1 Faculty of Business and Social Sciences, SDU2 Danish Institute of Rural Research and Development, Faculty of Business and Social Sciences, SDU3 Department of Environmental and Business Economics, Faculty of Business and Social Sciences, SDU4 Department of Environmental and Business Economics, Faculty of Business and Social Sciences, SDU
Fabrics of social and human capital
In the Nordic welfare states (Island, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark), an important principle has hitherto been to allow all citizens access to the same high-quality public services - independent of whether they live in urban or rural areas. In Denmark, however, this principle is gradually being abandoned. One outcome has been closings of schools in remote rural areas. This evidently contributes to exacerbate depopulation in these areas. To stop this tendency, we need new models for high-quality, cost effective public services in rural areas as those as we find in Denmark. This chapter introduces such a model: Multifunctional centers. Such a model reflects a long tradition of local centralization in rural areas, that is, a golden compromise between ruralization and urbanization. First, I argue that governments should actively invest in rural areas rather than practicing laissez-faire. Second, I trace ideological roots in history pointing at 19th c. national civic movements and an early 20th c. transnational Garden City movement within urban planning as crucial. Drawing on contemporary case studies of multifunctional centers in Holland and Denmark, I then suggest that public and private donors should invest in multifunctional centers in which the local public school is the dynamo. This in order to increase local levels of social as well as human capital. Ideally, such centers should contain both public services such as school, library and health care, private enterprises as hairdressers and banks, and facilities for local associations as theatre scenes and sports halls. The centers should be designed to secure both economies of scale and geographic proximity. Empirical evidence indicates that such large meeting places in fact foster physical and social cohesion, as well as human capital and informal learning. Also that the stock of beneficial bridging social capital thus created actually contributes to attract newcomers and counteract depopulation.