With this document, Nordregio provides a final status of the professional work for the activities across and within the Thematic Groups after four years and three months of the Nordic Cooperation Programme for Regional Development and Planning (NCP-RDP).
The work within and across Thematic Groups and Nordregio have from the beginning of 2017 until the end of March 2021 included 2-3 meetings within each TG per year, two large meetings involving all TGs and Nordregio, and a meeting on sharing knowledge between the Chairs of the TGs and Nordregio. Those TG-meetings across have been rather successful in providing cross-thematic learning, synergies including how to disseminate and to be policy-relevant. In 2020 the meetings held have mainly been carried out as virtual meetings. Also, Nordregio has monthly contact with the Chairs of the TGs as well as knowledge exchange per email with the members of the TGs. The dialogues and discussions involve both specific project issues as well as more administrative aspects. From a professional point of view, the TG’s have functioned well both with respect to involvement in the project processes and in the general cooperation between the TG’s and Nordregio. A number of external partners from different countries are involved in several projects.
Each TG has a dedicated communications advisor from the Nordregio Communications Team, who follows the work of the group, keeps the members informed, and plans the dissemination activities and outreach in each TG project together with members. Over the years, a vast number of activities have been carried out by all TGs, for different audiences. The annual Nordregio Forum remains the major event for presenting and discussing TG results with key stakeholders, networking, and creating Nordic added value. In 2020, Forum and many other TG events were turned into webinars, which tripled the audiences. Webinars opened doors for more cost-efficient and targeted TG communication within the groups and with TG stakeholders, including participation at many national events and regional development meetings on tourism, skills provision, inclusive cities, etc. The advantage of IRL events remains the networking aspect and more direct knowledge exchange.
Reports and policy briefs have been published for most TG projects and activities. Nordregio also introduced a new publication format called Executive summary to replace Policy Briefs in projects that didn’t produce any policy recommendations. Videoclips and storymaps are other effective communication tools that Nordregio introduced. Generic PPT-presentations and fact sheets about the work of the TGs have been produced and translated to all five national languages. Nordregio’s communication team puts a lot of effort into online marketing, with good results, as TG website visits, publication downloads, social media interaction, and subscriber numbers are increasing. A new email newsletter format, the News mail, was developed for more targeted outreach about new TG publications and events. News mail subscription lists are thematic, so our followers and users can choose the TG topics they are interested in: e.g. Rural and Urban Development as well as Regional Innovation. Subscription lists keep growing organically, reflecting the growing interest in our work. By now we can reach over 5,000 sign-ups through different lists. Each TG group also has its own internal Newsletter that keeps the members up-to-date.
More details regarding the communication of individual TG projects are specified in the following chapters. Some highlights are listed below:
In the following three chapters, you will find an overview of the projects carried out by each TG, including a brief abstract of achieved results. Links to further details are provided for each of the projects.
Last but not least, the map below shows all the municipalities, regions and cross-border regions that have been included in our studies 2017-2020.
Find the website for the Thematic Groups work (projects, publications, seminars, webinars etc) at
The Nordic Thematic Group on Sustainable Rural Development 2017-2020 has contributed to regional policy development by providing evidence-based research, recommendations and tools for decision-makers and practitioners. The Group studied rural affairs through applied science and sharing best practices between the countries and regions. An overarching focus of the thematic group for Sustainable Rural Development in the Nordic Region has been on all dimensions of social, economic, and environmental sustainability in the rural, remote, and sparsely populated regions. The work of the 2017-2020 Nordic thematic group for Sustainable Rural Development was organized around four themes. The first one analysed Demographic Challenges where the key issues in rural regions are declining and ageing populations and gender imbalances resulting from higher female outmigration. The second theme focused on Social Innovation which involves new ways for delivering social services and innovative means for coping with demographic change as means for addressing the widening gaps between urban and rural areas. The third theme was the Supply of Skills which is necessary to boost economic growth and encompasses increasing labour force participation, retention and increased participation of youth, and the integration of immigrants. The fourth area is on Strengthening Cross-border Cooperation as there are common issues in the Nordic rural regions resulting from remote and peripheral location where cross-border cooperation from pooled services could help solving some of these challenges. A related theme is the Regional and Municipal Reforms which addresses proper levels of government for the delivery of services.
All reports and policy briefs are available following this link:
Study of demographic futures with projections on population and age and gender structure in rural areas of the Nordic region. Rural Norden in 2050 (2017-2018).
