The second Thematic Group (TG) meeting focused on social innovation initiatives and their role in revitalising rural services. It demonstrated that the momentum behind Smart Villages is growing - both on the ground and at a policy level.
Participants heard about how rural communities across Europe are developing innovative local solutions and imaginative approaches to cuts in rural transport, energy, social care, education, service integration, as well as to the threat of climate change.The message from these grassroot initiatives was clear: their activities often depend heavily on voluntary labour and frequently move ahead faster than policy. But the regulatory and policy environment makes a big difference.
TG members went on to look at four ways of building a more favourable enabling environment for Smart Villages: providing tools for community planning; supporting business models, setting up systems for integrated service delivery; and using the RDPs more strategically in combination with other funds.
MEPs Tibor Szanyi and Franc Bovovic, two of the architects of the Smart Village approach, ended the meeting by explaining the aims and plans of the European Parliament and by encouraging the TG to continue its work alongside them.