Research Group

Social Innovations in Rural Spaces

The Research Group analyses processes of emergence, establishment and dissemination of novel ideas, practices and projects in rural areas, which are referred to as social innovations. The Research Group thus contributes to innovation research and to the study of transformation processes in rural areas. It takes into account that rural areas are not uniform, but highly diverse. The Research Group investigates novel solutions with which rural actors address central challenges in areas such as local supply, mobility, health care, work, education, culture and communication. If technical innovations, in the form of digital technologies and applications, are part of the social-innovative solutions, they are given special attention. Innovative forms of urban-rural cooperation are also included in the research. The innovation-oriented activities of actors from civil society and social enterprises are just as much of interest as those of actors from local politics and administration.

Ongoing Projects

Digital (planning) tools are changing the way we communicate. While urban areas seem to process these changes without tension, tensions between digitalised forms of action and more traditional, analogue forms are assumed for peripheralised rural areas. These are the focus of the project. Using rural areas in China and Chile as examples, the project will examine from different perspectives of action and actors (1) which digitisation strategies have been pursued and which digitisation processes have taken place, (2) which changes can be observed in the actions of actors against the backdrop of the available digital technologies and applications, and (3) to what extent spatial constructions of rural spaces in the respective cultural contexts are changing as a result. more

Everyday life in rural areas is based in a special way on volunteer work, with digital technologies increasingly being used. However, campaigning and funding practice for the digitalization of volunteering in rural areas precedes an inventory of the same: systematic findings on the use of digital tools and practices in volunteering in Germany are so far only rudimentary. Within the project, a differentiated picture of the use and handling of digital technologies in voluntary work in German rural areas, will be elaborated according to spatial types, organizational profiles and age structure of involved volunteers. A well-founded assessment of the opportunities and risks of technology use of technology in rural voluntary work is to be made. more

Rural areas are regularly associated with negative images of problems such as demographic change, loss of infrastructure, or lack of broadband connections. This culminates in attributions such as “dying villages”, “bleeding out”, or “empty landscapes”, especially with regard to structurally weak regions in the eastern German states. For some years, however, a new tone seems to have entered the debate, which rapidly intensified in the wake of the Covid19 pandemic: now urban flight appears as a new trend. The habilitation project is dedicated to the changes in the social constructions of the rural as well as their significance for spatial planning and development by analysing the discursive construction of rural areas and their changes since the 1960s in Germany. more

At the intersection of technical and social innovation, the project "Stadtquartier 4.1" seeks to find out, if and how the introduction of novel logistics and mobility services (such as automated parcel pick-up stations and cargo-bike sharing) in a neighbourhood impacts on local dwellers' behaviours and attitudes related to logistics. Secondly, it seeks to understand the communicative and participatory processes which lead to the introduction of said services into a neighbourhood. Thirdly, it investigates, if and how the social acceptance for novel logistics and mobility services systematically varies between urban and sub-urban environments. The IRS sub-project within the consortium provides knowledge, if and under which conditions technical innovations in the field of urban logistics establish in society and contribute to sustainable urban development. more

The Global Center of Spatial Methods for Urban Sustainability (GCSMUS), is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) via the DAAD program “Higher Education Excellence in Development Cooperation – exceed" and based at the Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin). GCSMUS seeks to introduce the use of social science research methodologies for the advancement of urban sustainable development, by connecting social sciences methodology, via knowledge transfer, exchange and implementation, with urban policy-making, planning and design. more

Digitalisation as a societal megatrend also changes life in rural areas. Village inhabitants push initiatives to address common problems of rural living with digital technology. The aim of this research project is to better understand rural digitalisation processes and their effects on village communities as well as the (further) development of a theoretical framework to this research object. more