- Innovative approaches to services of general interest in rural areas
- What Germany can learn from the experience of other european countries
Services of General Interest
Particularly in structurally weak and sparsely populated rural regions, the consequences of a negative natural population balance and the emigration that has often persisted for decades have an effect on the continuance of certain public services, especially against the backdrop of demographic change and the precarious financial situation of individual municipalities: schools and doctors' practices close, or volunteer fire departments are restricted in the action they can take. In addition, these areas often lack qualified workers and other important local characteristics (such as educational institutions). Under these general conditions, in Germany for around two decades ensuring the provision of basic public services and making rural areas attractive and sustainable has been a growing challenge.
Comparison between Countries
Other countries in Europe also face similar challenges in rural areas, sometimes with a significantly lower population density. It is important to examine to what extent there are good examples in these countries that can provide additional insights for Germany.
The focus of the research project is on three areas of public services which, as far as the project managers are aware, demonstrate special qualities in other European countries:
- medical and nursing care which represents the quality of life in different phases of life in rural areas;
- fire services and hazard prevention, which has been guaranteed by volunteer fire brigades for decades, is disintegrating especially in regions with emigration and an aging population;
- post-school education and training whose effects on regional development in Germany have barely been studied.
Project selection and research
Analysing experiences in other European countries in order to adapt infrastructures is to be used for developing innovative approaches in Germany and - taking into account suitable adaptation strategies - may offer new solutions. In the InDaLE project, three foreign and two German case studies are to be analysed for each area of public services - a total of 15 case studies. These projects are intended to address from the beginning concrete problems as to guaranteeing these areas of public services in rural regions in Germany. This approach makes it easier to compare and adapt European insights as regards aims, fostering strategies and implementation.
The joint project will also process findings for the necessary transfer of knowledge to municipalities and federal states. The results are to be processed in different communication formats (e.g. workshops, the project website, a final report with recommendations for action, a fact sheet and working paper), both for the stakeholders working on practical application and for the academic record. The transfer of knowledge into practice will thus be launched while the joint project is still being worked on. This is to take place in particular by means of Expert Workshop 1 to complete the data treatment and evaluation of the 15 foreign and German model projects, and Expert Workshop 2 to transfer the results to the current framework conditions in Germany. The workshop results will be combined into the subsequent preparation of the final project report and the recommendations for action. In addition, scientific publications and presentations are planned at national and international conferences on relevant aspects.