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Community-driven development in Röstånga

Svalöv municipality, Sweden

The work that has happened in Röstånga, a rural village of Southern Sweden, provides an inspirational example of community-driven local development with both positive outcomes for both social and economic development. Röstånga Together (Röstånga Tillsammans) is an association that was founded by the community in order to carry out some projects and identify the development ideas for future.  The local residents have also founded Röstånga Development Company (Röstånga Utvecklings AB) a community-owned social enterprise that provides a financial platform to support local development. 

Demographic challenges fuel uncertainty for local school’s future

De-population and shrinking public social services were causing uncertainty among local residents regarding the future development potential of Röstånga. In 2008 some active local residents decided to mobilise the local population and take Röstånga’s future into their own hands.

Community-owned social enterprise funds local development goals

Röstånga Together was founded in 2009 with the initial goal of working with residents to identify specific ideas and visions for Röstånga’s future development. Several smaller projects were implemented with a focus on tourism, environmental sustainability and fostering creativity and innovation. In 2011, Röstånga Development Company was founded as a community-owned social enterprise in order to provide a financial platform to support the development of the area. The company has bought several properties in Röstånga and rents them out to businesses. The rental income is then reinvested in community development activities.

Sparking socio-economic growth

Within only eight years Röstånga’s population has grown and it has become a significantly more attractive place to live. Discussions about closing down the local school have ceased. Local residents’ perspectives on the future of the village have also shifted from negative to highly positive. Röstånga Development Company acts as a business development facilitator and makes a positive contribution to the local economy. Although the company does not create jobs directly, its activities indirectly enable other people to get jobs through facilitating establishing of new businesses. For example, an old train station building was renovated and sub-let to a restaurant in 2013 generating three new full-time jobs in the community.

Mobilising human and financial capital

The presence of visionary leaders and innovators with solid rural development and project management experience has been a key factor underpinning the success in Röstånga. The initiators were strategic in formulating a clear development vision at an early stage. This approach increased cooperation between different associations in the village which, in turn, contributed to the success of the solution. A key challenge is the short time frames around project funding.

Resources required

The social capital of residents has been an important resource driving the work, both in the development and implementation phases. LEADER and municipal funding have been used by Röstånga Together during the project phase of the initiative. Röstånga Development Company is driven as a commercial community-based business, with residents owing shares in the company.

Key learnings for municipalities

“If you want something, make sure you do it and don’t wait for other people to do it”

Creating an atmosphere that fosters creativity has been highlighted as a key factor predicting the success of rural development initiatives. Empowering people and making them believe that everything is possible is also vitally important. Municipal governments should be creative in the way that they engage with other local actors. This includes developing new forms of financing for local development initiatives that go beyond the typical model of short-term project funding. Supporting the mobilisation of the social and financial capital in new ways is essential to the future of rural development. 

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Page last updated September 2016.