Sustainable Local Communities

Virtual workshop 2020-11-11

Norway has completed its first workshop. The objective of this workshop was exchange of experience and discussion about whether, and possibly how work with sustainability can help to create attractive local communities where people want to live». Including issues such as «what does it take to create willingness to live and attractiveness in local communities?», and «what are the biggest challenges to get people to settle down in the rural districts?».

Some of the biggest and most central issues when recruiting young people to the districts are the lack of leisure facilities, transport facilities and jobs. These factors are challenges, at the same time as they are essential to create the attractiveness and willingness to live in the districts. This is paradoxical, and the question: «What came first – the chicken or the egg? » is a highly relevant question within this issue. Should the inhabitants initiate measures to attract newcomers, and hope for them to stay there and maintain these measures? Or should newcomers move from the urban cities to the districts, without preconditions about neither work or school- and kindergarten offers, just to hope for it to develop gradually?

Among the participants at the workshop there was a general understanding of the importance of access to relevant jobs to attract people from the big cities. One problem is that positions often are not advertised on the open market, but rather through contacts and networks. Newcomers, without acquaintances in the region, may find it challenging to know who to get in contact with. Active municipalities that follow up the business community and initiate companies to recruit new employees to the region, is essential.

How can work with sustainability help create attractive local communities where people want to live? The work on sustainability and the transition to a circular economy can help create housing in the districts by helping to create new jobs. Young, educated employees see sustainable workplaces as highly attractive and many apply to companies that operate responsibly and focus on sustainability. Sustainability thus has a marketing value for companies and the whole community – a factor that can attract people to the districts. If attractive jobs are created, with sustainability in focus, this can contribute to graduates wanting to move to the district. A circular economy, which makes better use of resources, can lead to more innovative business models and new jobs.

This workshop has provided many suggestions that may be interesting to follow up further, including: (1) Can the digitalisation boom we have seen during the pandemic make it easier for people to move to the district? (2) What types of marketing tools can be used to market the region as well as attract more people than today? (3) Can more focus on cooperation and networking – across sectors and disciplines – attract people to the districts? We look forward to more discussions about sustainability and attractiveness in the future.

Article by:
Frida Hansen, UiT (NO)
Grethe Lilleng, SINTEF Nord (NO)
Kine Jakobsen, SINTEF Nord (NO)