Rural Development: Principles and Practice

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Malcolm J. Moseley

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  • Part I: Principles

    Part II: Practice

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    Preface

    This book aims to distil much of what I have learned in the past 15 years or so about the local promotion of rural development in Britain, Ireland and continental Europe. In that regard I was fortunate to be, from 1987 to 1993, the first director of ACRE, the national voluntary organisation committed to promoting the vitality of England's villages and small towns and to improving the quality of life of their more disadvantaged residents. And from 1993, to the present day, I have been equally fortunate to work as a researcher, teacher and consultant in the Countryside and Community Research Unit of what is now England's newest university, the University of Gloucestershire.

    During those 15 years, frequent contact with policy-makers and practitioners engaged in rural development, with unpaid activists working at the local level and with a variety of students, some of them already with a foot in the world of practice, persuaded me of the need for a concise text on the challenge of undertaking locally focused rural development. Hence this attempt to draw together a mixture of evidence and opinion around a number of core themes or issues, one per chapter, which together embrace much of the substance of that challenge.

    In writing, I have borne in mind four types of potential reader. The first is undergraduate and master's-level students taking courses in ‘rural something’, for example rural geography, sociology, economics or planning, and for whom some understanding of local development is important. Also relevant in academia are research students, and researchers more generally, coming into ‘rural development’ from more specialist backgrounds. The second type is a range of local or national activists keen to improve the well-being of our rural communities – for example parish clerks, local councillors, members of local voluntary bodies and of local and national amenity or social welfare organisations. Third are those salaried practitioners who find themselves engaged in some aspect of rural development despite having received little or no formal training in the subject. Such people generally work in local or central government and the various development agencies and partnerships. Fourth is a variety of specialists in related professions and disciplines, such as community workers, conservation officers, agriculturists and land-use planners, who want to learn more about a related endeavour.

    As for the approach, each chapter attempts to link theory and practice, giving roughly equal weight to each. ‘Theory’ because it seeks to structure and make sense of the mass of seemingly unconnected facts to which we are otherwise confined; ‘practice’ because it serves to ground theory in the muddy and murky world of real-world struggles to get things done. It is theory and practice taken together that best meets the needs of students and practitioners of rural development, who each tend in my experience to have a commendable aversion both to ‘theory for theory's sake’ and to the indiscriminate accumulation of facts, case studies and examples of good practice.

    Next, a confession. About one third of the 200 or so references to literature cited in the text are books, papers or reports written either by myself – often with colleagues – or by/for the two rural development agencies with which I have had most dealings over the past decade. These are the Brussels-based LEADER Observatory and England's Rural Development Commission (plus the Countryside Agency, into which the latter was subsumed in 1999). This selectivity reflects more my goal of drawing substantially on personal experience than any suggestion that those sources contain a disproportionate share of what is worth knowing on the subject.

    As for the content of the book, an introductory chapter sets out the underlying argument and structure and is followed by 13 substantive chapters which fall into two groups. First are nine devoted to overarching concepts or themes in rural development. Not the, much less the only, concepts or themes but nine which after some thought seem to capture most of what is significant. Certainly sustainability, innovation, adding value, entrepreneurship, community, social inclusion, accessibility, partnership and community involvement all occur time and again in the recent literature on rural and local development. It may well be that further chapters, perhaps on capacity building, networking, integration and governance, to name just four other contenders for inclusion, would also have been appropriate. But each is covered to some extent in one or other of the nine thematic chapters.

    The remaining four chapters are devoted to particular aspects of the systematic pursuit at a local level of those overarching themes. They relate to the diagnosis of a local area, strategic planning, implementation and evaluation. But the distinction between the two groups of chapters is not clear-cut. Certainly many of the themes of the first group of nine chapters are effectively means, as well as ends, of local rural development. Indeed, the fact that ‘product’ and ‘process’ are inherently intertwined and sometimes interchangeable is one of the great lessons of local development repeated time and again in this book.

    All 13 chapters follow a common format. The first part is a concise statement of the particular concept's significance in a rural development context, and a suggested definition of it. The second is a brief consideration of some key issues surrounding it, again from a rural development perspective. The third is ‘the toolkit’ – a listing and brief critique of a number of ways of practically pursuing or undertaking the concept or task in the real world.

    After that come two case studies per chapter, 28 in all, collectively comprising about one third of the book. Each has been chosen and written to illustrate key issues raised in the immediately preceding text and to help link theory and practice. Seventeen of the 28 present work in which I was involved as a practitioner, researcher or consultant and a further six relate to programmes or initiatives of which I have personal knowledge. The other five have been condensed from the literature to best illustrate some aspect of practice outside my direct experience. Twenty-one of the total relate exclusively to some part or parts of the UK and the other seven to places in one or more of the other member states of the European Union (see the map which follows).

    While responsibility for what follows is exclusively mine, many people have kindly helped as collaborators in the various studies which have underlain this book, or as constructive critics of draft chapters. Particular thanks in this respect are due to: Phil Allies, Joan Asby, David Atkinson, Madeline Barden, Sally Bex, Ros Boase, Sian Brace, Yves Champetier, Catherine Chater, Mike Clark, Wendy Cutts, James Derounian, Michael Dower, Ged Duncan, Pam Ellis, Anne Fromont, Laurie Howes, Tony Kerr, Malcolm Kimber, Catherine le Roy, Nick Mack, Ruth McShane, Stephen Owen, Michael Palmer, Gavin Parker, Ian Purdy, Carl Sanford, Lesley Savage, Paul Selman, Denise Servante, Elisabeth Skinner, Denise Sore, Monika Strell, Richard Tulloch, Andrew Wharton, Louise Wilby, Amanda Wragg and Stephen Wright.

    More specifically, my grateful thanks go to two colleagues whose support deserves particular mention: Trevor Cherrett of Sussex Rural Community Council – fellow researcher on the PRIDE research project, co-author of the chapter on ‘partnerships’, which is based mainly on that work, and genial collaborator in much that I have done in recent years; and Nigel Curry, who as head of the Countryside and Community Research Unit at the University of Gloucestershire encouraged me to devote a good deal of 2000 and 2001 to researching and writing this book, while knowing full well that it would add nothing to the Unit's research income stream or to its standing in the cross-university ‘Research Assessment Exercise’.

    I also gladly pay tribute to the real heroes of rural development – the people who turn up on dark winter evenings to manage the village hall, drive the community minibus, plan the parish appraisal or organise the good neighbours scheme. Such stalwarts have provided much of the inspiration, and indirectly the material, for this book and I hope that in some small, albeit circuitous, way it will add strength to their elbows.

    Finally, I dedicate this book with love to Helen. Laid low for so long by severe ME she could and can offer words of encouragement only from her bed. May we once more walk through the English countryside together.

    MalcolmMoseley

    Cheltenham

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