The project in which ten German and Dutch cities cooperate in developing tailor-made solutions to improve the quality of life in villages is supported by Euregio Rhine-Waal. It aims at improving communication and flexibility in procedures with citizens’ participation, and creating new networks across borders.
Demographic change and globalisation are causing increasingly high costs for public and private providers of services and everyday needs. As a result, lively village or town centres are dying out - with serious consequences for the local population.
„At this stage it is important to strengthen and expand the opportunities and potential of voluntary work by talking directly to the administrations and committed citizens", says Project Manager, Prof. Dr. Klaus Hegemann (Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences):
Especially in times of pandemic, voluntary commitment, for example in form of social support or neighbourhood assistance, is of major importance. Improved framework conditions for the cooperative participation of all those involved can foster charitable initiatives.
Experience from other citizens' projects has shown that ideas can be implemented very successfully if they are discussed and clearly communicated with all those involved right from the start. "People want to get involved on a voluntary basis, and solidarity grows with every successful implementation," adds Prof. Dr. Hegemann.
Through their voluntary commitment, volunteers strengthen the quality of life in their own region and show solidarity, regardless of whether they are engaged in rural or urban areas.
If all those involved are interested in each other and communicate in a spirit of trust, an atmosphere of cooperation can be created in which skills and resources with culturally different ways of thinking can be remixed and new approaches can be found.
For a period of two years, the Euregio Rhine-Waal is going to support the German-Dutch regional development with funds from the EU, the State of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Provincie Gelderland. The "Volunteers 2.0" project (2020-2022) will now build on the experience gained in prior projects (Smart Villages, 2012 - 2016, KRAKE - Krachtige Kernen / Starke Dörfer, 2016-2019, and the FH structure funding competition) to adapt the framework conditions.
Due to the current restrictions in public life, the two universities involved - HAN University of Applied Sciences (NL: Arnhem and Nijmegen) and HSRW (G: Kleve and Kamp-Lintfort), will first initiate discussions with partner communities and neighbourhoods to determine their current needs. Based on these findings, a large kick-off conference is to be held – followed by international meetings to elaborate specific questions and to develop valuable cross-border networks. It is precisely the unusual view of common issues and the personal experience of other participation cultures that can further inspire solidarity.
The Volunteers 2.0 project is co-financed within the framework of the INTERREG V A programme Germany-Nederland with funds from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitisation and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (MWEIMH NRW) and the Province of Gelderland.