The purpose of this project is to provide policy makers at the national, regional, and municipal levels an idea of what the size, composition, and geographic distribution of the rural populations in the Nordic countries might look like in 2040. It does this by compiling the population projections done by the national statistical agencies of the Nordic countries to examine the size, regional concentration, age distribution, and other characteristics of the rural populations in the Nordic countries in the future. The future size of both the urban and the rural populations are examined to provide context for the expected population trends in rural areas. The result of the work was taken up by several columnists in Nordic media that cited this publication as well as providing important input into national committee work on regional plans.
The attractiveness project seeks to capture the reasons behind why people choose to leave sparsely populated / remote and urban adjacent rural areas, why they move there, and why they always have stayed there. 14 local stories show a different narrative of vital regions and new entrepreneurship, community spirit and quality of life that are often hidden behind the generally known deserted images. Activities and opportunities to work and get an education to attract people, which bring life to the communities and keep them active. Good migration policy and collaboration with neighbouring municipalities and regions are a big asset to many, but each story is different, and each region has its own drivers of success.
Despite relatively high standards of living, several indicators show that large groups of young people in the Nordic countries are not thriving. More often young people in rural areas are being left behind compared with their urban peers. Young people become marginalized through dropping out of school or who do not have access to the labour market; so youth who are not employed, nor in education or training. Economically disadvantaged youth, boys and immigrants are at greater risk than their advantaged urban peers, girls and natives. The reasons are to be found in a combination of socioeconomic conditions, gender culture, unintended outcomes of school reforms and school closures, as well as mental health problems on the increase. For example, the reforms in educational systems prioritizing marketization as a management model have had segregation effects, even if unintended. The impact of school closures and longer distances to upper secondary education is felt in rural areas and has implications, e.g., for school completion rates. Researchers identified numerous different responses to solve the problem of persistent unemployment, and drop-out trends and rehabilitate the marginalised youth around the Nordic countries. In light of Covid-19 impact with even more persistent unemployment trends emerging among youth, there is a need to even develop more measure to solve these challenges and break the vicious cycle with the young.
Each Nordic country is struggling with different types of market failures, but even so, what they have in common is that most rural areas face challenges regarding empty houses and, at the same time, a lack of suitable housing for defined needs. Good, well-functioning housing provision is essential for the continued prosperity and wellbeing of individuals and families, and it is therefore also essential for rural communities. Despite the requirement for suitable housing in rural areas across the Nordics, conventional market mechanisms tend not to be able to meet the demand. The main challenge is low house prices – prices which are often well below the cost of construction or of refurbishing existing units. This challenge of securing a loan for construction, refurbishing, or just buying existing houses, acts as a barrier to development in rural locations. It enforces the trends towards urbanisation and a declining rural population. This problem is well recognised by the Nordic governments, who have established a range of measures to mitigate the situation. The lessons learned from this study reach three areas: public support to bridge the financial gap (lack of capital for construction), the specific role of municipalities, and finally how rental housing can be a tool to supplement the existing, dominant, privately-owned housing structure in rural areas.
In the past couple of decades, the Nordic region has experienced steady growth in the tourism sector, until Covid-19. But there have been bad with the good, so the group set to study the level of planning and challenges facing the development of a more sustainable rural tourism in the Nordic regions. Another study looked into the financial aspect of tourism – what is the economic impact to the region? Financially, ecologically, and socially sustainable tourism plan is not given everywhere in the Nordics. In some regions, the tourism plans do not mention sustainability aspects at all. A successful plan includes many actors and is made in collaboration. In many growth areas, the holistic approach is well integrated into the regional plans. Satellite accounts are generally used method to measure the financial impacts of tourism and for the first time ever, regional measurements were made for all the Nordic regions – and these satellite accounts reveal growth, before Covid-19.
The Nordic welfare states are world-renowned for providing high-quality public services for all. Indeed, regional and municipal authorities play a central role in the delivery of key public services within Nordic states in areas including social and elderly care and education. The ongoing Covid-19 crisis has also reinforced the important role of local actors in healthcare provision, where countries with decentralized systems of governance have proven more successful in implementing the effective test, track and trace policies. A new Service Mapper tool enables anyone to study the basic service structure: availability and proximity. Now, more than ever is Nordic collaboration required across all levels of governance to help overcome the devastating socio-economic impacts of the pandemic and to solve the shared challenges posed by climate change and growing urban-rural divides. There are new and innovative models of Nordic collaboration constantly emerging thanks to rapid technological developments that are helping to bring stakeholders together to solve common societal challenges. The high levels of cooperation outlined indicate that collaborative governance is continually evolving within the Nordic context.
