Project details

Rethinking the links between farm modernization, rural development and resilience in a world of increasing demands and finite resources – RETHINK

A transdisciplinary research project supported by the European Commission and national funding bodies under the umbrella of FP7 and the RURAGRI ERA-NET

Important questions need attention: How do market forces, societal demands and resource constraints interact to create both opportunities and constraints for agriculture and rural areas across Europe? Where are the links between farm modernization, rural development and resilience and how can we shape them in positive ways? How can we advance the relationships between rural areas and urban centres in a way that increases overall resilience?

The aim of the RETHINK project is to explore the meaning of agricultural development, and of agricultural modernization, at a time when the agricultural sector must respond to increasing scarcity and distributional questions. Society as a whole faces deep uncertainty regarding future developments. RETHINK connects the development of agriculture with the wider societal and policy goal of vibrant rural areas. It explicitly recognizes the complexity of challenges, the diversity in situations, and the multidimensionality of strategies forward.

The project's aim was translated into a set of common research questions, and these were used to select 15 major case studies, one in each participating country. The case studies will improve our under­standing of the multiple mechanisms underlying rural prosperity and resilience. Each case is an expression of innovative development trajectories, highlighting potential synergies between farm modernization and sustainable rural development.

A joint analytical framework ensures the comparability of case study analyses and allows recommendations at European level.

RETHINK combines an explorative perspective with an action-oriented policy and governance orientation: right from the start, decision-makers from the public and private sectors will be involved, shaping the implementation of the project. The comparative analysis and synthesis will focus on issues that are particularly relevant for decision-makers. Factors that enable and encourage the creation of synergies will be identified; the influence of contextual factors, the role of agency and of institutional structures will be explored.

RETHINK will be organised as an open research process connecting and integrating other work. RETHINK wants to facilitate an informed and productive interaction among industry, government, academic institutions, civil society organisations and farmers. It understands the discourse about the future of European agriculture as a strategic opportunity for all actors involved in project implementation.

Project no.: 



Research | Sustainable land use | Sustainability and resilience |


European Commission / Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Executing Organization: 

Institut für Ländliche Strukturforschung e.V.


2013 - 2016

Contact person/s at IfLS: 

Simone Sterly