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Resituating the local in cohesion and territorial development

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - RELOCAL (Resituating the local in cohesion and territorial development)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2019-03-31

The aim of RELOCAL project is to recognize different factors that condition local accessibility of European policies, local abilities to articulate needs and equality claims and local capacities for exploiting European opportunity structures. RELOCAL departs from the basic premise that localities and their functional spaces represent the contextual nexus where the relationship between individuals and spatial justice unfolds.
Generally, RELOCAL project addresses the problem that social mobility and economic activity is constrained by many spatial and institutional factors, especially for individuals who live in precarious conditions. The ‘local’ plays an important role in the promotion of fairness, spatial justice and well-being in Europe and, in turn, functions as an important laboratory for the elaboration of European, national and sub-national policies addressing cohesion and spatial justice.
RELOCAL project will examine the capacity of place-based approaches to deliver spatial justice. Localities are defined as multifarious and porous, at the intersection of vertical, horizontal and transversal forces. Spatial justice is conceptualised as integrating social, spatial, temporal, distributive and procedural dimensions. The main ambition behind RELOCAL is an evidence-based advocacy of localist approaches to cohesion and other spatial development policies where the EU plays a key role. New conceptual frameworks as well as policy models and instruments are needed in order to promote the development of Cohesion and other EU policies into more locally sensitive opportunity structures, in terms of both participation and the more effective inclusion of local concerns and social needs.
RELOCAL will result in a number of policy recommendations that will help to make EU Cohesion Policy and its deployment in regional contexts more efficient and relevant to civil society and the citizenry. First, RELOCAL will contribute to an understanding of the ways in which European regions are very different and diverse in terms of their socio-economic, institutional and cultural environments. Second, RELOCAL will provide knowledge and scientifically sound insights into good practices in communicative strategies and participatory practices with regard to the deployment of cohesion polices in diverse European regions.
The main objectives of RELOCAL are defined as follows: 1) contribute to new conceptual frameworks of territorial cohesion, 2) develop working and practicable definitions of spatial justice based on the local quality and availability of social opportunities, 3) provide critical evaluations of the substantive adequacy, local accessibility and development impacts of existing cohesion policies, 4) elaborate new policy and development models that bridge conflicts and trade-offs between regional development and governance models that address territorial cohesion and spatial justice across Europe, and 5) develop a new, empirically tested, theoretical framework for the relation between regional autonomy, decentralisation, local participation on the one hand and greater economic, political and social justice on the other.
Milestone 3 ‘Methodological Framework’ has been accomplished through the development and delivery of D6.1 “Methodological Framework for Case Studies” at the beginning of the reporting period. Simultaneously, the Manual was tested in eight case study pilots (from M13 to M18) to probe its applicability and clarity and help fine-tune the case study reporting templates.
From March 2018 until the end of the reporting period, intensive work was carried out coordinated by WP6 in cooperation with analytical WPs 3, 4 and 7: supporting case study research teams, controlling quality by reviewing drafts, organizing additional meetings to discuss technical issues, progress and first results as well as facilitating a peer-reviewing process between pairs of case study teams. In this process D4.1 was also prepared including aspects of special interest to the analytical tasks of WP4.
Activities for stakeholder inclusion in research took place in the case study localities and countries, reported in D6.3 at the close of the reporting period. The qualitative-analytical reports on the 33 cases could also rely on the quantitative-analytical work of WPs 2 and 5. They provided additional context to the investigated actions, and produced visualizations of spatial patterns of inequalities/injustice that could be compared with subjective perceptions of spatial (in)justice of different stakeholders related to the studied actions. Results of this complementary quantitative research work were reported in D5.2 May 2018; “Review report on regional disparities and inequalities” (30 Sep 2018), and D5.3 “Location and context– analysis of spatial inequalities at different geographical scales” (March 2019).
Based on results from the work towards Milestone 4, Working Paper Series 2 (D10.8 Sept. 2018), Newsletter 3 (D10.9 Jan. 2019 and Policy Briefs 1-2 (D9.2 Sept. 2018 and D9.3 March 2019) were produced to inform and engage various target audiences.
Preparatory work under WP8 took place parallel with the development of the case studies, building on their analytical structures to produce the technical-methodological WP8 guidelines for work to be performed mainly during Empirical Phase 2 (towards Milestone 5, which is part of the third reporting period) by the case study research teams.
During the second review period, the project coordinator and several WP leaders have interacted with policy stakeholders and discussed with them various RELOCAL themes, including the following instances: participation, together with the H2020 project COHSMO, in the EUROFOUND Workshop on 'Building up quality of life in the local area' (April 2018); a Policy Seminar between three RELOCAL representatives (from UEF, UL) and seven experts from DG Regio (Jan. 2019); and discussion about RELOCAL with representatives of organisations and working at a European level (ERRIN, EP and DG RTD, Jan. 2019).
The global objective of the RELOCAL project is to suggest viable solutions for a more cohesive European territory. This is planned to be achieved by contribution to scientific debate and engaging relevant policy makers and practitioners on multiple levels. During the 2nd Reporting Period, the empirical work for the completion of 33 case studies has been carried out and reported.
This source of rich and contextually specific knowledge on solutions for and approaches to local development will be, during the remainder of the project, communicated back to local, regional and national stakeholders, which is being facilitated by RELOCAL’s stakeholder inclusion procedures. At the same time, the empirical results will be synthesized, compared and processed for policy messages of European relevance, which is facilitated by a single elaborate analytical structure that is cross-cutting all 33 Case Studies.
RELOCAL has during the 2nd reporting period taken important measures to monitor its impact through a number of indicators that are collected on a continuous basis, which are reported in Periodic and Progress reports. At the same time, RELOCAL ramped up its interaction with policy-makers at the European level, including DG Regio, the European Parliament, the ERRIN network, etc.