Sami Youth Involvement in Rural/Regional Development: Collaboration with Sami Youth Council and Sami Youth Organisations and educational institutions with the aim of understanding youth involvement in and possibilities to influence regional development. The studies were conducted in Sweden, Norway and Finland. The report ” Sámi Youth Perspectives, Education and the Labour Market” was published in early 2020 and a version in the North Sami language as well” Sámi nuoraid perspektiivvat, skuvlejupmi ja bargomárkanat”. This was followed by the webinar Sami Youth – Access to education and labour markets i samarbete with Sami organisations and cross border stakeholders and entrepreneurs who initiated a supply of Educational programs taught in the Sami language in the North Calotte area.
Regional & Municipal Cooperation on social innovation and service: Mapping of and discussion on municipal and regional reforms in the Nordic region with a specific focus on the consequences for rural districts and cross border regions. Good examples of cooperation in service provision across municipal jurisdictions were highlighted. As well as cooperation on education, labour market, health care and security. The results of the work are published in the report Public Service Delivery in the Nordic Region: An Exercise in Collaborative Governance. Report of the Municipal and Regional collaboration on service provision and social innovation.
Population ageing is generally perceived as a challenge that will result in greater economic and societal demands. It is a challenge especially from the perspective of a diminishing labour force. There is also a growing proportion of people who are approaching the final years of their lives, when health impairments and health-care needs increase, while there simultaneously is a decreasing share of people in younger age groups who could provide such care and support. However, policies on ageing are increasingly also focused on the opportunities that an older, but also healthier, the population may bring. It may be necessary to increase the normal duration of paid work to deal with the shrinking labour force. However, this should not merely be pursued by raising official retirement ages, as this may simply redirect those who are not healthy enough to work productively to other forms of state support. One way of mobilising the potential of the silver economy could be to improve the transfer of experiences, skills and expertise between younger and older generations of workers. The silver economy is also about acknowledging the role of older people as consumers. Promoting the idea of age-friendly businesses, where the needs of older consumers are reflected in the products and services that are offered, maybe one way of tapping into this potential. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many grocery stores introduced different opening hours for older customers and people in risk groups. A central aspect is also about creating demand, which requires that older people have the possibility to express their needs, for instance through public participation and user involvement. Here, it is crucial that businesses understand what the silver economy means and what opportunities a diverse group of older consumers may provide.
Nordregio Forum 2018 “Changing Ruralities” was one of the highlights, held in Lund with several activities and events enabling us to reach out to national, regional and local stakeholders. Nordregio Forum online sessions in November 2020 and February 2021 focusing on housing issues, sustainable tourism plans, and skills and education as well as inclusiveness projects in town and cities have been crowd magnets.
The major research projects on resilience, smart specialisation, digitalisation, and skills policies proved to be highly relevant in a Nordic context both as separate themes and when addressed jointly. The TG2 research work revealed and analysed the synergies and interrelatedness between the major study themes of TG2 and identified ways in which different perspectives can be jointly addressed in the Synergy project. This has provided new ideas and helped to deepen understanding of the added value of these themes for regional development. As an example, the TG2 analysis of skills policies at different geographical levels could place skills policies as fundamental elements in making regions innovative and resilient. Digitalisation is both a goal and the means to improve governance and quality of services, skills supply, and boost the green transition. Smart specialisation strategies can serve as a tool to integrate resilience perspectives and systems thinking, including the actions to address skills development. The key results of the TG2 synergy work were presented and discussed at the annual Nordregio Forum in November 2019 in Reykjavík, Iceland. In conclusion, the TG2 was highly successful in implementing policy-relevant Nordic research on innovative and resilient regions. The close dialogue between Nordregio researchers, TG2 group members, and other relevant Nordic and international stakeholders was a core ingredient in the success of this work. The feedback received from the stakeholders suggests a need for continued research, communication, and matchmaking work to develop Nordic innovative and resilient regions further.
All reports and policy briefs are available following this link:
This report summarises the work and results of the Nordic thematic group for innovative and resilient regions (TG2) in 2017–2020. The Nordic thematic group for innovative and resilient regions 2017–2020 (TG2) was established by the Nordic Council of Ministers and is a part of the Nordic Co-operation Programme for Regional Development and Planning 2017–2020. Three Nordic thematic groups were established for the four-year period: Innovative and resilient regions, Sustainable rural development, and Sustainable cities and urban development. The thematic groups have been organised under the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Committee of Civil Servants for Regional Affairs, and Nordregio has acted as the secretariat for the thematic groups.
