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Unlocking the growth potential of rural areas through enhanced governance and social innovation


Specific challenge: Smart, inclusive and sustainable growth in the EU cannot be achieved without substantial contribution of its rural areas. The key challenge is to foster a balanced development of rural areas by enabling them to capitalize on their distinctive territorial capital and thus 'turn diversity into strength'. Social innovation relates to the development of new forms of organisations and interactions to respond to societal challenges. It is a collective learning process in which different social groups and actors participate and which results in new skills and practices as well as in new attitudes, values, behaviours and governance mechanisms. Although social innovation is considered as an enabler for a transition towards sustainable agriculture and rural development, there is limited empirical evidence of the extent and outcomes of social innovations and on the supporting conditions.  Little is known as to how to support social innovation, in particular in marginalised rural areas where the social structure is most fragile. This also raises the challenge of promoting institutional capacity building in these areas, at different levels, to develop the social capital and skills required to support the creation of successful social innovation. 

Scope: Proposals should undertake a thorough analysis of social innovation in agriculture, forestry and rural development, encompassing its complexity and various dimensions as well as its impact on unfolding the territorial capital in different regional contexts. Proposals should establish appropriate methods for the evaluation of social innovation.  Attention needs to be given to different learning arrangements (e.g. multi-actor networks, producer-consumer association, hybrid innovative networks, territorial alliances) as well as to innovative governance mechanisms at various levels, and their potential implications for social innovation. Proposals should also address the role of different policy instruments, other relevant incentives and diverse entities (public/private, local/non local, active citizens, etc.) as catalysts/constraints to social innovation. Proposals should explain why regions with similar initial conditions display diverging paths. Activities should cover diverse types of rural areas across the EU and Associated Countries and non-European Mediterranean countries. In line with the objectives of the EU strategy for international cooperation in research and innovation, proposals are encouraged to include third country participants, especially those established in Mediterranean countries[1].

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the range of EUR 5-6 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected impact:

         clarify the different dimensions of social innovation and its dynamics in agriculture, forestry and rural development

         Identify pathways to unfold the territorial capital of rural regions and thus shape sustainable development trajectories in different types of rural areas

         support more sustainable agri-food and forestry systems and rural development, thus contributing in the medium term to smart, inclusive and sustainable growth in rural areas

         improve territorial governance and pave the way for an integrated approach to rural development (i.e. ensuring effective mechanisms to coordinate different policies and establish appropriate linkages with other areas).

         deliver analyses of different innovative governance mechanisms with respect to social innovation in different contexts

         allow policy makers and the local communities to improve the formulation and delivery of relevant policies as well as to shape such programmes that explicitly foster the creation of sustainable social innovations.

Type of action: Research and innovation actions

[1] This is without prejudice to the general rules on the funding of legal entities from third-countries, as set in part A of the annex to the work programme.