Public infrastructures and social services in ROBUST

Fri 20 Oct 2017

An interview with Theresia Oedl-Wieser (BABF), the leader of ROBUST's Community of Practice on public infrastructures and social services.

What is the most pressing current issue or challenge related to public infrastructures and social services (in the context of rural –urban linkages)?

The most pressing challenge is to coordinate and bring together existing offers of public infrastructures and social services in urban areas and the surrounding rural areas so that accessibility of services for all groups of residents is increased. In the future, it should become routine, also in overcoming existing administrative and political barriers, to plan and implement projects dealing with issues like mobility, infrastructure, renewable energy supply, recreation as well as health, child and elderly care in close co-operation between urban areas and their neighboring rural communities. The aim is to generate synergies by making use of improved governance processes, which should encourage the sustainable use of resources.


What is a misconception about rural and/or urban areas regarding this topic?

Representatives of urban areas should better recognise that the surrounding rural municipalities are corresponding partners in improving the working and living conditions of all residents in the region. A preferential provision of services in either of the areas, without addressing these interlinkages, would imply “under-provision” of services.


How can rural and urban areas mutually benefit from cooperating on public infrastructures and social services?

The advantages are obvious: in economic terms – more efficiency, less expenses; in social terms – better social service offers for the residents both in urban and rural areas; and in ecological terms –less dependence on carbon energy. Such a smart, green and inclusive development of public infrastructures and social services means better choices and access for residents. Furthermore, this requires the establishment of suitable governance structures and cooperation oriented teams that would have important implications for other spatial coordination issues as well.


Which ROBUST living labs will be dealing with this Community of Practise (CoP)?

The Valencia region, Ljubljana city and Tukums municipality, but also the Styrian Metropolitan Area, the Lisbon region and the city of Helsinki place a particularly high priority on the issue of public infrastructure. It can be assumed that ROBUST living labs will be elaborated in one or the other of these case study regions. The aim will be to showcase the Community of Practice for rural-urban interlinkages of larger and smaller cities.


Can you name a current best practices/good examples in the field (in research or, preferably, in practice)?

Many cases of very ambitious projects already exist throughout Europe which implement good governance of cooperation between urban and rural areas in relation to public infrastructures and social services. This includes mobility concepts, (re-)organization of healthcare, establishing holistic and integrative concepts of child and elderly care as well as broadband services and renewable energy production.


What are the main ROBUST activities that will take place surrounding public infrastructures and social services?

The intensive work on thematic issues will start in the second year of the ROBUST project (June 2018). Main issues of project activities will focus on the assessment of practical findings in involved case study regions and their contributions to achieving increased cooperation between the rural and urban parts of the respective regions. This will involve the assessment of increasing demands due to spatial dynamics, the aims to reduce carbon intensity (post-Kyoto process), approaches for how to enhance the provision of public and social services across the whole region and strategies for how to cope with demographic changes and shifts within the regions. 


What are the main outputs you expect from ROBUST in this thematic area?

The main output of ROBUST in the thematic area of securing public infrastructure development and service provision will be the exchange of knowledge and of experiences about existing urban-rural co-operations and the elaboration of new initiatives and incentives in the case study regions. Some case study regions will act thereby as living labs where new approaches and experiments can be implemented and examined assisted by the ROBUST-project team.

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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.

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