NORDREGIO and HELA NORDEN SKA LEVA seminar: Young people and newly arrived migrants - The future of rural areas in the Nordic Region

Nordic rural areas are facing extreme challenges as a result of populations that are both aging and shrinking. Supporting young people to stay in – or come back to – rural areas and attracting new residents to complement natural population growth are important strategies to help meet these challenges. Nordregio and the Nordic Working Group on Demography and Welfare has been working with these issues from 2013-16 and will continue this work through the new Nordic Cooperation program set to commence in 2017. These issues are also central to the work of Hela Norden ska leva – a coalition of key Nordic NGOs working on a daily basis with local development to influence positive change within their own mainly rural communities.

Challenges associated with depopulation and aging in rural communities are in no way specific to the Nordic Region – they are being experienced in developed countries across the globe. Through this coalition between Hela Norden ska leva and Nordregio, we hope to bring people working in rural communities together with researchers to both highlight and increase the understanding of the role of the local in addressing these global challenges. We also hope to create opportunities to share ideas and increase collaboration between people working in rural or local development across the Nordics. This seminar was the first event of what is sure to be a fruitful partnership. 

Aim of the seminar 25 Nov: Provide participants with inspiration, Nordic networks and knowledge to support their work with young people and newly arrived migrants in sustainable rural development.   


  • Present the latest insights from research and practice across the Nordic countries.
  • Create a mutually inspiring dialogue between researchers and practitioners.
  • Highlight opportunities for cooperation between participants, across national borders.
  • Decide the road ahead for Nordic collaboration towards sustainable rural development.


The event was highly successful, gathering over 45 participants working in a range of ways to ensure the active participation of young people and newly arrived migrants in rural development. Here you can find reflections from both research and practice including a short summary and link to each presentation. Following this, are some short reflections on the road ahead – both for our work with these target groups and for ongoing collaboration between the different stakeholders involved.

Where to from here?

Take-away messages for involving newly-arrived migrants and young people in rural development

  • Immigration is a possibility for rural communities – a growth issue – but it requires good leadership
  • Responsibility and trust are important ingredients for empowerment– do with not for, talk with and not about!  Provide project funding for them to allocate themselves.
  • We should involve young people and migrants beyond typical “youth” and “integration” issues. Create formal youth councils that get a formal role.
  • Language skills are key to inclusion – without these, people of the same language and nationality will tend to stick together. Libraries can be great places for language practice.
  • Civil society – from sports clubs to cultural hubs – plays a vital role in integration – the process takes time and should involve everyone! Jobs and language are not enough; people need friends and social networks to feel at home.
  • Local employers play a vital role in providing vocational training for youth and newcomers
  • Both social AND economic capital are vital to keeping people in rural communities.  Including people in local development can be a great way to support them to build social networks and may also open the door to jobs and new economic activities.


Emerging issues and areas for further research/work

  • Improve understanding of how we can integrate new migrants into smaller and medium sized communities: use Nordic good practice and scale up successful projects (find funding for that).
  • Think more about the role of digitalisation – can we have high tech jobs in rural areas? Globalisation is not necessarily negative.
  • Should think about whether we talk about integration or inclusion.
  • Need to speed up validation processes and find better ways to map and match competencies.
  • What about gender?!
  • More practical research – needs to be at the municipal and sub-local level.
  • Create better connections between the political and the grass roots level. Use youth councils and other for a.
  • Improve infrastructure for innovation – ensure broad band.
  • Can be a challenge to find the right networks/platforms to promote initiatives.
  • Reduce bureaucracy in funding for rural development.
  • Dealing with the risk of segregation in medium sized communities.


Future collaboration and events

Most participants agreed that it was great to have an opportunity for knowledge exchange between people working with similar issues but in different places across the Nordics. Some suggestions to improve the event for next time included:

  • More opportunity for discussion (a two day event every other year was suggested): To learn from each other and to develop new project ideas and be able to seek Nordic funding.
  • Look into or highlight various Nordic funding opportunities, including the new Nordic integration programme
  • Using the meetings as an opportunity for access to decision makers – e.g. from the Nordic working group.


The similarities between the presentations, as well as the many differences evident in both the local circumstances and the approaches suggest that the event was indeed successful in shedding a local light on global problems. Through continued cooperation between Nordregio and Hela Norden ska leva there are many avenues though which to continue this work. These should be further explored when the new Nordic Thematic Groups begin their work in 2017. There is also an opportunity to continue to work together on the issues discussed today. Of particular note is the 3rd European Rural Parliament next year, which will include a topic on immigrants in rural communities.  

Read more about the event and download the presentations.