Welcome to our RELOCAL Project – and to our first newsletter!
The European Union is increasingly concerned about the negative effects of the recent economic crises, the rise of Euroscepticism and lacking identification with the European project among its citizens. With regard to European policy-making, achieving higher levels of spatial justice, including fairness and well-being, and territorial cohesion are seen as one key approach to reversing these negative trends.
RELOCAL is a four-year research project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme focusing on the role of localities in achieving higher levels of spatial justice and cohesion. In particular, this concerns the question how places and communities can strengthen their involvement in the design, delivery and deployment of European cohesion policies.
Applying a distinctly bottom-up approach, including contextual and territorially specific case studies and continuous, multi-level stakeholder engagement in the research process, RELOCAL will identify factors that determine the local accessibility of European policies and funds, and the local abilities to articulate capacities for benefitting from European opportunity structures.
The RELOCAL consortium, co-operating intensively with policy-stakeholders at local, regional, national and European levels, hopes that its findings and results will help to positively shape future cohesion policies as well as local development initiatives, thus ultimately being of benefit the well-being of European citizens.
R E L O C A L in brief
- departs from the premise that “place” can precondition the local action chances in promoting fairness and well-being
- aims at identifying factors that favour local accessibility of European policies and funds
- examines which are the local abilities that allow better exploiting European policy and funding opportunities
- contributes to enhancing the knowledge base on spatial justice and territorial inequalities empirically
- applies a bottom-up perspective based on contextual territorially differentiated case studies
Welcome to the second RELOCAL newsletter
RELOCAL has now been running for over half a year and some important milestones have been reached. The theoretical framework for the project has been developed, and based on this, the manual for our case study research is being drawn up. The case study selection process is also in full swing and the project teams will carry out eight pilot case studies in order to test the practices and processes laid down in the manual for case study research. The full set of 33 case studies will be launched in 2018.
We also spoke with David Simons, director of the Mistra Urban Futures initiative at Chalmers University and an expert on spatiality and spatial justice – his impressions are now posted on our newly created YouTube gallery, along with the opinions of several more researchers and policy makers. See the interview here
IN-DEPTH Release – RELOCAL Conceptual Framework
RELOCAL began in late 2016 with the development of the project’s conceptual framework. Work started with a critical review of the concepts and models of spatiality, territorial cohesion, spatial justice, sustainable development and solidarity. It evolved through an examination of the links and tensions between these concepts and the concepts and models of regionalism and localism in Europe, so providing a theoretical framework for the rest of the project. Read more here
Progressing towards the inception of Case Studies
Conducting fieldwork in 33 case studies forms the empirical core of the RELOCAL project. Thus, the last few months have been used for intensive discussions about how to select these 33 case studies to obtain insightful results. Similarly, debates have arisen regarding the empirical case studies’ contribution to the overarching goals of RELOCAL, and to what extent the contributions and their implications depend on the chosen cases. Read more information about case studies
Assembling data for measuring social and spatial inequality
Spatial inequality generally refers to differences between geographical locations with respect to characteristics such as income, deprivation, educational attainment, employment and labour force participation. In order to come to a more complete understanding of patterns of spatial inequality, different geographical scales need to be analysed. Read the report here
Welcome to the third RELOCAL newsletter
RELOCAL is now in its third year and some important milestones are coming up. The research on 33 case studies from 12 EU countries is ongoing and will be published in the next few months. The cross-case comparative analysis starts in April 2019. The research process takes a qualitative approach based on interviews with stakeholders from different territorial and policy levels, for their engagement with regards to the RELOCAL hypothesis; processes of localisation and place-based public policy can make a positive contribution to spatial justice and democratic empowerment of the localities.
The second RELOCAL Project Conference called “The Role of the Local in Improving Cohesion and Spatial Justice: integrating place-based with top-down approaches to local development”, took place on 7th March 2019 in Lodz.
Highlights from RELOCAL Case Studies
33 case studies, conducted in 12 EU countries, form the core component of empirical research in RELOCAL. Cases are actions, ranging from bottom-up civil society initiatives to the implementation of national development programmes, in localities presenting development challenges. They have been chosen as innovative, sometimes surprising, examples of efforts to combat spatial injustices as well as inter- and intraregional inequalities. The research process takes a qualitative approach with the main focus being on interviews with stakeholders from different territorial and policy levels.
After a careful selection of cases in Barcelona, in February 2018, research in all 33 cases has started and will last until March 2019.
Welcome to the fourth RELOCAL Newsletter
RELOCAL aims to identify factors that condition local accessibility of European policies, local abilities to articulate needs and equality claims and local capacities for exploiting European opportunity structures. In the past, especially since the economic and financial crisis, the European Social Model has proven to be challenged by the emergence of spatially unjust results. In that sense, the RELOCAL hypothesis is that processes of localisation and place-based public policy can make a positive contribution to spatial justice and democratic empowerment.
The research is based on 33 case studies in 11 different European countries that exemplify development challenges in terms of spatial justice. The cases were chosen to allow for a balanced representation of different institutional contexts. Based on case study findings, project partners have drawn out the factors that influence the impact of place-based approaches or actions from a comparative perspective. The results are intended to facilitate a greater orientation of cohesion, territorial development and other EU policies towards the local level.
The case studies are classified according to the main issue they addressed:
- Spatial Justice & Stronger Urban-Rural Partnership
- Spatial Justice & Regional Economic Development Strategies
- Spatial Justice & Upgrading European Neighbourhoods
- Spatial Justice & Smarter Territorial Governance
Newsletter is available also in:
HU – RELOCAL hírlevéllel
Welcome to the fifth RELOCAL Newsletter
RELOCAL has, in the course of more than 4 years, studied several cases in order to assess place-based actions, territorial cohesion and spatial justice, amongst multiple other issues. As we reach the final stretch of the project, one can observe that the conclusions emerging from these investigations are diverse. Some case studies document the achievement of important levels of local development impact and spatial justice, while other cases are rather more indicative of the uphill struggles place-based actions face. Therefore, RELOCAL has provided valuable lessons regarding what works and why in terms of linking place-based development to spatial justice.
RELOCAL has also highlighted the main factors that condition outcomes in terms of spaces for experimentation, learning processes, degrees of citizen and community involvement and a focus on local needs. Some RELOCAL cases indeed serve as warnings about re-centralisation and the return in some member states to top-down paternalism and blunt instruments of redistribution. In sum, we see a highly promising mainstreaming of placebased approaches but also an inherent vulnerability of local development initiatives that needs to be addressed as part of improving the efficacy of EU Cohesion Policy as well as other national-level policies.
The significance of RELOCAL is confirmed by comprehensive assessments and scenarios of place-based development as a concrete practice as well as by the identification of key factors promoting achievement of local cohesion, autonomy and democracy. All this has been done using a wide range of instruments and methodologies, as well as with the coordination of multiple organizations and researchers. Some of the main messages the emerge from RELOCAL include:
- Both local and place-based knowledge must be mobilised; networks of deep learning necessitate that leading actors identify ways of mobilisation, cross-fertilisation and the incorporation of local knowledge and place-based knowledge into learning loops
- Implementation is more important that design: Place-based development needs to integrate horizons of expectation based on realistic assessments of what is possible
- Linking procedural and distributive justice requires a holistic policy vision
- A source of EU Cohesion Policy innovation would be the provision and mandating of enabling frameworks as a conditionality that targets, among others, inclusive implementation and the support of experimental governance modes
Brief summaries of some of the deliverables developed by the project partners are displayed in our new newsletter.