A National Seminar on the EU Action for Smart Villages Initiative in Ireland, entitled ‘Smart Villages and Rural Towns in Ireland: Revitalising Rural Areas through Community-Led Innovation’ took place in the Sheraton Hotel, Athlone, Co Westmeath on Thursday, July 4th, 2019. This event was organised and run by the National Rural Network (NRN) and the Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD).
The EU Action for Smart Villages initiative was launched by the European Commission in 2017. Smart Villages, and Smart Rural Towns in an Irish context, are rural areas and communities which build on, and enhance their existing strengths and assets through creative thinking, and by embracing innovation, to create desirable places for rural people to live and work. Whilst digitisation is significant to the creation of Smart Villages and Rural Towns, social innovation is also paramount.
The realisation of ‘smart’ rural areas and communities can play a key role in the development and sustainability of rural Ireland by tackling issues, such as depopulation, the digital divide, limited employment opportunities and out-migration, as well as climate change.
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This national seminar on Smart Villages and Rural Towns in Ireland was structured to build a greater knowledge base around the EU Action for Smart Villages initiative, and demonstrate how it can be planned, implemented and realized in an Irish context, particularly in the context of the design of the LEADER Programme post 2020. It brought together key rural development stakeholders from across Ireland and the EU to showcase and exchange ideas on how rural communities can help retain and attract people to live and work in their locality by implementing practical and tangible solutions to the various local challenges they face in the form of digital, social and environmental innovation. Policy instruments which can support the development of Smart Villages and Rural Towns both now and in the future were also be explored.
Smart Villages throughout the EU: A Common Perspective to Revitalise Rural Areas through Different Visions
Paul Soto, Senior Policy Expert, European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) Contact Point
How LEADER/CLLD can support Smart Villages and Rural Towns throughout Ireland
Gabriel O’Connell, CEO Monaghan Integrated Development CLG and National LEADER Rural Development Working Group Member.
Rural Ireland: Embracing a ‘Smart’ Concept
Dr Maura Farrell, Lecturer in the Discipline of Geography’s Rural Studies Research Cluster at NUI Galway and Lead Researcher with the National Rural Network.
The Positive Impact of Community-led Action on Sustainability and Climate Change for rural towns and villages throughout Ireland and the EU
Davie Philip, Co-President of the European Network for Community-Led initiatives on Climate Change and Sustainability (ECOLISE), and Community Resilience Manager at Cultivate Living and Learning.
Ireland’s ‘Smart Community’ Initiative
Dr. Stephen Brennan, Chief Digital Advisor to the Irish Government.
The Value of the EIP-AGRI Multi-actor Cooperation Approach: Lessons Learned from the Duncannon Blue Flag Farming and Communities Scheme EIP-AGRI Operational Group
Eoin Kinsella, Agricultural Scientist with Wexford County Council and Lead Partner with the Duncannon Blue Flag Farming and Communities Scheme EIP-AGRI Operational Group.
Smart Community Development Planning: Joining the Dots for More Effective Community-Led Development
Pat Kennedy, Owner and Digital Strategist at eConcepts Web Solutions and eTownz
Chair: Dr Shane Conway, Researcher in the Discipline of Geography’s Rural Studies Research Cluster at NUI Galway and with the National Rural Network.
European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) Contact Point – Smart Villages Content
The European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) have published four briefings developed by the ENRD Thematic Group on Smart Villages. These briefings have orientations to support policy-makers and implementers in creating an enabling policy framework for Smart Villages. The first briefing clarifies the aims, scope and focus of Smart Villages Strategies as well as possible strategic frameworks for supporting them. The other briefings are related to specific policy instruments that could be used to support Smart Villages on the ground now and in the future, such as LEADER, Cooperation and CAP digital strategies. Please see below:
An informative case study on this concept’s relationship with the LEADER Programme 2014-2020, as well as its close ties to Ireland’s new ‘Smart Community’ initiative has also been produced by the NRN team at NUI Galway. You can find this case study on the NRN website: https://www.nationalruralnetwork.ie/leader-case-studies/smart-villages-and-rural-towns-in-ireland/
For more information on the ‘Smart Villages’ initiative, please visit the ENRD Smart Villages Portal to discover a plethora of inspiring networks and initiatives across the EU.