This Working paper highlights the synergies between Nordic studies on resilience, digitalisation, smart specialisation and skills development. Regional (economic and social) resilience determines how capable the regional economies are to cope with change (negative or positive shocks or stress) and continue to develop. Regional resilience is achieved through regional actions that turn global perspectives into strengths and opportunities. Generally speaking, regional resilience is a desirable place to be in, and this should be supported by all different policies and regional actions.
The Roadshow events of TG2 were attended by regional, national, Nordic, and international stakeholders in 2018–2020. The events provided insights into the latest knowledge on innovative and resilient regions, with a focus on smart specialisation, digitalisation, regional resilience, and skills policies. Moreover, many Roadshow events tackled the research themes from a cross-border perspective. The feedback from the regional Roadshow events suggests that dissemination of research results and constant dialogue with stakeholders are highly appreciated by the stakeholders. Moreover, the TG2 Roadshow programme was the opportunity to bring together a range of actors and, in doing so, initiate and support processes that may not have occurred otherwise.
Many countries and regions are affected by a situation of unemployment in parallel to a shortage of skills in certain economic and labour markets, often referred to as the qualification mismatch problem. This situation is also relevant in the Nordic regions. Skills flexibility and lifelong learning are hot topics on the current political agenda and are important elements for the regional capacity of being resilient to economic and social shocks. A Nordic study on skills is motivated by the important role that skills play in innovation and economic growth, but also in the employment and the well-being of citizens in the Nordic regions. Skills analysis and prognosis, together with policies and strategies are important instruments in order to take measures to provide adequate human capital and skills, competence mismatch and shortcomings in the labour markets. The focus of the study is on how regional actors work with skills in order to achieve national and regional goals: how they work to cope with the cross-sectoral and multilevel challenges that are part of the complex area of skills, and what are the enabling and hampering factors to strengthen skills in the Nordic regions.
The main learnings were:
This study assesses the situation with skills supply and demand, and skills development in the Bothnian Arc cross-border region. Mobility is given particular attention as both a mechanism for supplementing labour and skills in complementing labour markets across the Finnish/Swedish border, as well as a threat through brain drain. Emphasis is placed on identifying place-specific considerations to skills development in the region and possible actions for securing employment and economic competitiveness in the future.
Digital technologies have the potential to dramatically transform our lives. Despite this, research providing direct insight into regional governance in the digital age is limited. So, this project seeks to address this gap, exploring the priorities, challenges and opportunities regions face when working with digitalization. The project explores digitalization in the context of priorities such as green transition, the supply of skills and capital, and regional strategies for sustainable growth. The discussion paper of the project explores digitalization in Nordic regions. It develops a common understanding of it in the context of sustainable Nordic regional development and gives an overview of digitalization policies at the EU and Nordic national levels.
The Nordic‐Baltic Region is at the forefront of digitalization in Europe. Despite the overall positive development, the impact of digitalization on the economy and society is unequal: rural and sparsely populated areas often lagging behind with respect to the availability of digital infrastructure and the adoption of digital technologies. This project investigates how to facilitate the uptake of digital technologies and innovations by SMEs in rural and sparsely populated areas. It explores the challenges and potential opportunities facing rural regions and their enterprises in the context of digitalization and identifies good examples of measures and policies to support the digital transformation of rural businesses. The ultimate aim of the project is to inspire Nordic and Baltic regions, their rural communities and rural enterprises to make the most out of digital opportunities and provide insights that will assist policymakers in creating an enabling environment for this work.
Digitalisation holds considerable potential for rural areas. It offers the promise of overcoming geographical distance, ensuring equal access to opportunity regardless of where people live. At the same time, rural and sparsely populated areas are thought to lag behind their urban counterparts when it comes to the provision of digital infrastructure and the development of digital knowledge and skills. These urban-rural disparities are often referred to as the digital divide and can prevent rural communities from unlocking the opportunities associated with digitalisation.
This report was written in conjunction with the Svinesundskommittén border committee and complements the in-depth study on digitalisation. The study is about the role of digitalisation in supporting blue growth in the cross-border region Sweden/Norway and the role collaboration plays in strengthening the marine industries in Västra Götaland and Østfold. The report’s empirical findings revealed that although digitalisation may be supporting cross-border cooperation on blue growth in the future, micro – and SMEs are struggling with issues surrounding time, risk, and cost when it comes to digitalisation. The findings also indicated that understanding what digitalisation means for the specific business is key to unlocking the potential of digitalisation for blue growth, as this is not always self-evident.
