Local Development & Social Innovation

Innovative methods to improve living conditions in rural areas

The focus of European rural studies turned from theoretical analysis of rural societies toward more participative research activities in the last two decades. Contemporary research is emphasizing the role of locality, local communities, networks, projects, and temporary organizations; the main research themes are analysing food-chains, development activity local reactions on climate change and sustainable resource use, the effects of increased mobility of different actors, and the interaction between rural and urban places.

The aim of these researches is not only to understand but also to eliminate the contradiction among new agricultural and farm-management methods aiming to create environment-friendly, economically viable (and rural) areas based on social justice surrounded by the continuous global challenges. Participative methods are typical tools on the one hand to understand rural processes and on the other to foster social innovations within local communities, and strengthening new innovative practices.

Our approach

The activity of HETFA Research Institute has broad range. Although most of our works are theoretically grounded applied research to support decision-making in different policy fields, our colleagues are also active in project generation, and in scientific debates.

The analysis and evaluation of EU development policies at different administrative levels are one of our hard-competencies. One of our main research topics is to describe and analyse territorial inequalities using a multi-disciplinary methodology: econometrics, quantitative and qualitative methods of sociology and social-anthropology. We have practice in generating space-based, innovative and sustainable development initiatives mainly in the Transdanubian part of Hungary using the dense network of our colleagues. Based on our experience in policy support, in developing relationship between science and society, and our field experience we already contributed to the development of local plans: we defined the problems together with local stakeholders, mediated among the different local and non-local actors and facilitated actions. According to our organizational statement our research activity should lead to useful results both at local, national and EU level by creating discussion forum of the civic society, the scholars, advisors, decision-makers and the locals as well.

Leading Researchers

András CSITE, Boldizsár MEGYESI

Topics

In the last two years HETFA Research Institute conducted several researches on producers’ organizations and community governance, institutionalization of organic farming and on the effects of EU development policy. In the following we present the most recent ones:

1. Community governance & forms of cooperation

The main aim of our research on ‘Factors influencing the success of GI-products’ was to analyse local producers efforts to maintain collective reputation of their products by institutions of collective governance. The theoretical background of the research is based on the IAD framework (Ostrom 2005). According to the IAD framework governance has levels nested in each other: the institutions of local communities are defined on the one hand by national rules; while on the other hand by local norms, habits, or customs, the basis of collective decisions developed at community level. During the research data were collected and analysed with a special focus on the institutionalization of collective decisions. We argued that the reputation of products with geographical indication (GI) can be kept a common pool resource. We also presented the factors influencing the success or failure of GI initiatives.

Hétfa (2012): Helyi termelők és termelői önszerveződés – Elinor Ostrom nyomában [Local producers and producers’ communities – following Elinor Ostrom.] Research Study is available in Hungarian but there is also a brief English summary.

The research analysed different farmers’ marketing initiatives in ten European countries to understand the limiting and enabling factors of cooperation among farmers, local, national and international actors. The role of external factors, like natural conditions, social structures, institutional and political environment and internal capitals, like financial, human, social capital were described and analysed. According to our findings, beside these external factors, the life-cycle and the continuous reconfiguration of resources and capital assets influenced the success and failure of the initiatives.

Megyesi B. Kelemen E., Schermer M. (2011): Social capital as a Success Factor for Collective Marketing Initiatives. In: International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food. Vol. 18/1 p.89-103

Megyesi B. Kelemen E., (2007): The Role of Collective Marketing Initiatives in the Hungarian Agriculture. In: Eastern European Countryside, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruń, Poland, 13, (1) pp.

2. Effects of EU Funding

The ‘Evaluation of the effects of EU funding on territorial cohesion’ had three main aims, namely, (1) to describe territorial inequalities in Hungary, (2) to understand the effects of EU development funds on them, and (3) to explore the limiting and enabling factors influencing the results of development activity. Finally the paper presents recommendations on how to establish better financing system to reach the cohesion goals of development policy.

Pannon Elemző – REVITA – HÉTFA (2013): Evaluation of the Effects of EU Funding on Territorial Cohesion.

Related projects and publications

Németh, Nándor (ed.) – Csite, András – Kabai, Gergely – Németh, Nándor (2010): Helyi Kezdeményezésű Gazdaságfejlesztési Programok vizsgálata, értékelése esettanulmányokon keresztül. [Evaluating and analyzing “Locally Initiated Economy Development Program”, using case studies (2010)] KTI Könyvek, MTA Közgazdaságtudományi Intézet, Budapest, 2011. 

Megyesi, B. (2012): Institutions and networks in rural development: two case studies from Hungary. In: Stefan Sjöblom, Kjell Andersson, Terry Marsden, Sarah Skerratt (eds.) Sustainability and Short-term Policies: Improving Governance in Spatial Policy Interventions Surrey: Ashgate, 2012. pp. 217-244. (Ashgate Studies in Environmental Policy and Practice) (ISBN:978-1-4094-4677-4) 

Megyesi, B. – Kelemen, E. – Schermer, M. (2011): Social capital as a Success Factor for Collective Marketing Initiatives. In: International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food Vol. 18/1 p.89-103. 

Megyesi, B. – Kelemen, E. – Nagy-Kalamász, I. (2008): Knowledge Dynamics and Sustainability in Rural Livelihood Strategies: Two Case Studies from Hungary. In: Sociologia Ruralis, 48/3 p. 257–273.