Project info

Funding programme: ESPON 2030 
Duration: December 2023 – November 2024
Lead stakeholder: Innlandet County Authority
Website: RURALPLAN – Innovative planning in shrinking societies | ESPON 


Innovative planning in shrinking societies

RURALPLAN (Innovative planning in shrinking societies) aims to examine innovative planning practices in rural areas facing demographic challenges such as depopulation and ageing, but also an economic decline and a lack of access to public services. This research project is funded by the European ESPON programme. By actively involving local residents and communities, RURALPLAN aims to develop strategies to respond to these specific demographic challenges, which are on the increase in Europe and have an impact on the economy and employment in rural areas.  

The targeted analysis carried out by the project aims to produce evidence on the strategic planning of rural areas in decline, with a focus on Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, in order to build a policy model that responds to these issues. The exploratory methods tested as part of the project are intended to be transferable to other rural regions in Europe facing similar challenges. 

To this end, the project involves gathering territorial data, including maps and visualisations, on the decline of rural areas and evaluating planning practices in the case study areas. The strategic plans resulting from the assessments are intended to be co-created by the various local stakeholders (citizens, elected representatives, private sector, etc.) in a democratic and innovative way, in order to increase the attractiveness and resilience of rural areas.  

RURALPLAN brings together partners from Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Euromontana is an advisory partner and will help to disseminate the project’s research results. Several Euromontana members are also involved, with Innlandet County Council as lead partner, the Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences (Eastern Norway Research Institute) and SAB – Swiss Center for Mountain regions as partners. 

Expected impact

The overall ambition of the project is to develop solutions and policy recommendations to address the multiple economic, social and environmental challenges of shrinking rural areas. 

The research carried out as part of the project should thus help to improve the response to decline and ageing in rural areas, including the brain drain, while adapting the responses of local and regional planning authorities to these constraints. 

The project will result in a validated set of policy conclusions and recommendations for innovative and knowledge-based local strategic planning, improving responses to decline and ageing in rural areas. 

The solutions will thus be structured around four objectives resulting from observations made in the stakeholders’ territories: 

  1. Improving awareness of planning practices  
  2. Assessing the effectiveness of planning practices in responding to the phenomenon of decline 
  3. Formulating an appropriate response to the challenges of economic and demographic loss in the territories  
  4. Providing advice on how to adapt responses and develop timeless measures and strategies to transform decline into a sustainable and positive opportunity for rural areas. 


Innlandet County Authority (lead stakeholder)
State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO
County Administrative Board of Dalarna

Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences
Linköping University
Swiss Center for Mountain regions