Project details

Enlarging the theoretical understanding of rural development – ETUDE

Rural development policies are widening the scope from a focus on farm structures to a broader framework that includes the rural economy as a whole and the quality of life in rural areas. Simultaneously, patterns of governance have started to change: bottom-up approaches constitute ingredients of new local development strategies. The rural development processes are moving beyond the institutionalized blocks of knowledge that are fragmented. Integrative and multi-disciplinary theories are critically lacking precisely at the moment in which such mutual interactions between farming and the rest of the rural economy and the environment, are becoming central to integrated policy actions.

The ETUDE project will develop an integrated conceptual framework that goes beyond monodisciplinary and sectoral approaches and integrates several currently emerging theoretical strands like

  • the ‘endogeneity’ of rural economies,
  • the capacity of rural areas to produce of ‘novelties’,
  • the institutional capacity to construct new markets,
  • the capacity to create new ‘induced’ forms of governance,
  • the development of flexible and cost-efficient forms of sustainability and
  • the role of social capital.

The conceptual model will be loaded with 65 to 100 completed case-studies and tested in 12 regional case studies in contrasting areas. Through this model ETUDE will:

  • acquire a better understanding of the dynamics, scope and regional economic impact of rural development processes, whilst reflecting the large heterogeneity of rural areas and activities,
  • assess the differential impact of newly emerging rural constellations in terms of land management, the competitiveness of rural economies and the quality of life in rural areas and
  • explore the interfaces between different rural development trajectories on the one hand and governance structures and rural policies on the other. For each of these objectives, recommendations will be developed that are applicable in the domains of theory, practice and policy.

The project brings together research groups from 6 European countries, covering all relevant regions of the enlarged EU. Stakeholders, scientists and policymakers will be consulted to ensure that research outcomes are optimally grounded in field experiences and policy debates. This will increase the practical applicability of the recommendations.

Project coordination: Wageningen University – Rural Sociology Group (NL)


Project no.: 



Research | Rural areas |


European Commission, Directorate-General for Research

Executing Organization: 

Institut für Ländliche Strukturforschung e.V.


2007 - 2009

Contact person/s at IfLS: 

Simone Sterly