Convenors: Diana E Valero (diana.valero.perth@uhi.ac.uk ) – University of the Highlands and Islands; Adam Dąbrowski (Jagiellonian University), Jan Hassink (Wageningen University and Research Centrer), Piotr Nowak (Jagiellonian University)

Context and Objectives:

Social innovation has been embraced as an emergent approach to rural development. The concept is applied to different fields of activity (agriculture, forestry, delivery of services, social integration, etc.) in relation to different societal challenges (environmental conservation, creation of employment, enhancement of governance, poverty, etc.) and in different rural contexts (in terms of marginalisation, economic development, resources, etc.). Social farming is one the most significant examples of social innovation in rural areas. Social farming is a response to changes in agriculture and rural lifestyle in communities across rural Europe not only in how they are affected by the principle “Think globally, act locally” but also following its inverse: “Think locally, act globally”.

This WG aims to explore the understanding of social innovation in general and social farming in particular as drivers of transformation and change in rural areas: from examining how concrete examples of social innovation transform social practices in agriculture, forestry, and rural development to discussing the deeper meanings that those changes may have in different socio-cultural contexts. The WG engages with the themes of the Conference in the exploration of how rural futures might look, particularly from the point of view of the diversity of social innovation in rural areas and in understanding how social practices are being reconfigured in rural communities.

Topics: Within the spectrum of social innovations, particular attention is paid to social farming, recognising the necessity for finding new sources of income for agricultural farms and increasing demand for care services in rural areas. Some of the sub-themes and questions that we expect to explore are:

  • The type of rural transformations driven by social innovation. How is social innovation transforming rural areas? Is it re-shaping traditional activities in rural areas or does it mean a structural change and transformation of the communities and spaces? Do different types of social innovation have the same types of impacts? Are they delivering different types of rural futures, and if so, what makes the difference?
  • Contexts and development of social innovations. How do different types of rural spaces drive different types of social innovation? What is the relationship between rural diversity and social innovation – does one lead to the other?
  • Diversity of social farming systems (national frameworks, opportunities and challenges, actors, etc.). What is social farming and what are the key features of social services on care farms? How is care farming integrated into the social welfare system in rural areas? What are the key factors influencing the emergence and development of care farming? Is it possible to create an international system of care farming at an EU level?

Format: Traditional workshop with at least a couple of panels or sessions. In each session, 3-4 papers addressing similar issues are presented by authors in advance of opening to the floor for Q&As and wider discussion.