Assembling Newtown Exhibition – last few days

Over the last week, members of the public in mid Wales have had the chance to find out more about some of the GLOBAL-RURAL research at a pop-up exhibition reporting back on the in-depth fieldwork on ‘everyday globalization’ that we’ve been carrying out in the market town of Newtown for the past two years.

The exhibition tells the story of Newtown’s development and its global connections, from the pioneering mail-order business of Pryse Jones to the global business of textile firm Laura Ashley in the 1980s, to interesting business and cultural connections today. Panels describe some of the engagement in global networks that form part of everyday life in the town, including findings from a door-to-door survey of residents, and there’s a wall giving voice to the thoughts and recollections of Newtown people. Visitors are challenged to think about Newtown’s future, and to decide which icons of globalisation they would boost or bin.

There’s also opportunities to listen to some of the conversations specially recorded with people in Newtown for us by artist Caitlin Shepherd, and to view a series of short films documenting key moments in Newtown’s history.

The exhibition is open to this Saturday, 30th September, at Glanhafren Market Hall, Newtown, between 10am and 4pm.

Stop the world?

The presentation by Michael Woods to Devon Communities Together’s Rural Futures Conference, ‘Stop the world I want to get off? How rural communities respond to globalisation’ is now available on the ‘publications and presentations’ page.

Check out presentations from earlier conferences and lectures on this paper, including from this summer’s European Society for Rural Sociology and Royal Geographical Society conferences.

 

Assembling Newtown – Survey Report

In September 2016 Aberystwyth University conducted a rapid face-to-face survey of residents of Newtown and Llanllwchaiarn, in Powys, Wales. These involved indepth discussions of on average 45-60 minutes with 162 residents (supplemented by an additional 72 shorter surveys). The report below provides a summary of some of the findings as they relate to Newtown.  We do not claim statistical representativeness but we hope it provides some useful insight and data that the town can use as it navigates a new period of economic and political change.

Key points:

Broadly speaking residents of Newtown seem to like it! It is a nice place to live and there is a reasonable level of satisfaction with many aspects of town life. It provides basic services for the community, appears to have a good degree of social cohesion and seems outward looking and engaged with wider issues beyond the immediate area. Overall people seem optimistic about its future. It also seems the town has, or is developing a ‘do it ourselves’ culture, evidenced by initiatives such as Newtown Unlimited, the town council led Big Lottery Fund proposals, and efforts to proactively plan a post-bypass future.

Like many “New Town’s”, Newtown does face challenges. It has some divisions; the needs of some areas may be masked by the relative affluence of others and some people are quite pessimistic about the future. The provision of services is a major issue for many – most starkly around healthcare, but more generally over the decline in other services in the town – reflecting wider rural concerns. There is an underlying concern about economic decline, specifically the availability of good quality jobs and the lack of opportunities for younger people.

Included in the report are sections covering:

  • Local perceptions of the town
  • The sense of community
  • Site specific requests for enhancements
  • The tourism offer
  • Views on globalisation
  • Hopes and fears for the future

Whilst written for Newtown & Llanllwchaiarn specifically rural researchers might find material of relevance and interest.

Please feel free to download the report and share as appropriate.

> > NEWTOWN & LLANLLWCHAIARN REPORT < <

Newtown exhibition seeks residents’ views on globalization

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The residents of Newtown are invited to come and discuss their views on the effects of globalisation on the town at a new exhibition. Assembling Newtown: Moving with the Times is a ‘pop-up exhibition’ based at Newtown’s Market Hall and runs from Tuesday September 19th until Saturday September 30th (open 10am til 4pm every day except Sunday).

As part of the GLOBAL-RURAL project, researchers have been examining ‘everyday globalization’ in Newtown. Since 2015 members of the research team have been finding out more about Newtown through interviews, focus groups and fieldwork research.
They have been researching the past, present and future of Newtown, trying to find out what it takes for a small town to survive in a global age. Areas covered include migration to and from the town, the trading relationships of the town’s businesses, awareness of global events, and international influences on food, shopping and culture.

The findings of a large survey conducted by staff and students from the University in autumn 2016 were presented in the form of a report to Newtown Town Council in July.
‘The exhibition marks an ending of the Newtown phase of the wider project’ says Dr Marc Welsh, a member of the GLOBAL-RURAL team, but it is also a chance to shape the next phase which will include a book to be written next year about Newtown.

