It is no secret that the resources and potentials of rural regions in Brandenburg (and elsewhere) differ substantially from those of urban and metropolitan areas: Rural areas are structurally weak and suffer form demographic change and the migration of large parts of their population towards economically more attractive regions.
On the other side, rural areas offer numerous natural resources and regionally rooted companies which allows for completely distinct approaches.
One indispensable precondition for the development of such approaches is a functioning network for the exchange of ideas, knowledge and practices.
As C2C is not only a research project but also aims at testing (and developing) formats, which could be suitable for Brandenburg, we set out – against the previously described backdrop of challenges and potentials – to develop a model for strengthening the regional economy and innovative strength, through connecting local companies and universities, their know-how, resources and technologies within the framework of very hands-on formats for research and development.
As the model served the open source project Grüne Werkstatt Wendland, based in the very rural western-German region called Wendland, mostly famous for the anti-nuclear protest movement (read more in this earlier blogpost or go directly to their website).
At the core of the whole concept lies the so-called local „Projektbörse“, a kind of project pool containing unsolved problems, undeveloped ideas and the like which are fed into the pool by the companies for students from different disciplines (such as e.g. design, engineering, cultural tourism and the like) and different regions to be worked on in close collaboration with the companies.
The connection of the universities and the oftentimes unidentified know-how of the local companies harbors the great potential of being able to refine existing business models and products in an innovative way, to test approaches which have not yet been taken into consideration and to identify focal points, which are content-wise and technologically new.
This attempt shall be pursued beyond the borders of the individual regions of Brandenburg, building a network to which each university and business location can contribute with their own individual knowhow and competencies – the network of the „Creative regions Brandenburg“.
In addition to the “Projektbörse” we also discussed the following formats:
interdisciplinary project weeks
cross-sectoral innovation camps involving different universities
an open and very practical format involving vocational colleges and similar educational institutions
a temporary regional display window
a creative business competition with jury and prize, e.g. a creative business cup
Workshop situation 1
Workshop situation 2
Our guests discussed each format with regards to their own experience in the field, the resources and contact at their disposal and developed some of the ideas further.
Of special interest were the questions as to which university disciplines to involve and on how to start (involve the whole “Land” or start with a smaller group of one or two pilot regions).
The participants also agreed that the building upon already existing structures and involving already active players in the regions would be key.
They discussed if yet another competition was necessary and how this format could maybe be developed further in order to create something new and unique which stands out against the other existing competitions and really helps the winners. For example it might be useful if the winners would not receive a prize but the support for realizing the idea for which they submitted a concept.
Workshop situation 3
The participants also developed the temporary regional display from something nonmotile to an interactive and mobile format with potential for involving the local population and creating a real buzz in the media and visibility for the whole region.
A working group was not formed out of the meeting, but the individual participants are already discussing next steps. We will try to keep track of the developments ans write about them here …
The third out of four planned regional workshops took place in the middle of May in the very unusual setting of the Alte Mühle (old mill) in Himmelpfort, one and a half hours by car north of Berlin. The village counts only around 550 inhabitants and is a popular holiday resort famous for being Santa Clause’s home, but devoid of any kind of industry or economy whatsoever.
The Alte Mühle is an old industrial mill, owned by Tilman Kunowski and his partner Brit Eisman, who seek to transform the place into a meeting place for creative professionals who want to transplant their work- and living space to the country side for a while.
To this special venue we had invited some of the participants of our last workshop (from Neuruppin, Oranienburg, Eberswalde and Strausberg), who were and are already working with and on the issues of cross-over inititaives and have or plan to acquire a space where this can happen – be it under the format called coworking or in a different manner.
As a special guest we had invited Marc Piesbergen, the project leader of Grüne Werkstatt Wendland, an open source project in the very rural region Wendland, mostly famous for the regular protest against the passing Castor Transport, for Ex-Hippie communes and the historical rundlings villages.
In this remote area, the Grüne Werkstatt manages to bring together designers, students and local companies to work together on innovative new products and services in their annual project week called Designcamp.
As this project is already running very successfully and is open to being transferred to other regions, Marc was really the perfect guest for our workshop.
In the first part, he shared all his experience and answered to all the many questions the group had. In the second part, we concentrated on the participants’ own projects, their challenges and visions and collected ideas on how to go on from there. It definitely seems as though stronger collaboration between all sectors and local players is a good starting point.
Right now we are in the middle of conceptualizing the next steps on which we will keep you posted here.