ROBUST [Virtual] Final Conference

Tue 21 Sep 2021 to Wed 22 Sep 2021

Online (Zoom)

The ROBUST project held its Final Conference online on 21 and 22 September 2021. The event focused on wrapping up the project’s activities and presenting its key findings, takeaways and outlooks on the future of rural-urban governance in Europe. You can view and download the conference presentations, illustrations, and recordings below.

Welcome and Introduction

Keynote: Rural-Urban in the EU's Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas

Session 1: Unlocking Rural-Urban Synergies - What is there to unlock and synergize?

Session 2: Living Labs in ROBUST: Innovations, Outcomes and Challenges

Session 3: More Than Just Money: Wellbeing Approaches for Thriving Regions

Keynote: Back to the Future - Re-engaging to Build New Relationships 

The Programme At-A-Glance

Download the Final Programme here.


Keynote Speakers

Alexia Rouby is a Research Programme Officer, DG for Agriculture and Rural Development with the European Commission. Ms. Rouby works on innovations to improve rural well-being and resilience, collective and territorial approaches (especially living labs), urban farming, and developing a large-scale initiative to accelerate the transition to agroecology.

Download Alexia's presentation on "Rural-Urban in the EC's Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas" here.



Tom Jones, President of the European Rural Community Alliance, is also a farmer and rural activist in Wales UK. Mr. Jones is a former member of the European Economic and Social Committee EESC, where he was their rural expert.


Session 1: Unlocking Rural Synergies

Han Wiskerke (Wageningen University) brings together experts from the ROBUST project - Damian Maye (CCRI), Hilkka Vihinen (LUKE), and Vincent O'Connell (PURPLE) - to discuss the main findings and lessons learned from the empirical work that was carried out in the project, and what this means for governing rural-urban relations and for rural and territorial policies.

Prof.dr. Han Wiskerke holds a MSc in Agronomy (1992) and a PhD in Rural Sociology (1997), both from Wageningen University. In November 2004 he was appointed as Professor of Rural Sociology and Chair of the Rural Sociology Group at Wageningen University, a position he still holds today. From January 2013 until June 2016 he was also Professor of Foodscape Studies and Design at the Academy of Architecture (Amsterdam University of the Arts). His main research themes during the past 15 years have been a) agrarian, rural and regional development and b) city-region food systems and policies. He has been (scientific) coordinator of several EU funded research projects at the intersection of these two research themes, such as SUS-CHAIN (Jan 2003 – June 2006), PUREFOOD (Dec 2010 – Nov 2014), FOODLINKS (Jan 2011 – Dec 2013), SUPURBFOOD (Oct 2012 – Sept 2015), and ROBUST (June 2017 – November 2021). Han coordinates the ROBUST project.



Session 2: Living Labs in ROBUST

In Session 2, Daniel Keech (University of Gloucestershire, CCRI) will moderate the experiences from four of the 13 ROBUST Living Labs: rural Mid Wales, the metropolitan region of Styria, the metropolitan capital region of Lisbon, and the Province of Lucca. This cluster represents the geographic, demographic, and political diversity in the ROBUST project. Michael Woods, Kerstin Hausegger-Nestelberger, Carlos Pina, and Sabrina Arcuri will share practical reflections on their intended Living Lab innovations and the challenges experienced in pursuing their goals. We hope this will be useful for other organisations or projects considering using Living Labs as a method for experimental change.

Daniel Keech is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Gloucestershire's Countryside and Community Research Institute and co-led ROBUST's scientific work for the Living Labs. His research interests include urban food systems, European food cultures and cultural landscapes.


Michael Woods is Professor of Human Geography at Aberystwyth University in Wales, UK, and Co-Director of the WISERD Centre for Welsh Politics and Society. He works on rural development, rural governance and policy, and rural aspects of globalization, and has undertaken research on these topics in many parts of Europe as well as in North America, Brazil, China, Australia and New Zealand. He was involved in the ROBUST Living Lab in Mid Wales.

