Danube regions and cities face major societal transitions regarding demographic change. The rural exodus is caused by better employment opportunities for the youth and the prospect of a better life in cities. The movement of labor leads to depopulated areas leaving an aging and increasingly unskilled population behind. However, regions can make a significant new beginning. But a multi-level participative governance approach and new institutional capacities are needed to pool existent excellent competencies and development potentials.
Co-creating future strategies to increase the attractiveness of rural areas is the key to give the youth new incentives to revive rural areas. Circular bioeconomy is used as a tool that promises to foster regional development: It is a concept focusing on the transition of a fossil-resource based economy towards an economy making use of sustainable production of biological resources and processes to develop new products, thus setting rural areas and their development into focus.
The concept catalyzes interdisciplinary cooperation also between different policy areas/levels to actively address demographic change, by enhancing value creation through new collaboration, business models and value chains raising the attractiveness to stay and even move to rural areas.
Long term goal of the project is to enhance the socio-economic status of the regions, contribute to environmental, climate and resource protection as well as foster development of rural areas. An ecosystem for systematic multi-level governance with actors from the interested public, academia, industry and political decision making will be developed.
That ecosystem gives space for co-creation and new forms of integrated urban-rural cooperation leading to increased institutional capacity to tackle demographic change. Thus, overcoming the persistent lack of engagement of societal actors in the political system by giving them ownership to address demographic change.