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Participatory processes for community involvement in rural tourism development
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Geography, Media and Communication (from 2013).ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5146-9330
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Geography, Media and Communication (from 2013). (Geomedia)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4820-4275
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Service Research Center (from 2013). Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Social and Psychological Studies (from 2013).ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7480-9318
2023 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Introduction

The aim of our research is to contribute with methods for rural sustainable tourism and community development. The work also entails identifying solutions encompassed for local actors in rural settings, thereby strengthening stakeholders and contributing to sustainable, resilient and attractive rural communities.

Our current research project ‘Smart Villages in Sweden’ is evolving a development process, resulting in ideas, concepts and prototypes for local solutions that addresses local challenges, using the concept of ‘Smart Villages’ as a focal point. We are using a place-based approach for innovation in a broader context with the result of developing services or solutions adapted to suit rural communities. We argue that developing such a process is vital for a sustainable and long-term durable outcome, as it ensures that the ideas, concepts and prototypes produced are based on the local communities’ situation. This is in line with EU´s concept of Smart Villages (2019) which refers to communities in rural areas revitalising rural services and improving resilience using innovative solutions.  

We are using a participatory approach developed during several years of previous research, albeit in a wider sense where tourism development is put in the context of a general notion of sustainable community development. Two communities and the surrounding countryside in the county of Värmland, Sillerud and Sysslebäck, are our cases in this project. This year, we are carrying out the second work package of the project, which involves a method where various community stakeholders from our local cases are involved. Using this approach entails both challenges and opportunities. During this session we would like to discuss our results and experiences so far.  

Theoretical framework

In this project, we are starting from the theories of service ecosystems and the transformative service approach, as this is in line with the concept of smart villages. Service ecosystems are defined as a network-based collection of actors that work together to create and deliver value to customers. It can include companies, customers, suppliers, governments, and other stakeholders who collaborate and interact in various ways to create and deliver value (Akaka et. al., 2012). The theory of the Transformative Service Approach is about companies and organizations not only delivering products and services, but also having a broader role in society by contributing to creating positive changes and transformations in customers and society in general (Andersson et. al., 2013). Important aspects of these two approaches are that they focus on the dynamics between different actors in an ecosystem and how it affects the creation and delivery of value over time. This means that the ecosystem is in constant change and development through interactions and transactions between the actors.

The Smart Villages concept is based on the idea that value is determined uniquely by and together with actors linked to the specific location (Cāne, 2021), and understanding the context of value creation is the key to successful service offerings. The methodology within the smart villages concept involves a bottom-up, collaborative approach that aims to produce both practical results and scientific results. Overall, the research highlights the importance of engaging with rural communities and stakeholders in the process of understanding and promoting smart villages (Aziiza & Susanto, 2020). Important to note is that what makes a local community ‘smart’ is not limited to increased levels of digitisation or connectivity. ‘Smartness’ stems from the use of digital technologies as vehicles for local development goals and the improvement of the quality of life of citizens (Smart Villages briefing note, 2019). ‘Smart’ does not automatically mean sustainable; producing and using new technology in itself have effects on the environment, for example. In this project it is therefore important that we focus on ‘smart’ solutions that will contribute to economic and social sustainability in terms of vibrant rural business and communities.

Methodology

In our research, we take a participatory approach (Trischler et al, 2018), where we use a place-based method, focusing on bottom-up perspective and a collaborative, creative way of working together with the aim of producing both practical outcomes as well as scientific results and knowledge (Ryan Bengtsson et al, 2022). This method has been formed over seven years of research in close collaboration with businesses and organisations and is influenced by research actively engaging actors (see for example Haraway, 2016 and Ren & Jóhannesson, 2017). The method used is divided into three steps where the collaborative process can be viewed as a ladder, each step forming the base for the next. Knowledge and new perspectives create an input into the next step.  

In our ongoing project, the method consists of the following three steps: an inventory, a mapping process and evaluation phase. So far, we are coming towards an end of the second step. The first step involved gathering vital information about the two local communities that serve as cases in this research. This information has given us as input into the following steps of the collaborative process. The two main sources of information in the first stage were qualitative interviews with key actors in our local communities and quantitative visitor surveys. The second part of the method involved working with stakeholders in the local communities in a series of workshops led by the research team. The participants have been co-creating ideas and solutions on how to increase the competitiveness as well as quality of life in their communities. The third step will involve collaborative testing and evaluating the most viable of the creative ideas and solutions.  

