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Special Issue "Towards Sustainable and Innovative Development in Rural Areas"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2020).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Javier Esparcia
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Research Institute of Local Development / Department of Geography, University of Valencia, 46010, Spain
Interests: local and rural development; territorial approach; sustainability in rural areas; depopulation in remote rural areas; public policies; social innovation; analysis of social networks

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

European rural areas are the scene of processes of change in a wide range of fields, including ecosystem services, new business models, changes in the labor markets, food systems and cultural connections, among others. Many of these changes are seeking sustainable and innovative development, as part of the processes of adjustment of rural areas to new contexts and new demands, both internal and external to rural areas. These new demands are, to a large extent, marked by the objective of territorial sustainability, in its three dimensions, economic, social, and environmental. Better and close rural–urban linkages in all those fields may contribute to this sustainable and innovative development.

These forces of change are often being fostered by public policies and strategies for local and territorial development. In recent decades, these policies and strategies have been increasingly designed to be implemented in and from rural areas themselves. However, more and more voices (from public institutions themselves, such as the European Commission, to many social scientists) are calling attention to the need to consider, as a fundamental element of these policies and strategies, a better integration of rural areas with their territorial environment, and, in particular, the connections with the urban ones.

In this sense, territorial governance has become increasingly important as a framework within which these processes of change are launched and implemented but, above all, they are increasingly managed and guided. Thus, from relatively simple, but effective and consolidated forms of governance (such as local partnerships that have emerged under the umbrella of local action groups, or cooperation associations between municipalities), other forms of governance have emerged and developed, sometimes informal, which are more complex but that can play an important role in the implementation of policies and strategies to support development processes as well as in the management of change processes by stakeholders, including rural–urban territorial interrelations.

Consequently, this Special Issue includes and welcomes original research that enhances our level of knowledge on critical aspects affecting sustainable and innovative development in our rural areas, with a particular focus on the following:

a) Processes of change in rural areas, in strategic fields such as new business models, changing labor markets, public infrastructures and innovative transport and social services, sustainable food systems, cultural connections, ecosystem services and ecological arrangements in rural areas, etc., and how they contribute to the reduction of remoteness of rural areas, the improvement of rural–urban linkages and, in general terms, to the sustainable development of rural areas.

b) Cross-sectoral rural–urban relationships, based on and including flows of goods and services, extended labor markets as well as other relationships based on funding or social interactions, involving private, social and/or public stakeholders, and how they contribute to better territorial integration of rural and urban areas.

c) Territorial or socially innovative governance schemes (such as employment pacts or other forms of territorial public-private agreements or partnerships), taking into account the role of different groups of stakeholders, empowerment and the role of civil society, cross-sectoral governance mechanisms, etc., and how they may better support sustainable development in rural areas.

 d) Policies and strategies aimed at the sustainable and innovative development of rural territories, based on relevant processes of change, supported by – new or innovative – forms of territorial governance, on – new – forms of rural–urban interaction or on socially innovative development initiatives, and how they may better support those sustainable development processes in rural areas.

Prof. Javier Esparcia
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Sustainable and innovative development
  • Processes of change in rural areas
  • New business models
  • Changing labor markets
  • Public infrastructures
  • Innovative transport and social services
  • Sustainable food systems
  • Cultural connections
  • Ecosystems services
  • Ecological arrangements in rural areas
  • Cross-sectoral rural–urban relationships
  • Territorial innovative governance schemes
  • Policies and strategies supporting sustainable and innovative development
  • Socially innovative initiatives
  • Social rural–urban networks

