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.
Concerning other preparatory work, Work Package 5, led by the Technical University of Delft, delivered a data inventory report on the availability of geocoded longitudinal, individual-level (micro) data with respect to social and spatial inequality. 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.
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.
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.
In order to decide on 33 cases from among a large variety of intriguing localities across Europe, we have developed a two-step procedure. The first phase is the so-called ‘pilot phase’ where eight cases are analysed. The second phase will begin in spring 2018 with the remaining 25 cases.
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.
Supported with input from all of the participating country teams in RELOCAL, the TU Delft team (The Netherlands) has recently completed an inventory of data that can be used to measure spatial inequality on multiple spatial scales, preferably at the level of individuals.
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”, will take place on 7th March 2019 in Lodz Agency for Regional Development and will be hosted by the Department of Regional and Social Geography, University of Lodz, Poland. Scholars, practitioners and policy makers are invited to share their conceptual or empirical findings as well as their practical experience on identifying policies promoting spatial justice and socio-economic well-being at various levels of governance.
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. The main aim of stakeholder engagement is to discuss the central RELOCAL hypothesis, stating that processes of localisation and place-based public policy can make a positive contribution to spatial justice and democratic empowerment.
After a careful selection of cases in Barcelona, in February 2018, research in all 33 cases has started and will last until March 2019. At the project meeting in Budapest in October 2018, the preliminary results of 18 cases have been reviewed and discussed in more detail. Hence, while it is still too early to make definite statements on research outcomes, the exchange between research teams has shown that there exists a variety of common themes and inputs for discussion. These will be taken up and investigated in-depth in the next project phase, the cross-case comparative analysis starting in April 2019.