Drafting Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (S3) has become an ex-ante condition to access the EU Structural Funds for the 2014-2020 program period. This implies that for the first time, the fundamental goals of territorial cohesion through EU regional policy has become "welded" with the objectives of innovation and competition. Specialization in the form of prioritization of regional strengths and opportunities as well as multi-actor collaboration have been promoted and applied in many Nordic regions. However, there is still a lack of understanding of the added-value of S3 implementation in the Nordic context. The current study builds on the priorities identified by the Nordic Thematic Group for Innovative and Resilient Regions: public support mechanisms, mobilization and (re)organization of relevant innovation actors within regional innovation systems, "Nordic model" of smart specialization and its added-value, green transition. The discussion paper of the project provides a knowledge and policy overview of smart specialization in the Nordic Region. It gives a systematic overview of how and to what extent the Nordic regions have adopted and adapted the concept of smart specialization in their respective regional innovation strategies.
The growing concern over natural disasters and the fresh memory of the 2008-2010 financial crisis has lifted regional resilience high on the agenda at all levels of policy-making. The EU Commission has emphasized the need for helping citizens, organizations, and regions to adapt to the profound transformations that our social and economic systems are undergoing due to globalization, decarbonization and the emergence of digital technologies. Regional resilience has become a hot topic for policy-making, with assistance regarding social and economic transformation at the core of the debate. The Regional Economic and Social Resilience project focuses on identifying what shocks the Nordic regions are particularly vulnerable to and how to strengthen resilience, both to anticipate and react to these disturbances. So, the project is being built on economic and social resilience, identify a Nordic model/approach to resilience, focus on both anticipating and reacting to shocks and identify components of regional resilience.
The study has researched the ability of Nordic regions to prevent and respond to shocks and disturbances. The risk landscape in Nordic regions has been mapped from potential abrupt shocks to ‘slow-burn’ cases. An analytical framework to deal with regional resilience in the Nordic regions was developed. The Resilience study has been able to highlight not only acute regional shocks, but also “slow burn” situations in which regions slowly but surely end up in difficult situations and has identified both reactive and proactive measures to deal with regional resilience. Building regional resilience is vital in an interconnected global economy where external events have significant impact on regional and local communities. Resilience thinking gives regions the possibility to anticipate and respond to unexpected events.
The Bothnian Arc Cross-border Resilience study border complements the Resilience study and identifies the common challenges on both the Finnish (Oulu) and Swedish (Luleå) side of the border, as well as identifying the cross-border elements strengthening the greater region’ potential.
This policy brief examines how co-management arrangements within small-scale fisheries can play a key role in enhancing sectoral and regional resilience. Despite major challenges, “multi-stakeholder collaborations” - such as co-management - demonstrate the potential for innovative knowledge transfer and strategic adaptation processes within the fisheries sector. The focus here is on Co-management Northern Bohuslän (Samförvaltning Norra Bohuslän), which promotes sustainable local fisheries and blue growth on Sweden’s west coast. The case illustrates how, under appropriate conditions, participatory local efforts can significantly contribute to sustainability and resilience. The policy brief presents findings on related challenges and opportunities, including recommendations on future directions for the co-management initiative itself, and more general suggestions for co-management as a means to promote sectoral and regional resilience in the Nordic region.
Cross-border activities came dramatically to a halt in the spring of 2020 as a result of measures adopted to limit the spread of the Coronavirus. On a macro level, the interruption of flows of people and goods added significant stress on every aspect of community life, as well as challenging the supply and accessibility to key goods and services. Bi-national communities, used to a borderless daily life, suddenly experienced hard borders. These communities were divided by inward-looking national measures put in place without considering the nature of border communities. Collaboration across borders is being tested, but also the resilience and viability of cross-border community living. This report highlights the need for raising more awareness of the consequences and risks of hard borders for these communities.
Nordregio Forum 2019 was held in Reykjavík, Iceland on the 26th -27th of November. The theme was ‘Skills for Resilient Regions’ and was co-funded by the TG2. TG2 contributed substantially towards the preparation and execution of the Forum. Parallel sessions and keynotes connected to TG2 at Nordregio Forum included:
The thematic group for Sustainable cities and urban development will help to improve national, regional, local and cross-border strategies for sustainable cities. The activities and projects initiated and carried out by the thematic group take the priorities in the co-operation programme as a starting point. These are: 1) social sustainability and gender equality, 2) spatial planning, 3) urban qualities in small and medium-sized cities, and the urban-rural relationship, and 4) the growth and development of Arctic cities.
