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New Practical Guidance for Creating Synergies with Rural Service Hubs
Mon 27 Jul 2020
Many rural areas across Europe are struggling to keep their local services open. Service hubs – which provide multiple services in the same space – can offer practical and cost-effective solutions. A new report and infographic from ROBUST’s Public Infrastructures and Social Services Community of Practice shows how rural service hubs can tackle longstanding challenges and create new synergies.
Services help people do things. All people need services, but rural and urban areas need different solutions for getting services to people and people to services. Cities benefit from agglomeration: there are shops and the people to shop in them, services and the economy to sustain them. But providing services in rural areas, where populations are smaller and distances greater, poses significant challenges.
As a result, services are being increasingly centralised in larger towns and cities. But moving services ever further away from rural residents is not a recipe for the mutually beneficial rural-urban connections that ROBUST advocates. Hubs are a model for bringing services together more efficiently, while still ensuring that people in rural areas can access the services they need. Hubs help target investment by integrating provision and facilitating access.
ROBUST’s Living Labs have identified a number of good practices for rural service hubs, drawn from real examples. The new report offers nine case studies from five countries, covering services from food retail to community support, transport and digital connectivity to banking and healthcare. The case studies show that there is no single model for a service hub – but plenty of opportunity for innovation.
Service hubs are not a new idea, but through conscious design, combined expertise, partnership and cooperation, and community input, hubs can provide fresh solutions for rural areas. ROBUST’s report offers practical guidance and simple tools for planning or developing a hub, along with inspiration from the Living Labs.