New projects, and new livelihoods, are sprouting up among Europe’s multitude of small villages. These activities range from positive-impact tourism, nature reconnection, and ecological restoration – to adventure sports, farm-shares, learning journeys, wellness retreats, heritage trails, and more.
A job title has been invented to describe the valuable people who start such projects: Village Hosts. And a two year training programme – the Open School for Village Hosts (OSVH) – has been launched that will increase their number in the years ahead.
Village Hosts seek out and connect assets that may already exist in a community – but are unknown, or isolated: people, places, buildings, and skills. They connect these neglected assets in events, services and enterprises.
Many such people are needed. In Italy alone, 5,000 small villages (those with 5,000 or fewer inhabitants) have been declining; in Spain, 3,500; in Serbia, 4,700 – to name just three of the countries represented in this new project.
As collaboration experts – people who connect people – the skills of Village Hosts are connective. They make it possible for diverse partners and stakeholders to work together – often for the first time.
This connecting work demands some special skills: hosting, convening, facilitating, animating, and co-ordinating. The skills will be taught, where needed, through the OSVH platform.
Although the description ‘Village Host’ is new, similar work is of course being done at a local and regional level. The Open School for Village Hosts will offer its support unconditionally to local pioneers, social innovators, and enterprising local officials.
The School for Village Hosts will not be a stand-alone entity. It will connect and add to the impact of what is already in place. These existing assets include skills institutions that have developed over generations as part of local ecosystems’ of learning.
OSVH will also support the diverse people and organisations who already contribute to the evolution of rural economies: regional planners, farmers, researchers, farm advisors and government representatives, engineers, developers, elected officials.
Local citizens with unique and valuable knowledge – based on local history and ecology – will be priority partners for the OSVH: farmers, teachers, and so on.
For individual trainees, the benefits of OSVH will be both personal and professional.
On a personal level, participation in the School will help them contribute to the vitality territories by creating new links with places, people, stories. In this way, they will be able to stay, rather than leave for the city to seek work.
Professionally, OSVH will strengthen the hard skills they may have already, – such as such as digital skills, or business planning.- and augment those with process capabilities: Vision and map opportunities; Map actors and resources; Storying of place; Make service prototypes based on new business models; Assemble cooperation platform.
An OSVH platform will be the supporting knowledge infrastructure of all this activity.
A Tools and Resources section will include formal courses based on interactive learning that has been proven to be effective. The platform will also be an access point to tried-and-tested, real-world activities in other EU programmes: Focus Groups; Cross Visits; Local Chapters; Courses and Training; Festivals.