The overarching goals for the activities during 2017-2020 were urban design-oriented as well as addressing the relationship between the “urban” and the “rural”. The horizontal perspectives and programme priorities were considered in the following way: Social sustainability was considered through a focus on: city-centre development, integration as an urban planning issue, accessibility to services and public transport, the challenge of seasonal housing, the relation between the built environment and social inclusion, affordable housing, planning for people with disabilities and promoting urban greenspace development as a means of enhancing social capital (e.g. health and wellbeing).
Spatial planning was integrated throughout the TG3 projects, including a focus on both the built environment as well as on governance and planning policy. Most TG3 project activities were leaning more towards the built environment than on planning processes, which makes sense in relation to earlier programme periods, where policy and processes had more attention than the built environment. Planning was a primary focus in the Compact City project, the Seasonal housing project and the Inclusive Cities project. Knowledge of planning and design in the development of urban greenspace was also emphasized in the Green Visions project. The term “urban qualities” is a normative one, but it implies a focus on urban design, built environment and urban life. This focus was well covered in several projects.
TG3’s work aimed to have a primary focus on small and medium-sized cities in most of the activities, where it made sense. It meant to redirect the focus away from the capital regions and the bigger cities in the Nordic region. The urban-rural relationship was at focus in TRIBORDER, in the project on Seasonal housing and the Grid-data project.
The TG3 has prioritized other issues than the Arctic focus, and many Arctic cities in the Nordics struggle with the same planning and development issues as other small and medium-sized cities in the Nordics. Arctic examples of cases were included in our project, where it made sense.
All reports and policy briefs are available following this link:
This activity was organized in two phases. During 2017, we reviewed a number of Nordic municipal planning documents and interviewed TG members to get an overview of current and upcoming sustainable urban development issues of policy relevance in small and medium-sized Nordic and Arctic cities. This resulted in the choice to, in the second phase in 2018, focus specifically on city centre development in the context of densification and competition from external shopping, under the new title The Compact city of the North. Many small and medium-sized Nordic cities are dealing with challenges related to the role and development of their city centres. They use strategies related to urban planning, governance and business development, to aim for greater compactness, attractiveness, economic development and sustainability.
Case studies were done, including field visits and interviews in Bodø, Sorø, Mariehamn, Kokkola, Västervik and Mosfellsbær. Among the results, we can observe that despite the strong urban sustainability discourse, issues of parking spaces, car use and car accessibility are of high importance in city centre development. Also, there is an awareness of the need to make the city centre into an “entertainment space” to create the urbanity that is so much longed for today. The project resulted in both a policy brief and a report.
How can grid data provide a deeper understanding of spatial development in the Nordics? The project used population data at grid level as a point of departure to study how small and medium-sized cities can be defined and categorized, and how grid data can provide news insights on population development (including urbanisation and depopulation) in the Nordics. During the project, grid-level population data (1,000 m x 1,000 m) was harmonised for analysing population change at a more detailed level than the municipality and investigating population increase and decrease in cities as well as in the urban-rural continuum. The project report addresses grid data as a spatial analysis tool and presents analyses of demographic change occurring at a local grid level in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. The grid level data used in the study reveals development patterns that are less evident, and in some cases not visible at all, at more general levels of analysis. The database will be useful for further analytical work after the project is finished. For instance, the TG1 project “Regional disparities and the geography of service” uses this dataset as a starting point for studying regional differences and inequalities in access to services. The project resulted in a report that received wide attention, likely due to the fact that the grid level data provides new insights into the municipal statistics.
The project studied how Nordic governments and municipalities seek to overcome barriers to social inclusion and to counteract inequality and segregation through policy and urban planning. Five different thematic and geographical case studies were carried out, detailing strategies for inclusion from different perspectives in varying contextual settings. The Finnish case study examines how area-based regeneration policies targeting post-war housing in the city of Pori have evolved from the early 1980s to the present. The Norwegian case focuses on the city of Drammen and examines the area-based urban renewal measures that have been underway in the neighbourhood of Fjell over the past decade. The Danish case addresses the so-called ‘ghetto policies’ that have emerged as a key policy response to urban segregation in Denmark during the 2000s. The Icelandic case concentrates on the municipality of Reykjanesbær in Iceland and examines how the municipality has responded to challenges concerning integration and inclusion. The Swedish case study addresses housing for newly arrived refugees and examines the experiences of Swedish municipalities in handling critical local reactions concerning this type of housing. The main output of the project is a Nordregio Report, published in the autumn of 2020. In addition, an Executive Summary was published by Nordic Welfare Centre. Project finding were disseminated at several events, including Nordregio Forum in November 2020, as well as at different seminars focusing on urban planning, housing and integration.
