23.08.2022 — Strategy Development

What makes a village sustainable? Contribution to the Future Institute about the 5 pillars of the progressive province.

It has long since ceased to be just clubs and volunteer fire departments that make up rural civil society – but also yoga groups, foodies, dropout communities and entrepreneur clubs. Small towns, villages and regions can reinvent themselves if they identify their social potential.

1. local visionaries

The future-oriented community needs charismatic mayors and committed personalities with a great love for their own village. It is not uncommon for these pioneers to be returnees and frequent travelers who rediscover their roots and become change agents of rural life. The returnees bring impulses into the village and change the climate towards the future – especially if they are given the necessary leeway!

2. transitory architectures

As idyllic as rural architectures can be – without a tension of forms, no future dynamics can develop. Therefore, in addition to the old half-timbered house, there needs to be a modern design building, a school with eco-architecture, a brutal concrete community center or other “provocations” that productively disrupt the provincial idyll. Not all projects will immediately create a “Bilbao effect.” But they do create a necessary electricity of tension between tradition and modernity in village or small-town spaces.

3. resonating spaces

Villages have also always welcomed strangers – and profited from them. Travelling people brought goods and ideas, traveling servants and maids shaped the hamlets of the Middle Ages. The first successful forms of urban public sphere emerged in the medieval small town. Cosmopolitanism is existential, especially for the village or small town: if the local climate is characterized by depression and fear of rejection, a negative spiral is set in motion. Who would want to go where mistrust reigns? Regional tourism is in – and brings new life to old structures. This not only strengthens the local economy, but also the identity of the villagers. After all, it is only when people come to terms with the unfamiliar that an appreciation of cultural peculiarities emerges.

4. USP of the village

Like every person, every small town, every village, has its own potential, a specific character and a special talent. A history of its own. It can be a certain craft or a regional specialty, a custom, a character trait, a natural phenomenon. Or special myths and fairy tales, human tragedies or dramas. Local innovation policy must, as in modern marketing, work out this special feature, the “unique selling point” of a village, small town or region. And this “secret” must be given language and form so that it can be deciphered as a message for a better future.

5. glocal mindset

Unlike national pride, which always contains a dangerous component of devaluing others, regional pride can be charming and inviting. Love of home is the foundation of confident change. But this love of homeland can be glocal: it does not have to be delimited, but can refer to the whole world, to which one adds (and precisely does not oppose) something of one’s own, specific.

Source: The 5 pillars of the progressive province / Zukunftsinstitut (Future Institute) / Matthias Horx

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«A progressive mindset has long since ceased to be linked to the size of one’s own community. It is much more important that all decision-makers within a community abandon particularistic thinking and actions and pursue a common goal.»

Ivo Haldner, Founder & Partner Quant