Results

As mentioned, the research project Smart Villages grows out of, and further develops our research on participatory processes in community and destination development. At this conference, we will present our recent findings in terms of methodological challenges and opportunities, as well as the practical and analytical outcomes so far.

Methodological findings indicate that an adaptive approach when defining local stakeholders is vital, as the local context varies, and each community encompass a unique mix of stakeholders. Therefore, the importance of gathering information of the place and its actors is essential in the initial stages of the process. Furthermore, we argue for the importance of involving local key actors at an early stage in the process. This is a necessary empowering factor, which will increase the changes of local ownership of the process and the practical results.

Practical outcomes include for example the start-up of a local group in one of the cases, taking on a local ownership, with the aim of strengthening this rather fragmented and divided community. By facilitating contact between students and community key actors from our other case, they have been provided with new ideas to implement.

Analytical outputs involve for example categorising opportunities put forward by the local stakeholders. These can be divided into three main types of actions for strengthening the places’ competitiveness:

1)       information about existing local attractions and events (tangible)

2)       storytelling about the local culture and collaboration (intangible)

3)       improvement of existing service and visitor experience (for residents, visitors, and part-time visitors)

Our findings also imply the need for further research into the combination of digital and physical solutions when it comes to sustainable community and destination development. Our participants often suggest digital solutions as a tool of drawing attention to physical meetings. Many ideas put forward are based on a social need to meet, often across group boundaries such as those between residents and visitors. If implemented, this could increase positive social effects of tourism and reduce opposition against tourism growth.  

References

Akaka, M. A., Vargo, S. L., & Lusch, R. F. (2012). An exploration of networks in value cocreation: A serviceecosystems view. Review of Marketing Research, 9, 13–5.

Anderson, L., Ostrom, A. L., Corus, C., Fisk, R. P., Gallan, A. S., Giraldo, M., ... & Williams, J. D. (2013). Transformative service research: An agenda for the future. Journal of Business Research, 66(8), 1203-1210. 

Aziiza, A. A., & Susanto, T. D. (2020). The Smart Village Model for Rural Area (Case Study: Banyuwangi Regency). In IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering (Vol. 722, No. 1, p. 012011). IOP Publishing.

Cāne, R. (2021, June). Development of smart villages as a factor for rural digital transformation. In ENVIRONMENT. TECHNOLOGIES. RESOURCES. Proceedings of the International Scientific and Practical Conference (Vol. 1, pp. 43-49).

Haraway, D.J. (2016) Staying with the Trouble - Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press

Ren, C., van der Duim, R., & Jóhannesson, T. (2017). Co-creation of tourism knowledge. in Ren, C., Jóhannesson, T., & van der Duim, R. (Ed.) Co-creating tourism research - Towards collaborative ways of knowing. London & New York: Routledge.

Ryan Bengtsson, L., Braunerhielm, L., Gibson, L., Hoppstadius, F. & Kingsepp, E. (2022). Digital media innovations through participatory action research. Interventions for digital place-based experiences. Nordicom, 43 (2), 134 - 151

Smart Villages Pilot Project Briefing Note (2019) https://digitevent-images.s3.amazonaws.com/5c0e6198801d2065233ff996-registrationfiletexteditor1551115459927-smart-villages-briefing-note.pdf

Trischler, J., Pervan, S. J., Kelly, S. J., & Scott, D. R. (2018). The value of codesign: The effect of customer involvement in service design teams. Journal of Service Research, 21(1), 75-100.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2023.
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Turismvetenskap
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-97303OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-97303DiVA, id: diva2:1809688
Conference
The 31st Nordic Symposium on Tourism and Hospitality Research. Östersund 19-21 September 2023.
Available from: 2023-11-06 Created: 2023-11-06 Last updated: 2024-01-03Bibliographically approved

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Gibson, LailaBraunerhielm, LottaAndersson K, Pernille

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