The Forum was held 29-30 November 2017 at Vulkan in Oslo. Thematic Group 3 contributed to the Nordregio Forum by organising an appreciated round table discussion session on topics such as digitalisation, transport planning and inclusive urban public spaces. The topics were selected by the members of the TG, and were all connected to our working programme, and TG members and Nordregio researchers acted as discussion chairs. Among others was discussed: Risks and opportunities with digitalisation; Who are “smart cities” for? Digital divides; What if growth no longer is the main mission or driver; The importance of public spaces for different purposes and people and Temporary urban spaces. The discussions have been documented and shared among the TG members. The documentation of the round tables is also a resource for the TG onwards. The Forum attracted approximately 145 people from all the Nordic countries.
In three subprojects of public investments in border regions and the local and regional development effects are investigated: a fast train vision for Oslo-Sthlm (2018), the effects of the ferry connection Umeå-Vaasa (2019-2020), and connectivity and urban planning in relation to the public transport network in the Greater Copenhagen region (2019-2020). The first subproject was finalized with a policy brief and a background report. In 2020, a synthesis publication for the project as a whole was published, and a digital dissemination seminar took take place, by the end of October 2020.
From the results of the first subproject: The main impacts of a faster train service that would positively affect the territorial development in Karlstad, SE are: Better accessibility seen as a potential for growth (e.g. skilled population); Demographic growth; Regional integration (eastwards) and cross-border integration. The main impacts of a faster train service that would negatively affect the territorial development in Karlstad, SE are: Higher housing prices in Karlstad; Might strengthen the regional population imbalanced distribution.
Subproject 2 studied cross-border cooperation in the Kvarken region with a focus on the ferry link between the cities of Vaasa and Umeå, located on opposite sides of the Gulf of Bothnia. This activity sought to understand what role the ferry link plays for cross-border cooperation and integration in the region, and what types of direct and indirect regional effects the re-establishment of the ferry connection in 2013 has had in Kvarken. The findings of the study show that the ferry is not merely a transport connection, rather it plays a crucial role in facilitating exchange and joint activities across the national border in various ways. Although there is a long history of cross-border cooperation in Kvarken, the findings show that new forms of cross-border cooperation are emerging and that these are largely made possible by the existence of the ferry. The project report from subproject 2 was published in the Autumn of 2020.
Subproject 3 focused on the integration of small and medium sized-cities within the cross-border region of Greater Copenhagen. A mapping exercise illustrating travel time by trains from both Copenhagen and Malmö across the cross-border region corresponds to the first part of this subproject. This exercise contributed to highlighting commuting possibilities. It was followed by an analysis of connectivity and urban planning in relation to public transport in four case study cities. The analysis provided new insight on what are the characteristics of transit-oriented development (TOD) in the selected four small and medium-sized city cases, with specific attention at station vicinity areas. Subproject 3 concluded for instance that station vicinity planning has an important role to play in SMS-cities to better connect the existing rail infrastructure with their surrounding hinterland. Such improvements would contribute to work towards an integrated and sustainable growth region, which is one of the main aims of the Greater Copenhagen Committee.
The synthesis report draws on the outcomes of subprojects 1, 2 and 3. It was published in December 2020. Focusing on these studies (subproject 1-3), the report teased out considerations for the planning and development of SMS-cities that are or will be engaged in the transport corridors. This review provides a basis for initiating a discussion with politicians and experts about cross-border issues in the Nordic Region. The dialogue with these stakeholders revealed that the integration of the Nordic Region relies on improving transport links between the Nordic countries. Still, the success of these new accessibilities is not only dependent on spatial interventions but equally important are aspects related to overcoming legal, physical and practical barriers to creating a better quality of life for people who lives in these regions. The report concludes by outlining the role of Nordic institutions to facilitate the work of the national transport authorities'.
This project has synergies with topics addressed in TG1. The project addresses seasonal tourism as a municipal planning challenge. In the Nordic region, there are several locations that are attractive for seasonal tourism. This means that the small cities and villages are subject to urban-rural flows of people, people with similar needs and desires as the local residents. Off-season, without the seasonal “residents” the locations change character. They lose population, and thereby also demand for public transport, housing, care, commercial goods and services, culture etc. On the one hand, tourists and second home owners bring in lots of new business, but on the other hand, they do not pay any income tax and the often very significant seasonal change in residents pose huge challenges for local planning.
