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Where to put the focus on rural development: changing the focus from funding to learning

Agricultural Communications Documentation Center (ACDC)
Katona Kovacs, Judit (main author)
Journal article
Publication Date:
Agricultural Communications Documentation Center, Funk Library, University of Illinois
Subject Term:
agricultural development, change, courses, development, development communication, farmers, knowledge, learning, networks, online services, participation, rural development, local, entrepreneurship, knowledge exchange, Knowledge deficit, brokering, brokers, knowledge centers
Why is a change in the focus of rural development needed? Sinek (2009) pointed out that the first question addressed by successful entrepreneurs when establishing their companies is, why should the enterprise be created, what is the purpose of it? With the outcome of a conversation with an academic colleague in mind, that even scientific papers have a story to tell, the author has structured this paper in line with the 'golden circle' approach of Sinek (2009), namely asking why, then how and then what? At the beginning of her research career in rural development, the author examined the role of the European Union's (EU) Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in Hungary, with special regard to agri-environmental management. As this research was linked to policy regulations it was in rather a 'top down' direction, examining the effects of selected tools such as agri-environmental measures, direct payments and the LEADER approach. The experience gained during this period (2001-2006) redirected the interest of the author to human and social capital. Examination of sustainability, resilience and system thinking has become a basic element in her work. Acceptance by agriculture that corporate social responsibility is a pre-condition for the licence to produce is now an established societal demand. Production methods that have regard for the planet and people as well as profi t have become a 'must' for the food industry (Slingerland and Rab-binge, 2009). The author keeps in mind the three dimensions of sustainability (nature, society and economy), in which nature creates the frame, the limits of growth, and society is understood to be part of it. Each human being, as an indi-vidual part of society, has his/her responsibility and has to understand the system he/she lives in. This is very important because, as Senge (2011) points out, people do not believe that they infl uence the future, while Johnson (2013), in line with Meier (2005), states that our future is based on how we as individuals live and talk today. In Hungary, human and social resources, which play an important role in the rural economy, show a great defi cit (Katona Kovács, 2006a). Appreciating the importance of human and social capital and their deficit in the North Great Plain NUTS 2 region where she lives, the author is look-ing for ways to increase these resources. This is the first and most important answer to the why question. Since 2006 the author's research work has sought answers to how human and social capital could be increased in local economies, as key factors for future development, even in the improvement of agri-environment management. Although there are good examples of changes generated through policy instruments, such as the LEADER pro-gramme (ÖIR, 2004), instead of trying to form or to increase human and social capital via 'top down' policy mechanisms, while keeping the importance of these instruments in mind, the author is looking for 'bottom-up' tools and participatory actions. This preference is based on an increasing body of evidence. For example, Dam et al. (2009) explore the transi-tion of societal organisation from heavy reliance on the state towards self-organisation by citizens in communities. They note that private citizens are increasingly expected to take responsibility for the direction of their own lives. The suc-cess of the LEADER programme also comes from the space it gives for bottom-up approaches, for partnership and co-creation. Based on the model elaborated by Lukesch (2007), Katona Kovács et al. (2011) examined, from the three modes of operation offered by the model (animating actions, struc-turing actions and consolidating actions), the types of activities of the Local Action Groups (LAGs) in the North Great Plain region. Their results demonstrate the importance of animating actions amongst the LAGs in the region. In this region the level of governance is such that "the ability of people to articulate their common needs is the starting point for many innovations ... It is the only point where we can speak about development programmes in the strict sense" (Lukesch, 2007, p.16). Today animating actions are the most needed operations in the North Great Plain region, so as to encourage different actors to work together and experience the results of common thinking. Dialogue about the common needs is an important first step to help the development of local communities.