Kerstin Hausegger-Nestelberger is a project manager for the Regional Management Agency of the Metropolitan Area of Styria (MAS), who has specialized in regional development processes with a focus on social participation and lifelong learning in the region. She has a background in urban studies, policy analysis and evaluation, district-oriented health promotion and social research, and was responsible for the ROBUST project on behalf of MAS.

Carlos Pina is a Geographer and Director of the Land Planning Department at the Lisbon Regional Coordination and Development Commission (CCDR-LVT). He coordinated ROBUST's Lisbon Living Lab and has more than a decade of experience in monitoring and participating in territorial planning at the local and regional scale.

Sabrina Arcuri is a postdoc research fellow at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment (DAFE) at the University of Pisa. Her current research interests involve urban/local food strategies, rural development, and sustainable food systems. Sabrina was a core member of ROBUST's Lucca Living Lab, and has been involved in its sister project, SHERPA, since 2020.


Outside Impressions

The First Day of the Final Conference will end with a short reflection and share-back from our Graphic Recorder, Paolo Masiero (Housatonic). Paolo is a graphic facilitator, illustrator and designer and lives in Bologna. After years of artistic studies, he started working as a free-lance in 2006 for several national and international graphic studios and advertising agencies. He has held professorships in graphic design at various communication institutes, at the moment he teaches at the IAAD institute in Bologna. He has a close collaboration with Housatonic, a creative studio based in Bologna but which operates globally, as a graphic facilitator, designer and illustrator since 2012.


Session 3: More Than Just Money

Bettina Bock is Professor for Inclusive Rural Development at the Rural Sociology Chairgroup at Wageningen University and a Professor for Population Decline and Quality of Life at Groningen University. Her areas of research include rural-urban relations, rural development and regional policies, civic participation and social innovation, with a particular focus on remote and depopulating rural areas.

Session 3 Panelists

Marc Hameleers is the program director for the Regions Portfolio of the Dutch Ministry for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV). Main objective is to enhance well being in the Dutch regions by addressing their problems and opportunities together with local authorities and other stakeholders (local, regional and national). The Regions Budget (approx. 1 billion Euros) funded the instrumentation of this approach by means of so called “Regional Deals”: specific, multidisciplinary and integral partnerships between the State and 30 specific regions. These 30 are to be seen as practical ways to work on “Brede Welvaart” (ie. a broader perspective of well being, beyond GDP. The Dutch “Brede Welvaart” framework can be seen as some kind of translation of the SDGs.) Marc studied molecular biology and public administration. Since 1997 he has been in several management positions within Dutch government and is member of the Senior Civil Service (Algemene Bestuursdienst).


Rosemarie Harris has been a Powys County (Wales) Councillor since 1999, and serves on both the Welsh Local Government Association and Local Government Association Executives. As a County Councillor, she has represented the Llangynidr ward, one of Powys’ most southerly wards and one that uniquely borders three of the Country’s 22 local authorities – Merthyr Tydfil, Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent. Ms. Harris has held a number of positions with public sector organisations, including 10 years with Powys Teaching Health Board as a Welsh Government nomination for local government. She chaired Brecknock Community Health Council for two years and served on Dyfed Powys Police Authority for seven years as a Home Office representative. She also has previously been a member of the Council’s Cabinet holding the portfolios for Social Care, Housing and Property, and has been closely connected with the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society for 40 years.


Stephan Bartke works at the German Environment Agency (UBA). An institutional economist by training, his inter- and transdisciplinary projects aimed at facilitating more sustainable land use and governance in urban and rural environments. Stephan has been leading the synthesis project Stadt-Land-Plus, which is a German initiative funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Twenty-two interdisciplinary and collaborative projects are pursuing integrated research-practice approaches supporting more sustainable collaboration and efficient land use. Stephan was chair of the Urban-Rural Partnerships conference URP2020 and coordinator of various international projects. Since August 2021, he has been working at the UBA President’s Office on planning, process management and research coordination.


Share this Event:

Related Topics

Related Living Labs

, , , , , , , , , ,


News about Rural-Urban Europe and the ROBUST project is published regularly in the INFORMED CITIES newsletter.

ROBUST is a European research project involving 24 partners from 11 countries. ROBUST receives funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 727988.

European flag