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by Elin Ulven
Participation, Identity and the PeriphEry 2004-06-19
Professor Cliff Hague argued last time we were together, in Türi, that the PIPE-project deals with the periphery of the periphery; the less-developed regions of Northern Europe.

As we have seen and will see during this Expo, PIPE also deals with participation and identity.

These will be the components of the next ten minutes in my summary of the PIPE-project; Participation, Identity and the Periphery.



What do we mean by participation?


-  sharing the involvement of an activity; physically or psychologically.


The World Bank defines participation as "a process of equitable and active involvement of all stakeholders in society in the formulation of development policies and strategies, and in the analysis, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development activities".


Definition of stakeholder: households (= all), community-based interest groups (= PIPE) and socio-economic groups, local government, public and private sector institutions of all kinds, national policy-makers (and international like the EU), international and national donor institutions, as well as civil society institutions at all levels.

Relevant stakeholders are those who are or should be involved in a specific development process, as well as those who are mainly affected by it or involved in decision making.


Participation is the process through which stakeholders influence and share control over priority setting, policy-making, resource allocation and access to public goods and services.


Participation is the key to sustainable development initiatives, since it will lead to:


  • building on existing potentials and capacities  - e.g. in achieving an aim of 10 000 new businesses a year in Sweden (ref. Cecilia Wigstr¸m)
  • a greater sense of ownership on the part of the stakeholders
  • increased commitment to the objectives and outcomes of plans and programmes - i.e. increased cooperation b/w policy makers and citizens
  • longer term social sustainability
  • increased self-help capacities
  • stronger and more democratic institutions and partnerships - i.e. the freedom of entrepreneurship



Identity = change.


How do we identify identity?


- something that remains the same over a period of time. Something that remains stable when everything changes = thus identity is the basis of all change.


Antropologists & sociologists distinguish between personal and group identity.


Personal identity is a stable structure in the midst of a stream of alterations. Similar to the structure of the government or the Supreme Court - the structure doesn't change with the change of ministers or judges. Personal identity is a condition of long-lasting existence. Personal identity is the ability to commit yourself to decisions you make, and to show consistency in your behaviour, opinions and desires over time.


And personal identity is the ability to act independently.


Group identity is identified as recognizable obstacles to the regular flow of change, decay and birth. Examples are groups of unemployed, elderly, or educated; in which there is a constant addition of new members identifiable by the group. Group identity does not necessarily involve nationalities, as is witnessed by the common identity shared by the world's indigenous people.


What marks identity is constancy amidst great change. 




What does the world population census (UN  Economic and Social Affairs Population Fund) tell us about the periphery ?



Globally, the urban population of the world continues to increase faster than the world population. The UN ESA Population Division concludes in its 2003-report that almost all population growth in the world in the next 30 years will take place in the cities. Urban settlements of less than 500 000 inhabitants in the developing countries will absorb most of this growth.


In the world as a whole, 48 % of the population now lives in urban settlements. It is expected that for the first time in world history, the share of the world population living in cities will reach 50 % by 2007, and that the amount will increase from around 3 billion today to 5 billion (61 %) in 2030. The increase in the world urban population is estimated at almost twice the rate of the increase in the world total population, 1,8 compared to 1 %. At this speed, the number of people living in the cities will have doubled in 38 years, from 2000 to 2038.


Northern Europe is in fact the region of the world with the greatest amount of its population living in cities, 83,3 %. This is expected to increase to 87 % by 2030, as compared to 61 % in the world as a whole. After Iceland and the UK Denmark has the highest proportion of its citizens living in urban areas in Northern Europe, followed by Sweden and Norway. Urban areas of less than 500 000 inhabitants, give housing to almost 25 % of the total world population, and more than half of the world's total urban population. Cities of more than 5 million inhabitants only hold 7 % of the total world population, expected o rise to 9 % by 2015.


According to the Population Division of the UN Economic and Social Affairs, Norway is the country experiencing the fastest rate of loss of its rural population in all of Europe (except Andorra…) at 3,8 % estimated p.a. in the period 2000 - 2005. Urbanization is happening at a faster rate in Norway than in any other country of Northern Europe, with an annual increase of 1,6 % in its urban population.


In Norway the problem of the periphery has evolved around small communities with simple business structures based on agriculture, forestry or fishing, and with large distances to the international markets. Norway has traditionally tried to combat the disadvantages of the periphery by using tax alleviations and active regional policies, aimed especially at the northern regions of Troms and Finnmark.  The idea behind this is to achieve an equal population distribution, i.e. "a balance in the growth of population in all parts of the country". (Norwegian Advisor to KRD, 2002).


So what is the reality in Norway today? In 2000 Norway experienced the largest number of migration inbetween counties (interkommunal flytting) since 1977. Between 1995 and 2000, 2/3 (67 %) of the Norwegian mainland experienced net loss of population. Finnmark is the region most affected by out-migration in all of the Nordic countries, despite years of economic incentives and despite the relative high degree of employment compared to the rest of the region. (Regional Development in the Nordic Countries, 2002, summary by Hanell, Aalbu and Neubauer, Nordregio.)





PIPE has a focus on the common problems and challenges of the periphery of the periphery.


The issue of population in the Nordic countries specifically, and in the EU generally, is the conflict between center and periphery, and the how to reduce this conflict. The challenges are outward migration, spread settlements and low degrees of innovation and entrepreneurship. The lack of local community participation is also a challenge, since increasing urbanization leads to more people sharing less of the total resources.


PIPE deals with this challenge in trying to find a way to increase participation leading to entrepreneurship using the sense of a common identity.


Good approaches, methods, tools, activities and changes in attitude will facilitate more equity in the development process and create demand-driven participation.

In order to institutionalize participation and ensure that collective action does continue after the withdrawal of a program/project, it is essential that human capacities, in particular local institutional arrangements, are strengthened. This capacity-building strategy is used by the PIPE-project in its local awareness approach.


The feeling of identity can cross borders, and an individual can identify as much with a different nationality as with its home community - as long as there exists a group identity, i.e. a common constancy of dedication.


In my eyes and to my acknowledgement, the PIPE-project has managed to bring forward a sense of common identity and dedication among its participants in its focus on common challenges.  I feel this achievement deserves an applause.