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

Article
Developing Sustainable and Flexible Rural–Urban Connectivity through Complementary Mobility Services
Sustainability 2021, 13(3), 1280; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13031280 - 26 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1136
Abstract
Transport can play a key role in mitigating climate change, through reducing traffic, emissions and dependency on private vehicles. Transport is also crucial to connect remote areas to central or urban areas. Yet, sustainable and flexible transport is among the greatest challenges for [...] Read more.
Transport can play a key role in mitigating climate change, through reducing traffic, emissions and dependency on private vehicles. Transport is also crucial to connect remote areas to central or urban areas. Yet, sustainable and flexible transport is among the greatest challenges for rural areas and rural–urban regions. Innovative transport concepts and approaches are urgently needed to foster sustainable and integrated regional development. This article addresses challenges of sustainability, accessibility, and connectivity through examining complementary systems to existing public transport, including demand-responsive transport and multimodal mobility. We draw upon case studies from the Metropolitan Area of Styria, Ljubljana Urban Region and rural Wales (GUSTmobil, REGIOtim, EURBAN, Bicikelj, Bwcabus, Grass Routes). In-depth analysis through a mixed-methods case study design captures the complexity behind these chosen examples, which form a basis for analysing the effects of services on accessibility for different groups, connectivity to public transport and usability as a “first and last mile” feeder. We further explore the weaknesses of complementary transport systems, including legal, organisational and financial barriers, and offer potential solutions to structure and communicate complementary transport systems to improve access and use. Looking ahead, we use the case studies to anticipate innovative, sustainable “mobility as a service” (MaaS) solutions within and between urban and rural areas and consider how future public policy orientations and arrangements can enable positive change. A main concern of our article and the contribution to scientific literature is through exploring the benefit of well-established multi-level governance arrangements when introducing smaller-scale mobility solutions to improve rural–urban accessibility. It becomes clear that not a one-size-fits-all model but placed-based and tailored approaches lead to successful and sustainable concepts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Towards Sustainable and Innovative Development in Rural Areas)
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Article
Formal and Informal Governance Arrangements to Boost Sustainable and Inclusive Rural-Urban Synergies: An Analysis of the Metropolitan Area of Styria
Sustainability 2020, 12(24), 10637; https://doi.org/10.3390/su122410637 - 19 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 647
Abstract
In the past, the contrasts between rural and urban regions were the primary feature of analysis, while today, spatial dynamics are realized by the interactions between spaces and focus on the dependencies of rural-urban areas. This implies that boundaries are not anymore perceived [...] Read more.
In the past, the contrasts between rural and urban regions were the primary feature of analysis, while today, spatial dynamics are realized by the interactions between spaces and focus on the dependencies of rural-urban areas. This implies that boundaries are not anymore perceived as fixed but as flexible and fluid. With rising spatial interrelations, the concept of the “city-region” has been increasingly regarded as a meaningful concept for the implementation of development policies. Governance arrangements working at the rural-urban interface are often highly complex. They are characterized by horizontal and vertical coordination of numerous institutional public and private actors. In general, they provide opportunities to reap benefits and try to ameliorate negative outcomes but, due to asymmetric power relations, rural areas are often challenged to make their voice heard within city-region governance structures which can too easily become focused on the needs of the urban areas. This paper addresses these issues of rural-urban partnerships through the case of the Metropolitan Area of Styria. It presents analyses on the core issue of how to recognize the structure and driving challenges for regional co-operation and inter-communal collaboration in this city-region. Data were collected through workshops with regional stakeholders and interviews with mayors. Although the Metropolitan Area of Styria occupies an increased reference in policy discourses, the city-region has not grown to a uniform region and there are still major differences in terms of economic performance, the distribution of decision-making power, accessibility and development opportunities. If there should be established a stronger material and imagined cohesion in the city-region, it requires enhanced assistance for municipalities with less financial and personal resources, and tangible good practices of inter-municipal co-operation. The ability to act at a city-regional level depends highly on the commitment for co-operation in the formal and informal governance arrangement, and on the willingness for political compromises as well as on the formulation of common future goals. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Towards Sustainable and Innovative Development in Rural Areas)
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Article
Internet Access in Rural Areas: Brake or Stimulus as Post-Covid-19 Opportunity?
Sustainability 2020, 12(22), 9619; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12229619 - 18 Nov 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1534
Abstract
The lack of internet access in most rural areas has become a challenge worldwide. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted trends such as teleworking and e-commerce, meaning an opportunity for the local economy of these areas, but with serious difficulties in carrying it out. [...] Read more.
The lack of internet access in most rural areas has become a challenge worldwide. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted trends such as teleworking and e-commerce, meaning an opportunity for the local economy of these areas, but with serious difficulties in carrying it out. This paper aims to detect this lack of internet in inland areas of the region of Valencia through local actors, in order to identify clear priorities and real needs through an explorative and replicable approach based on agglomerative hierarchical clustering (AHC). The main findings suggest that there are different patterns in the rural internet access related to adequate infrastructure and planned actions by local councils. In this way, a multitude of contextual elements have emerged that influence the importance of efficient access to the internet in rural areas. It is essential to know the real needs and demands of the population before implementing plans and programs that may not be relevant for the actors involved in territorial development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Towards Sustainable and Innovative Development in Rural Areas)
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Article
Sustainability in Peripheral and Ultra-Peripheral Rural Areas through a Multi-Attribute Analysis: The Case of the Italian Insular Region
Sustainability 2020, 12(22), 9380; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12229380 - 11 Nov 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 661
Abstract
Italy has adopted the strategy of inner areas, mainly based on physical distance from public services. The strategy promotes a multi-level and multi-fund governance approach and the local partnership of mayors. Our paper focuses on rural areas, identified by the national strategy of [...] Read more.
Italy has adopted the strategy of inner areas, mainly based on physical distance from public services. The strategy promotes a multi-level and multi-fund governance approach and the local partnership of mayors. Our paper focuses on rural areas, identified by the national strategy of inner areas, as peripheral and ultra-peripheral, in the Italian insular region (Sicily and Sardinia). It analyzes, at the municipality level, socio-demographic, economic, and environmental sustainability using appropriate indicators. Aiming at discovering the underlying relationship portrayed by multi-attribute data in an information system, we applied rough set theory. The inductive decision rules obtained through this data mining methodology reveal the simultaneous presence or absence of important characteristics aiming at reaching different levels of sustainability. Without the requirement of statistical assumptions regarding data distribution or structures for collecting data, such as functions or equations, this method ensures the description of patterns exhibited by data. Of particular interest is the assessment of conditional attributes (i.e., the selected indicators), and the information connecting them to sustainability, as a decision attribute. The most important result is rule generation, specifically, decision rules that are able to suggest tools for policy makers at different levels. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Towards Sustainable and Innovative Development in Rural Areas)
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