For a good year now, the Institute for Rural Structural Research (IfLS) and the Institute for Communication and Media Studies (IfKMW) at the University of Leipzig have been working together as partners in the BULE project "Perspectives and possible applications of digital participation procedures in rural regional development" (DigiBeL) to investigate how digital processes can be used in such processes and how they can be combined with analog approaches in a meaningful and efficient way.
In order to incorporate the experiences of different groups of actors, a nationwide online survey of representatives of rural regional development was conducted in a first empirical phase of the project. Subsequently, the results of the approximately 150 respondents were discussed virtually with experts from research, funding and regional development practice in mid-April. The DigiBeL team is taking away valuable ideas from this discussion - also for the case study work that has just begun in four to six regions across Germany, where the questions are being examined in greater depth.
The experts emphasized that the "participation culture" as a whole needs to be strengthened. According to the online survey, it is primarily younger people with a higher level of education who participate digitally. However, according to the experts, the provision of digital tools is not enough to mobilize the generally less engaged younger people to participate. Common stereotypes of digital-savvy younger people and technology-skeptical older people should not remain unquestioned. Older people often accept digital offerings better than expected. A key prerequisite for the success of digital approaches from an expert's point of view: trust - because digital participation processes are more likely to be accepted where there is already a basis of personal relationships.
Interested parties can also learn more about the results of the online survey in the 2nd episode of the podcast "DigitaLand", which is available on popular audio platforms and via the project website (in German). In addition to presenting the results, the DigiBeL team also provides exciting insights into very practical issues of the project work and an outlook on the further research process in the case study regions.
The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture within the Federal Rural Development Scheme (BULE).
Contact persons at IfLS: Simone Sterly (sterly[at]ifls.de) and Sarah Peter (peter[at]ifls.de)