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Village house service centres

Ilomantsi, Finland

Village house service centres have been established in the most remote villages of Ilomantsi Municipality to bring services to residents through cooperation between the municipality, local people, local associations and businesses. The approach addresses the challenges stemming from outmigration and aging that result from the centralisation of services.

Lack of services in very remote villages

The village house services centres address the following challenges:

  • Lack of public and commercial services in remote areas
  • Outmigration and aging population
  • Social exclusion and lack of community-spirit

Village houses as service-hubs in remote villages

The idea to use village houses as centres for public and commercial service provision was developed by an employee at the Municipality of Ilomantsi. The approach was developed and established as part of a LEADER-project, and the village houses have continued their role as service centres since the conclusion of that project. The centres offer different services on a weekly or monthly basis (based on reservations made by the village inhabitants). The centres’ activities are coordinated by volunteers from village associations. The service providers who visit the centres are both small enterprises (e.g. hair dressers or IT-experts) and municipal services (e.g. community health nurses from municipal health care centres).

Improving access to services and strengthening community spirit

The Village houses have improved access to services for the population of the villages where almost no services are otherwise available. In addition, the centres have activated community spirit through participation in volunteer work and by providing a central meeting place for residents.

Individual enthusiast activates other actors

The idea for the village houses was developed and driven by an individual employee in the municipal organisation. This employee had an interest in rural issues and developed the idea at a course on rural development she attended. Implementation of the idea began with cooperation between the municipality, the village associations and local enterprises, with the municipal employee playing a central coordinating role.

LEADER project provides springboard

The approach was developed and first implemented in a LEADER project that was co-funded by the municipality and the local village associations. The funding enabled employment of a project worker who could oversee testing and establishment of the idea. The competence, enthusiasm and knowledge of this person were vital to the success of the project. Furthermore, the existence of active village associations, who now coordinate the service centres, was an important precondition for their establishment.

Key learnings for municipalities

This case exemplifies a situation where the municipal organisation takes a top-down approach to activate local residents as a means of contributing to improved access to services in remote areas. There were no institutional barriers to this approach, but it was essential to invest in building trust and improving the relations between the local community and the municipal organisation.

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Page last updated September 2016.