54th Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Regional development & globalisation: Best practices", 26-29 August 2014, St. Petersburg, Russia
Scientists and the general public agree that the rural world is characterized by a strong attachment to traditional values, and lacks a sense of initiative, creativity and innovation. This, supposedly, is why the rural world is lagging behind in development. Even if rural people are typically excluded from the creative class, the history of Québec rural communities shows that they have been and are still very creative; we can definitely learn from them. A paradigm shift is needed for a better understanding of rural innovation based on the recognition that rural people and communities are creative and have been innovative for some time. Instead of aiming to teach them how to innovate, we must try to understand the various innovations they put in place in response to multifaceted rural development challenges. Rural innovation is much more than technical innovation and new products; it reflects three basic dimensions of genuine sustainable development: managing natural environments, building instruments or institutions for economic development, and facilitating social life. Under this new paradigm of rural innovation, innovations are studied as they emerge from within rural communities, as exemplified by the Québec Rural University initiative. Rural communities should also be seen as living examples (or living labs) of innovation. "Rural clusters" are additional models for rural innovation. Public policy must therefore support empowerment and community capacity building that foster an innovative rural sector. This support covers not only technical R&D for new products but also the "social innovations" that rural communities have introduced to achieve sustainable rural development.
Innovation rurality learning rural community paradigm