What would you do, if you were trying to attract people to visit and live in a small village with decreasing and ageing population? Hardly the first thing that comes to mind is that the locality can be branded through its own misery. In Puolanka, Finland, a municipality of about two and a half thousand inhabitants, it was decided to do just that. The ePuolanka project, which aimed to harmonise the municipality's way of communicating and make the municipality better known, resulted in an active Pessimistic Association, signs at the municipal border saying that "You still have time to turn away", a summer pessimism musical and an online store where you can buy pessimism-themed humorous t-shirts and "other useless things". This strategy gave Puolanka media coverage and succeeded in making Puolanka better known – and most importantly, positive way.
The means of humour in communication were also used in North Karelia, Finland, when it was decided to entice the move-outs to move back. Nearly 16,000 active-age Finns who had at some point lived in North Karelia for at least a year received mail from the Regional Council. The letter courted people to move back to the countryside – or even visit. The project was fronted by Hanke-Aki, a genial figure who told with videos about life in Northern Karelia and local tourism entrepreneurs. The project was visible not only to those who had moved away, but with the visibility they received on social media also to many others, and certainly made many people think at least about visiting the landscapes of North Karelia.
Communication can create images in the minds of outsiders, but on the other hand, it is also important to have a good team spirit and residents to have possibilities to participate in the development of their own village. The Voimaantuvat kylät -project (Empowering Villages) activated villagers in Finnish Lapland to plan landscape management activities and voluntary work that improve the comfort of residents. Utilising local knowledge and the residents' own motivation resulted, for example, in new sports facilities and landscape management in the village environment. On the other hand, with the help of experts, the villagers could be encouraged to make village plans and then to develop their own village more long-term.
The same idea was also followed up in the Toimivat kylät, menestyvä kunta -project (Active villages, succeeding municipality), where villagers were able to decide on local, small-scale improvement measures. Improvement measures that are important to residents are not always expensive or large projects, but utilising local knowledge also helps to find easy-to-implement projects that can still improve comfort well above their costs. In this project, outsiders also became involved in a good team spirit, as at the end of the project a village housing fair was organised with the transport from the village to the village to explore the benefits, landscapes and amenities of local housing.
Speaking of amenities, one attraction factor in the countryside is the possibility of working remotely in the peace and beautiful landscapes of your own home. However, it can only be done with proper connections and when things can be handled effortlessly with the municipality. In the eSysmä-project, all municipal forms were transferred to electronic form. There was the same idea, under all that pessimism, included in the ePuolanka-project. One of the aims of that project was to improve network connections in the area and thus increase the attractiveness of the municipality to people working remotely, among others.
However, an important criterion for many migrants (and stayers) is nature and the environment. Although a municipality or village is a small factor in the big world, doing its part for the environment also shows the values and spirit in the locality. The carbon-neutral Inkoo 2035 -project supports local businesses in a "green transition" towards carbon neutrality. In addition to the benefits for the climate the project aims at clear cost savings and thus also at increasing the competitiveness and vitality of the region.
Who wouldn't want to live in a place where nature is prosperous and beautiful, everything can be taken care of on their own terrace with online connections, the surrounding area is managed in a good spirit for the needs of the residents, and humour keeps the mind refreshed?
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement Nº 818496.
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