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Exploring the impacts of collaborative workspaces in rural and peripheral areas in the EU

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Coral (Exploring the impacts of collaborative workspaces in rural and peripheral areas in the EU)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2021-01-01 do 2022-12-31

Collaborative workspaces (hereafter CWS, such as coworking spaces, fab labs, creative hubs etc.) for freelancers, self-employed, remote workers and start-ups are increasingly becoming a subject of local and regional economic development policies as they are considered important intermediaries that help deliver entrepreneurial growth and local innovation agendas. These spaces have been emerging since the early 2000’s promoting a collaborative, community-based approach to the organisation of new modes of independent work such as freelance or self-employment, mainly in the field of cultural and creative industries. Whereas the vast majority of CWS are located in metropolitan areas and urban agglomerations, we recently observed the gradual spread of CWS in less densely populated cities in rural and even peripheral regions across the EU that face particular challenges such as brain drain, low investments level, little entrepreneurship etc. These rural CWS differ in terms of scopes, functions and impacts compared to those in urban agglomerations. CORAL-ITN aims to unpack the latent dynamics and impacts of CWS in rural and peripheral areas and integrate them as development tools in local and regional policies to open new potentials for socio-economic development. The project provides specialized and tailor-made training to young researchers to better understand (and support) the development processes of CWS in rural and peripheral areas, their wider impacts at the local and regional level, as well as at the level of the individual worker and the enterprise.

CORAL unpacks its overarching objectives in three Research Objectives and one Training Objective that lead to three research and one training work package:
- MO1 Educate young researchers in better understanding the scope, functions, and impact of CWS in different socio-spatial contexts
RO1 Research the transformative socio-economic impacts of CWS in rural and peripheral areas
RO2 Investigate the effects of rural and peripheral CWS on the individual and the enterprise
- MO2 Train self-reflexive specialists in complex multi-agent decision making for local socio-economic policy of CWS
RO3 Formulate policy recommendations for the effective development of CWS in rural and peripheral areas
TO1 Provide a focused training programme to equip young researchers with specific skills and raise their employability
During the first reporting period (M1-M24) all recruited ESRs, beneficiaries and partnering organisations have paid their best efforts in all Work Packages and different tasks and the implementation progress, on the scientific, training, communication & dissemination and management level:

A) Scientific:
- 15 candidates were recruited for the ESR positions within the CORAL project.
- Coral ESRs completed the first round of secondments, closing the theoretical phase of their projects.
- CORAL ESRs developed a web-based Glossary about key – terms and concepts of the project.
- All ESRs developed their Career Development Plans.

B) Training:
Coral-ITN successfully hosted:
- the CORAL Introductory Event, in M9, online.
- the 1st Coral School, in M14, online.
- the Training Event for Complementary Skills, in M17, in Zeitz - Germany
- the 2nd Coral School, in M21, in Syros - Greece
- 4 WP meetings, where the ESRs had the opportunity to present their project’s progress, receive feedback from all ESRs and supervisors, have internal meetings, elect their representatives (already twice).
- fieldtrips in rural CWS where the ESRs grasped the learning opportunity to get first-hand experience of how CWS operate in the peripheral areas and develop a more grounded understanding of the issues they encounter.

C) Implementation progress:
- 19 Deliverables (+3 deliverable updates) have been completed and submitted, on time.
- 4 Milestones have been achieved:
M1 – “All 15 ESR recruited – Recruitment phase finished”
M2 - ‘ESR project preparation phase finished’
M3 - ‘Mid-Term meeting between REA and the consortium’
M4 - ‘Theoretical phase of ESR projects finished’.

D) Communication & Dissemination:
- An ESR Personal Handbook has been created and shared with all fellows in the first month of their recruitment.
- Communication and Dissemination activities have been constantly reported, while related KPIs are being monitored. Indicatively, more than 15,000 people have visited CORAL’s website, and more than 800 people follow CORAL’s social media.

E) Management:
- The Consortium Agreement was prepared and signed by all beneficiaries
- Panteion University set a Project Management Office (PMO) to ensure the project management quality standards and to have the overview of the project’s execution, build the deliverables, monitor activities, and report to the Funding Authority.
- The Consortium set its governance bodies: i) The Supervisory Board as the ultimate decision-making body of the project for the training and research related activities; ii) The Training sub-committee, responsible for organising and monitoring the training activities for each fellow; iii) The Project Steering Committee (PSC) to monitor project progress, analyse and approve results and decide on corrective actions proposed; iv) The Junior Coordinators (JC) consisting of two elected ESR representatives; v) The Ethics Manager to ensure the compliance of the project activities with the GDPR regulations, the national laws and the European Commission’s guidelines; vi) The Quality Manager being responsible for quality assurance processes according to the project Management and Quality Plan; vii) The Equal Opportunity Manager to ensure fair treatment of the ESRs by actively participating during the recruitment and training phases; viii) The Dissemination and Exploitation Manager to coordinate all dissemination and communication activities within the CORAL consortium as with partners.
The CORAL-ITN ESRs are in the second year of their training and PhD studies. After the first year (theoretical phase), where they engaged with the theoretical foundations of their individual projects and in parallel deepening their research inquiries, in that second year most of them are in the field, collecting qualitative and quantitative data for their specific projects (analytical phase). This will enable them to respond to their research inquiries but also to timely respond to current socio-economic challenges that rural and peripheral areas face, through the function of CWS. Finally, their theses and research outputs will enrich academic debates over the future of rurality and peripherality in the EU, as well as inform policy-making practices and especially ways to include the added value that CWS can offer in processes of rural development.
In an individual perspective the CORAL-ITN has already offered to the 15 ESRs individualised and network-wide training through various CORAL schools and meetings, while the intersectoral composition of the CORAL-ITN consortium offers them the opportunity to advance their international experiences and strengthen their intercultural and linguistic communication skills, increasing their professional networks and future employability in different sectors.
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