RUSTIK partners gathered in Parma (Italy) from 16th to 19th of October 2023 for a productive annual project meeting hosted by CREA, the Council for Agricultural Research. One year after the start of the project, the partners had the opportunity to present and reflect on the progress made in all the Work Packages and to plan the next steps for the coming year.
A whole day was also dedicated to presentations and networking activities between the project’s 14 Living Labs. Central to the RUSTIK project, those Living Labs gather local administrations, policymakers, rural communities’ civil society actors and economic actors. Their aim is to identify the information needs for rural policy developments and test new data collection methods and analysis for improved policy initiatives. It was therefore an important moment for Living Labs to share the challenges encountered during their first round of data collection, interviews and focus groups. For them, the past year has been rich in collaboration with local stakeholders and RUSTIK’s academic partners to determine which project transition to focus on for the upcoming data experiments: socio-economic, climate and environment or digital transition.
The meeting was also an opportunity to set RUSTIK in the European context through discussions with the Advisory Board members, on the Rural Pact and the Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas. To deliver on the Rural Vision, a report on rural proofing and the methodological aspects and implications for stakeholders will soon be published as part of the RUSTIK project. It will review rural proofing instruments and experiences in European and non-European countries to provide a robust methodology which will then be discussed and tested in the project’s Living Labs. Euromontana will be focusing on rural proofing at its General Assembly in November 2022 and has invited RUSTIK to present the findings of its research on the subject.
The host, CREA Council for Agricultural Research, and the project partner OI North Italian Industrial Tomatoes, also organised a visit to the Mutti tomato factory followed by an explanation of the irrigation schemes of the Food Valley. This was an opportunity to learn about the agricultural and environmental challenges of this area which has one of the highest densities of PDO and PGI in Europe.
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RUSTIK is a Horizon Europe project aiming at enabling rural communities’ actors and policy makers to design better strategies, initiatives and policies fostering sustainability transitions of rural areas. Central to this project are the 14 Living Labs located in 8 EU countries and 2 non-EU countries, including mountainous areas such as the Nockregion – Oberkärnten in the Austrian Alps and Garfagnana in the Italian Appenines. The project will run until August 2026. Within the project, Euromontana leads dissemination activities and will take an active role in the policy uptake of the project’s results.24 October 2023