About this online course


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Analyze trends and dynamics of rural regions and learn to formulate ideas, strategies and actions to boost rural development, with a particular focus on younger generations.

Many rural areas around the world face a critical population and economic decline and struggle to attract younger generations to reverse this trend.

An aging population, youth out-migration, lack of employment opportunities, shift to large-scale agriculture and land acquisition by investment companies, are some of the challenges faced in rural areas.

Life in villages has also become ever more challenging: the economic viability of shops and services is under pressure, healthcare facilities are difficult to organize, less support for community work is available and governmental investments decrease.

To break this vicious circle of decline, which not only affects people’s lives but also the spatial quality of rural areas and their sustainable development, we need innovative initiatives that will have a broad impact.

This course provides ideas and insights that help to offer opportunities to young generations in rural areas. Such opportunities are based on international trends that influence the future of how we organize our lives and society. You will learn how these trends can be relevant for rural development.

Ruralization opportunities may include new businesses, sustainable farming techniques or, for example, shortening the food production chain so that areas benefit from the added value. These opportunities can be facilitated by innovative approaches to giving people access to land. We will explain different possibilities that have proven successful in different contexts and we will present several inspiring examples.

Each rural region is different and therefore needs a specific, tailored approach. After taking this course, you will be able to formulate region-specific strategies to enhance rural development.

This course is mainly for:

  • (Young) professionals aiming to work on rural development policy and strategy design.
  • People aiming to make a difference in the future of rural areas, for example in the field of rural innovation and local economy.
  • Students aiming to strengthen their knowledge to become better equipped professionals in this field.

Join us and contribute to stopping the negative spiral of rural decline and enjoy the many benefits of ruralization.

What You'll Learn

After taking this course you will be able to:

  • Identify challenges and trends in rural areas
  • Analyze issues of population and access to jobs, services and land
  • Discuss practices of rural development with a focus on younger generations
  • Determine the development potential of a rural region
  • Propose a regional strategy with actions for rural development


Course Syllabus

Week 1: Mapping Strengths and Weaknesses of Rural Regions

You will learn the challenges that rural areas are currently facing and how these differ depending on the local context. You will also learn to apply SWOT analysis to identify the strengths and weaknesses of rural areas. You will have a chance to critically apply this knowledge to a rural region of your choice.

Topics we’ll cover:

  • Demographic dynamics in rural areas: how they affect socioeconomic decline and how they can be counteracted
  • Economic potential, infrastructure and accessibility in rural regions
  • Basic concepts regarding land: why it is important, and the impact land holders and land management have on rural challenges
  • How to map challenges: tools for analysis of rural areas

Week 2: Mapping Opportunities in Rural Regions with Trend Analysis

You will learn to distinguish trends relevant to a specific rural area and the ways they may have a positive effect. Trend analysis is a tool not only to understand the present challenges, but also to develop strategies to counteract negative effects.

Topics we’ll cover:

  • Trend analysis: what it is and how it works
  • Megatrends, trends and weak signals: what they are and how to recognize them

Week 3: Understanding the issue of access to land

We will explore the importance of land for rural development strategies. Access to rural land is governed by complex mechanisms that strongly influence economic and agricultural development. You will learn to analyze the context of access to land and to select appropriate intervention possibilities.

Topics we’ll cover:

  • Rural land markets, government initiatives and the impact of demographics
  • Innovations in access to land and land management

Week 4: Identifying promising practices for new generations

In rural areas, many economic activities and social practices are emerging that can represent a potential starting point for rural development. This week you will learn how to identify these promising practices and to analyze their potential for transferability in relation to your own region.

Topics we’ll cover:

  • How to identify promising practices, with examples
  • Practices and impact of new entrants into farming
  • Practices and impact of newcomers outside the farming sector
  • How to transfer promising practices across regions

Week 5: Developing strategies and actions for rural regions

After discovering the economy of rural regions, land management, demographic dynamics, trends and promising practices, this week you will learn about the tools to translate this knowledge into actions aimed at positive change for rural regions - such as strategies, policies and programs.

You will have the chance to evaluate the outputs of the previous four weeks and propose a strategy and actions for a rural region of your choice.

Topics we’ll cover in this week:

  • Strategies, policies and actions: what they are, how they can be used and by whom
  • The steps required for a development strategy and how to formulate action plans


This is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that runs on edX.


  • None

  • Starts: Anytime (Self-Paced)
  • Free | Earn certificate for $139
  • Group fee: contact us
  • Length: Self-Paced
  • Effort: 4 - 5 hours per week / 6 weeks

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