In the 70s it was utopia – the urbanization of the village: rural idyll and urban advantages in one. All the advantages of the city – work, entertainment and creative flair of the metropolis combined with homely rural security and peace – green meadows and peaceful provinces.
Behind this is nothing less than the hope of being able to live where city dwellers today seek recreation.
Rural areas with organic farming, gourmet farms, therapeutic services, sports and nature experiences are highly valued by city dwellers as places of recreation. Quite a few of them can no longer keep up the pace in the city and dream of staying.
And it is precisely these city dwellers who are the key to saving the isolation of rural areas.
Social scientists hoped in the 1970s that the contrast between city and country would dissolve. But to turn a village into an attractive place to live for city dwellers, it takes more than a rail connection or high-speed Internet. So the social scientists have stuck with their utopian hope.
The rural exodus continues unabated. Everyone’s moving to town
All over the world people are moving to the metropolises. Already in 2005 half of the world’s population lived in cities. According to current estimates, this figure will be more than two thirds by 2050.
According to the economist Richard Florida, people who want to plan something and move forward come to the city. He calls these people the “creative class.” As elitist and contentious as this thesis is, there is some truth in it. Innovative power seems to be concentrated above all – together with creative minds – in the cities of the world.
In the rural areas, the small towns, almost everyone moves away to the city. There are considerations to rebuild the infrastructure and to leave the areas to themselves – i.e. to leave them to nature again.
The trend towards urbanization continues unabated. It is in the cities that people study, work, creatively create and the great innovations are born. Until now.
Every trend triggers a counter-trend. The counter-trend of urbanization has a name. Glocalists and progressive province! Glocalists? Progressive province?
What’s that? You meet glocalists – in the village! Glocalists have travelled a lot, they know the city and move safely around the world. They’re still drawn to the country. They think globally but want to live locally. But not in a closed wasteland.
They want to live in a cosmopolitan village, a progressive village.
They don’t want to go there either, to realize fantasies of rural idyll, to chase after the illusion of an autonomous life as a hermit or to leave embitterments of urban life behind. Glocalists do not flee the city – they arrive – in their progressive future village. They want to find their home and settle down.
In return, they move from the city – to a village or small town. There, with their knowledge from the world, they will, in the best case, steer the fate of the region towards a successful future. In their suitcases they carry know-how, contacts, creative energy and sometimes also monetary means.
One such glocalist is Götz Paschen from Lower Saxony. Before he moved to the province in 1993 to found the magazine “Torfkurier“, the Westphalian-born writer lived in Copenhagen, among other places. With his magazine – a kind of “city magazine just for the village” and the area between Hamburg and Bremen – he not only offers his readers cultural content, but also jobs and training positions in his editorial department.
The business ideas the glocalists bring are as creative as they are. Their global knowledge connects in a fruitful way with the place where they settle.
Another example comes from Greece. As the herb shop of Iannis Iannutsos in the mountainous hinterland of Crete. The shop has made it into television, blogs and U-tube videos several times, so that the sleepy little town of Kouses is now frequented by townspeople who want to consume its herbs and teas. Also because he does not only mix them according to taste, but according to traditional recipes as a supporting remedy for health problems of all kinds.
Future village instead of wasteland – somewhere in the world
How can a village manage this – to be an attractive location – a future village that can compete with urban life?
According to Richard Florida, villages don’t have to recruit companies for this, but people. Artists, founders and academics – people who know the world, but want to arrive: Glocalists, as Matthias Horx’s Zukunftsinstiute called them.
It takes three things to boost economic development in rural areas: Technologies, talents and entrepreneurial creativity.
This is what people, not companies, bring to a region.
That is why it is worthwhile to advertise for the influx of such people. And not, as many villages do, as a business location for companies. Because without innovative employees, places are uninteresting for most companies.
Attracting creative minds with cosmopolitanism and averting the danger of desertification
Intensity, individuality and self-realization are the drivers of creative people. If rural regions offer these options, they become a magnet for these people. Then city dwellers move to Tuscany, to the edge of the Alps, to Crete, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania or to the Brandenburg Land. They bring their creative power, networks and financial resources to this place.
By moving in, the province becomes progressive and offers people a desirable space to live
Five pillars for the “progressive province
In a report for 2018, the Zukunftsinstitut has formulated the conditions a village needs to make the leap into the future and attract glocalists.
These include local visionaries – people who know the world and want to implement their impulses and ideas in this village. No visionary will settle down in a place that looks hostile to everything foreign.
Therefore the essential condition – openness!
A future village wants to be a home for strangers full of joy. Such a village is open-minded and has a history to tell.
Storytelling is not only important for companies – but also for the progressive future village
Every place has a history that should reach further into the future, a craft, a regional speciality or inhabitants who have lived there for a long time. These stories must be told to attract strangers. A progressive village is a brand, makes PR – like a company. It tells its story to the world in order to invite them to come and see it.
Modern architecture, which can have a dynamic effect alongside the idyllic rural buildings, also tells a story that combines past and present.
Anyone who has ever been in villages where only one house of the same type is lined up next to another will immediately understand how this is meant: time has stood still. Fascinating to look at for a moment, but most of them do not want to stay.
In places with homogeneous architecture, there is often a national pride that excludes foreigners. A place of the future does not need such self-absorbed pride, it needs love of home, which confidently invites strangers to feel this love as well.
A progressive place looks optimistically into the future instead of nationally – self-indulgent hanging in the past.
Meanwhile there are some examples of villages that have mastered this step into the future with their own concepts, such as the artist village Dötlingen or the energy village Wilpoldsried.
Villages and small towns that meet the requirements of cosmopolitanism can make the utopia of country life come true with the luminosity of a metropolis.
Precisely because they are open-minded, have an attractive history and, thanks to digitalisation, are able to tell it to the world!
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