Connecting with less central regions and students, in-person and virtually
What was planned and how things stand right now
For its territorial experiment, Trøndelag will focus on how rural areas can become more appealing places for young people to relocate to in order to reverse the trend of rural depopulation, something which may be called “re-territorialisation”. As part of this, the project selected two target communities; the regions around the towns of Røros and Namsos. Originally, a workshop was planned, which intended to bring students together with representatives from the county government and to stimulate discussion on what factors influence students’ plans for the future and what might encourage them to relocate to rural areas. Covid-19 has, for example, meant that lectures were moved online, while students have moved back to their parents in large numbers. Instead of in-person events, one-to-one interviews were conducted with students online to collect information and this proved to be a constructive solution. Online conference calls will in the future be structured by the project partners in Trøndelag to make them as productive as possible. Norway has lifted the ban on meetings with under 50 participants which enables the Trøndelag team to conduct the rest of the co-design workshops as planned, as long as the current move towards normality persists.
Might the health situation have broader societal effects?
One specific area of interest raised by the pandemic is whether it is changing any young people’s opinions on the merits of city and urban living. When city residents have to spend long periods inside in more cramped living conditions, will this offer a pull factor to rural communities whose residents enjoy greater distance from other people and thus more freedom to leave their houses and enjoy nature? The regional authorities, one of the project partners, are responsible for looking after the whole Trøndelag region and this may be of special interest to them. Perhaps the period of recovery from the pandemic will offer an opportunity to develop rural areas and so make them more appealing to younger workers. A boost in the uptake of online communication tools, both for work and social purposes, may also make moving out of the city more of an option for many young people.