities such as farm cafés and touristic accommodation and would help to establish networks between different stakeholders of similar interest. A further interesting project that was introduced is a new network for local business women (Wichterwest). Since the DERREG project aims to put special emphasis on the role of women in rural development, the newly formed network would be an interesting idea to study and could act as a best practise example for other rural areas throughout Europe.

Conversations at the plattlandscafé

Conversations at the plattlandscafé

The evening was accompanied by guitar music- including a self-composed song about the Westerkwartier-, drinks and snacks. The inspiring atmosphere provided a good opportunity for everyone to exchange thoughts and ideas about the development of the Westerkwartier. Considering the enthusiasm of the people present at the gathering and their commitment to the development of their region, the event was also for me a motivating experience, highlighting once again the significance of research towards ensuring the sustainability of rural regions in the era of globalization.