Nomadland: digital nomads - a new opportunity for the European rural areas (2022-2023)

For decades, rural areas and smaller industrial cities in Europe have been experiencing the outmigration of young people and ageing of the population, leading to stagnation in regional development, social polarization, impoverishment, underutilized public infrastructure and a negative image of these areas. Since the economic crisis of 2008, intra-EU migration has intensified, and many young people have moved to larger urban areas in search of better opportunities.

New solutions needed for the world after covid-19

At the same time, due to the digitalization of jobs and the emergence of new industries (digital content creation, digital marketing, online sales ...), a different trend began – an increase in remote work, significantly increased during the COVID-19 epidemic. At the same time, the related trend of digital nomadism has started. Thanks to modern technology, young freelancers can work anywhere in the world and move freely between non-metropolitan areas. As many as 42% of digital nomads are between 25 and 40 years old. Our survey with 30 digital nomads included shows that they lack local community engagement during their stay. As strong community connections characterize rural communities, these areas can be an ideal location for (digital) work and the living of digital nomads. Skilled and high-quality youth work could therefore provide positive effects for both digital nomads and local youth. Consequentially, the development of new opportunities for young people in rural areas would prevent outmigration and encourage the immigration of young and modern Europeans.

Digital nomadism - the future of youth work

Digital nomadism can positively impact rural areas, as it contributes to the immigration of young creative individuals. By improving public services (e. g., coworking spaces) and contributing to a more prosperous social life and multicultural dialogue, they can encourage diversity and tolerance and strengthen young people in rural areas.

The project Nomadland relates to the European Youth Goals, particularly the sixth goal, Moving Rural Youth Forward. It focuses on the decentralization of activities (youth work), the development of the rural youth work and improving the image of the countryside. By emphasising cultural heritage, it also focuses on rural traditions. The need for quality youth work in rural areas is also stressed in the Council of the European Union statement. Youth work can help reduce the gap between rural and urban centres and develop new opportunities in the local environment. Our project follows the statement by recognizing interdisciplinary thinking for the youth policies development and participation of young people in decision-making (Raising opportunities for Young People in Rural and Remote Areas, 2020).

The project brings together partners aware of the outmigration of young people from rural areas and actively looking for new solutions. In the project, we combine our knowledge and skills. Each rural area where we lead our activities (Idrija - Slovenia, Iž and Gračac - Croatia, Cuenca – Spain, Odenwald - Germany) is different, but all have a common challenge - the outmigration of young people. By following an international approach, we will contribute to the development of digital nomadism in rural areas and positively impact youth work. Each partner will focus on the target groups in the regions it covers with the project results providing wider effects for other rural areas in Europe.

Objectives & activities

The Nomadland project will:

- explore how digital nomadism can provide a positive impact on the development of youth work and young people's personal and professional development in rural and peripheral areas (including smaller towns) (within the IO1 and IO2; E5);

- develop the first guide to help youth workers and decision-makers in providing conditions for attracting digital nomads to rural areas (IO2)

- present the countryside as an innovative, multicultural area with many new opportunities for young people (IO3)

- raise awareness of remote work in rural areas as a possible response to the outmigration of young people (all intellectual results)

- address the digital transformation of rural areas (IO2, E5)

- bring together young people, decision-makers, and youth workers to provide new ideas for the local community (E1-E4).

A strong local community is important in rural areas

Our survey confirmed that digital nomads lack engagement in the local community, which contrasts with the strong community typical for rural areas. Focusing youth work on attracting digital nomads by developing appropriate infrastructure in rural areas could be an important trigger point for rural communities. The project addresses completely new areas of the youth work development in rural areas. By focusing the project work on young people, decision-makers, and youth workers in rural areas, the project will also impact other rural areas.

Europe needs an interdisciplinary approach

We expect the project to have a greater impact in Europe as it provides an interdisciplinary and fresh perspective on rural youth work. The project plans to improve the quality of youth work and increase opportunities for young people in rural areas, promote a multicultural approach and support new entrepreneurial ideas within rural communities. The concepts of remote work and digital nomadism go beyond existing policies (economic development, youth policies, demographic development, housing, regional branding, public participation, sustainable tourism).

More about the project: www.nomadland-project.com

Grant value: 135 187 €
Duration: 1/4/2022 - 1/12/2023
Partners in the project: ID20 (leading partner), Udruga Prizma (Croatia), INI-Novation (Germany), ATPERSON (Spain)