Database: Social innovations in marginalised rural areas

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The SIMRA project gathered 211 social innovations in agriculture, forestry and rural development in rural areas across Europe and non-European Mediterranean regions. Of these, 88 examples were positively validated using the SIMRA definition of social innovation and meet the following four criteria for selection:

  1. They display a reconfiguration of social practices (relationships/collaborations/networks/institutions/governance structures) in response to societal challenges;
  2. The act of novel reconfiguration above involves civil society members as active participants;
  3. The novelty/reconfiguration takes place in new geographical settings or relation to previously disengaged social group(s);
  4. It better meets social, environmental or economic aims/goals looking to improve societal wellbeing.

The social innovations are classified according to region, sector, and topic. Regions include Eastern Europe, Northern Europe, Southern Europe, Western Europe, Outermost regions and Non-EU Mediterranean. The sectors refer to agriculture, forestry and rural development. The topics include almost 30 different areas of intervention.

The full dataset is available at the SIMRA Catalogue of Social Innovation Diversity in Rural Areas archived in the Zenodo repository. This database is a work-in-progress and is still being updated. The database is distributed in a spreadsheet document that includes descriptive information of all the examples reviewed and recorded by SIMRA.

Relevance for monitoring and evaluation of the CAP

The database provides a set of criteria for screening social innovation interventions. These criteria result from an extensive research among more than 200 projects and are very useful to monitoring and evaluation stakeholders.

The database can offer examples of social innovations that can be used as peer learning across different contexts.

This database is a source of information and data on:

  • project implementation (i.e. synergies achieved, networks utilised);
  • results and how they were achieved (i.e. people that participated, localities involved, products sold, or cultivated areas);
  • practices that were employed (i.e. networking, training/teaching, public participation);
  • indicators (i.e. indicators that analysed the projects in the database can be used with other indicators, like Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicators, to get a better understanding of the local context).

Thus, each project can be an inspiration for monitoring and evaluation. It can be used in answering the question about the impact of social innovation on a specific indicator. How, why and under what circumstances has social innovation increased participation or increased sales, or supported competitiveness? Evaluators can use it first, to understand better the concept of social innovation, which is relatively new in rural development policy, and second, as an example of what data to collect or what types of information to seek. In addition, the database contains examples from many non-agricultural policies that are active in rural areas, including policies targeting social needs and demands, policies targeting societal challenges and policies targeting institutional change, participation and inclusion of civil society.

Conditions for use:

When looking at the social innovation examples in the database, it is important to have in mind that the data comes from self assessments and self perceptipons of the people working in these projects. It therefore reflects what is relevant for them and the dimensions that make a diffrence in terms of development in rural areas.

The database is available for free, accessible online, downloadable and continuously updated. However, validation and quality control of the database is required over time.

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