Results and planning challenges concern the following: Adaptation of the welfare system to the annual population using it; Income taxes from seasonal workers do not reach municipalities with tourist destinations; Local administrative planning models do not formally promote the participation of seasonal residents and therefore difficult to get seasonal population engaged in spatial planning; a need to change the focus in policy and planning to adapt to current Airbnb-situation. Case study municipalities were Odsherred, DK, Pargas, FI, Grimsnes og Grafsningshreppur, IS, Nore og Uvdal, NO, Härjedalen, SE. A webinar that attracted a large number of participants was held in September and the report was published in November 2019. A policy brief was also published in Spring 2020. Due to COVID-19, the planned conference presentations for the project team have been cancelled. Instead, results from the project are planned to form the basis of a book chapter in the Routledge Handbook of Small Towns, the publication is planned for August 2021.
The purpose of this activity is to bring forward new planning and design visions and proposals for the green and recreative Nordic city and thereby contribute to the development of the sustainable city of the future in a Nordic context. Through research and a workshop, new proposals for the preservation and design of green spaces and public spaces for recreation in Nordic cites were discussed and developed by invited architects, landscape architects, urban designers, students, researchers. Five Nordic experts contributed with “state of the art” paper for each Nordic Country, which include descriptions and reflections on recent urban design, landscape architecture practices and planning tools facilitating urban greenspace development/preservation in a national context. Each paper included documented feedback by external discussants from the practitioner and academic communities. The main activities of the project took place in 2020. A Nordic workshop was held in Stockholm in January, and was attended by more than 50 participants and 40 online participants. The workshop provided feedback for the drafts of the national manuscripts and brainstormed future visions of urban greenspace planning and design in a Nordic context. The results of the project was a book, including seven chapters: Synthesis, National Reviews (5) and an international outlook. The book was published by Arvinius & Orfeus (SE) in January 2021. The launch event took place on Jan 26th 2020 and included over 260 participants. A second launch event is taking place in March 2021, and is being co-organised by Nordregio and Iceland Design and Architecture. A number of media articles have been written, including in the national architecture magazines of Sweden and Denmark.
The housing markets in the Nordic countries differ regarding available tenure forms and financing systems and are therefore interesting to compare. This project examined housing policies and planning strategies in the housing “market periphery” on the national and municipal level in the Nordics, i.e. housing for students, elderly, newly arrived immigrants etc. The purpose of this activity was 1) to describe the “market peripheries” in all Nordic countries, and 2) to pinpoint suitable measures and tools to strengthen the positions of the mentioned groups on the housing market. The focus was primarily on the governance and financing of the construction of new housing, but it was necessary to also be aware of other relevant policy areas. One expert per country was commissioned to write a short text on the topic of “housing construction, market peripheries and interesting solutions” for their own country. The following experts were contracted: Anna Granath Hansson KTH (SE), Berit Irene Nordahl NIBR (NO), Jón Rúnar Sveinsson, Reykjavik Academy (IS), Curt Liliengreen, Boligøkonomisk Videnscenter (DK), Antti Kurvinen, Tampere university/Chalmers (FI). The project was finalized in the Spring of 2020, including the publication of a final report.
The purpose of this project was to evaluate implementations of strategies related to universal design, accessibility and disability issues in urban planning. The project aimed to investigate: public transport solutions for a person with a disability, the organization of planning for accessibility and mobility for all, barriers to implementation etc. The empirical focus was urban public space and planning and design for accessibility and mobility for all. This included universal design of public spaces and public buildings, policies for access to public transport and taxi service, digital services for information and accessibility. The project was carried out in collaboration with the Nordic Welfare Center.
At the start of the project, the idea was also to investigate the “smart” city from a disability perspective. After looking more closely at the work and initiatives going on in Nordic cities, it became clear that very few digital solutions are implemented in this area. The focus of the report instead turned to how different Nordic cites work with universal design and accessibility and how the development of the concepts have been in the national and local context. In the project, representatives from the national and local level from six cities in the Nordic region have been interviewed. In addition, a workshop with the Council of Nordic cooperation on disability was held in 2019. As preliminary findings, we see that the countries are interpreting and using different concepts to reach a similar outcome of increased accessibility. For example, Norway is the country that with the strongest emphasis has pushed for the concept of universal design and it has been implemented top-down from the national level to the municipalities. We also find that representatives in the different Nordic cities are working with these questions from the different preconditions of resources, history, environment and general awareness from national governments and society, which impact the policy approach. The final report of the project was published in autumn 2020.
With this document, Nordregio provides a final status of the professional work for the activities across and within the Thematic Groups after four years and three months of the Nordic Cooperation Programme for Regional Development and Planning (NCP-RDP).
Authors: Nordregio Secretariat
Layout: Vaida Razaityte & Natalia Muntean, Nordregio
Cover picture: Unsplash.com