Marginal Mountain Areas: starting over from the Smart Communities. The Case Study of Seren del Grappa
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SubjectMarginal Mountain Areas; Smart Communities; Sustainable Development; Unlocking Development Potential; Participatory Strategic Plan
The socio-economic changes during the past fifty years have favoured settlement dynamics and development models without considering sustainability in most areas of the Alpine mountains. This is, for example, the case with the intensive touristic exploitation of the most popular destinations or with the urbanisation and industrialisation of valleys. Consequently, the most marginal areas have suffered from strong depopulation and from processes of abandonment. Traditional planning tools, together with the change of life style and the scarcity of economic resources, among other factors, have not been able to counter these dynamics. Marginal mountain territories, which are particularly vulnerable and sometimes inhospitable, are often rich in natural and cultural values. The survival chances of vital communities in these specific regions depend on a development approach, which considers how to arrange economic growth, environmental conservation, identity and cultural issues. This is combined with the capacity to maximize the endogenous potential, to create relationships within the surrounding territories and to be attractive on a global level, by improving the local community knowledge and by leveraging a technological qualitative leap. It is especially from these mountainous communities that we can derive best practices and reap useful methodological guidelines for the implementation of innovative, harmonious and well balanced processes of sustainable development, since they have developed a sustainable management of scarce resources and strategies to adapt in a territory with significant harshness over time. This contribution presents the results of an innovative and exemplary strategic plan for the community of Seren del Grappa, a marginal mountain area in the north east of Italy, between the UNESCO Dolomites and the Po valley. This valley is negatively affected by the administrative fragmentation and by the different economic and legislative opportunities of the Italian alpine space. Thanks to a bottom up initiative launched in 2013, the population, the economic operators and the local administrators defined a shared vision and strategic guidelines for the future of the valley for the middle and long term in a participatory process. Researchers and local stakeholders had the opportunity to test and to implement innovative actions and projects for a local and regional socio-economic sustainable development, as well as concrete initiatives: e.g. the renovation of an historical building that became the meeting point of the community; the implementation of an experimental vineyard of resistant hybrids, with the purpose of developing the area for agrotourism; a web marketing course to develop innovative communication tools to promote the territory; and the organization of a successful festival on the topic ”The mountain of the future”. In this contribution, the authors will describe and discuss the identified essential prerequisites that made it possible to reach the project´s aims, to fulfil the innovative methodological approach and to adopt the interaction techniques as planned. Furthermore, the successes and failures of the process, the mountain community´s peculiarities, its early involvement and empowerment, the management of conflicts, the importance of encouraging cooperation and peer-to-peer learning processes, will be highlighted in order to foster the academic discussion about an innovative and self-sustainable development of smart communities, and its potential replication in other international contexts.
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