As humans, we live in a world we created over centuries, building urban centres by concentrating energy – in the middle of rural areas. As a cultural scientist and an anthropologist with a systemic approach, I love to focus on these rural environments with lower social density, lower concentration of energy and more space. What do these areas provide that could help us create the future we want to live in?

Could it be time to shift narratives as we enter a new era where things are turned upside down, sustainability comes by default, and people start longing for non-processed lives? This shift of awareness and perspectives will not come by itself but rather by enhancing the ownership and participation of new stakeholders,, creating a new eco-system that includes a sustainable business model and flexibility that comes very close to a living organism.

As soon as you have identified your mission, it is time to look for the ones going there with you.

Why, Who, What, How – While it became common to start with the WHY as What are you heading for, I like to ask for the WHO first. Who are the people you like to be working with on your projects, who can they help you grow, who can you learn the most from, why do you like to have them by your side and – and what is in it for them, how could you make them feel belonging to your project?

Questions to help you identify your circle of trust & support:

Who – Stakeholder Engagement

  1. Stakeholder Identification: Who are the key stakeholders in your rural regeneration projects, and how can we engage them effectively?
  2. Long-Term Commitment: What strategies can be implemented to ensure long-term stakeholder commitment and collaboration in rural regeneration efforts?
  3. Feedback Mechanisms: What mechanisms can be established to ensure ongoing stakeholder feedback and participation throughout the regeneration process?
  4. Conflict Resolution: How can we address and resolve potential conflicts of interest among stakeholders in rural regeneration projects?

The second comes to sharpen your knife. Prepare the competencies and culture and familiarise yourself with the context so your community can grow. Try to involve as many perspectives in that process so that you can identify all resources and potentials from local strengths and traditions, underestimated talents and commodities, to longings and motivations that can nurture your project. Define objectives, workflows, and KPIs and do seed strong leadership and ownership.

How – Community-Based Place/Destination Making

  1. Identifying Local Strengths: What unique cultural, historical, or natural resources exist in our rural area that can be leveraged for destination-making?
  2. Local Skills Utilization: How can we effectively identify and utilise rural communities’ existing skills and knowledge to aid regeneration efforts?
  3. Community Involvement: How can we effectively involve local communities in the decision-making process for developing rural destinations?
  4. Innovative Solutions: Can you suggest innovative ideas for transforming underutilized spaces in rural areas into attractive destinations for locals and visitors?

When starting, ensure you have implemented a learning ecosystem as one of your missions included in every step. As you move forward, the learnings along the way are worth documenting and collecting to act cautiously, learn as much as possible, and foster the value of learning as a collective act of community building and part of your success story.


What – Learning Ecosystem

  1. Knowledge Sharing: What platforms or forums can be established to share knowledge, best practices, and lessons learned in rural regeneration among EU regions?
  2. Sustainable Practices: What sustainable practices can be implemented to ensure that rural destination-making does not negatively impact the local environment and community?
  3. Education and Training: How can educational initiatives and training programs be integrated into rural regeneration projects to benefit local communities?
  4. Innovation in Action: How can we foster collective wisdom, innovation and creativity in educational approaches within rural regeneration projects?

Bonus Track: Storytelling

What are the stories you want to tell with your project? What are the stories you want to be told about your projects? And whom do you want to talk about you? Make sure you have the chapters ready to spread the word about you and collect the feedback tangible and visible for all internal and external stakeholders.


Anne Seubert

Anne Seubert joined FERN this year as a member of the advisory board. She is the founder and managing director of Brands & Places and a sought-after keynote speaker and mentor, format developer and facilitator for events, platforms, communities, processes, and spaces where people meet, exchange ideas and learn from each other to foster impact, resonance and resilience of individuals, organizations and ecosystems.