“Newtown is in many ways an archetypal small market town, common to many parts of the UK and Europe and further afield. Like all these other towns Newtown is also totally unique, with its own history, its own mix of people and businesses and buildings, and its own problems and opportunities for the future in a rapidly changing world,” said Dr Welsh. “Our work over the past two years has focused on the local to global relationships that characterise modern life, and enabled us to build a picture of Newtown and try to tell its story. This exhibition is our opportunity to tell this story back to the people of Newtown and ask them whether it makes sense to them, and whether they identify with it.”

“And”, said Dr Welsh, “with the new bypass currently being constructed around the town, we hope the exhibition also gets people thinking about the changes that are coming, the opportunities and threats these pose, and how they can influence the future development of their town.”

A central feature of the exhibition will be “Voices of Newtown” a wall of quotes from members of the local community, and exhibition organisers are hoping that people will take this opportunity to post their own thoughts.

Artist Caitlin Shepherd has also been working with the team through her ‘Listening to Newtown’ project that gives the voices of local people centre stage through new audio artworks. Caitlin will host a special recording session on the final day of the exhibition.
The exhibition also poses a number of provocative questions, including; “Imagine you had £50m to spend on Newtown, what would you spend it on?”

Often referred to as the ‘oldest new town’, Newtown/Y Drenewydd traces its roots back to 1282. Being the birth place of the globally influential industrialist and social reformer Robert Owen and the home to the first modern international mail order business (Sir Pryce Jones’ Royal Welsh Warehouse), Newtown has some claim to being truly ‘global’ for hundreds of years. Driven by extensive rural depopulation between the late 19th century and the middle of the 20th century, which saw mid Wales lose up to 40% of its inhabitants, Newtown became the focus for an ambitious and controversial economic regeneration project during the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Under the auspices of the Mid Wales Development Corporation and subsequently the Development Board for Rural Wales, new industrial estates and new housing estates were developed to attract new businesses as planners sought to double the town’s population.

The Newtown study forms part of the wider GLOBAL-RURAL project, funded by the European Research Council, which is exploring the impacts of globalization on rural areas around the world and the responses of rural communities.

Notes from Shaping methods, shaping voices and the engagement of discourses in an age of uneven rural change – XXVIIth ESRS Congress organised session

It has been a busy summer, and I thought I should get in this summary from our just concluded XXVIIth ESRS conference before the new academic year and our Newtown Exhibition (Venue – Market Hall, Newtown, Powys County 19th to 28th September 2017, 10 to 4pm) starts next week.

It was a very fruitful deliberation on new and innovative methods for rural research in our ESRS organised session titled – Shaping methods, shaping voices and the engagement of discourses in an age of uneven rural change.

Dirk and Gary  call for rural research to expand the frontiers of multi methods that cater to rural challenges comes at no better time when more studies are sharing stories of their application. Dirk and Gary paper is based on a review of methods used in rural research from two journals (Sociologia Ruralis and Journal of Rural Studies). In their review, talk about the significant use of qualitative methods above quantitative methods and very limited use of mixed methods despite the advantage mixed and interdisciplinary methods have in handling the challenges – from remoteness of rural places, to ethics, and topic types specific to rural research.

Presentations across this session have not only used mixed methods, but brought to light the adaptive ways researchers are embracing methods within and across disciplines to respond to the peculiarity of doing research, making policies and communicating outcomes in rural settings. Researchers have refined existing methods, developed new ones, mixed methods in innovative ways while keying into community knowledge and voices through co design, co-development, co-production of projects and co-responses to rural issues.

Katrin Prager critically reflects on the pros and cons of using visual methods (minicam, video camera, audio recording and touchtable map with embedded photos) to co-produce knowledge amongst stakeholders that could be translated into action to foster better management of marginal lands in western Scotland. The visual technologies yielded a number of outputs – video clips, films and an ecological survey that were useful in workshops and stakeholder engagements and helped build new relationships and trust between stakeholders. Katrin’s presentation also highlighted some of the challenges and tensions of the methods, from the lengthy negotiation processes to power plays, limited technical skills of the stakeholders, poor weather conditions and the resource investments using this methods vis a vis outputs. More on Katrin’s presentation here.

Amy Proctor crosses boundaries to borrow methods from other sectors in a co designed project helping to evaluate complex rural policies and build capacities amongst stake holders in UK. Amy reflects on this extension and translation of evaluation methods through three case studies co designed and co-developed by stakeholders (researchers, evaluation practitioners and the policy stakeholders). Part of the methodological process is a reflection by all stakeholders on the suitability and refining of the process to ways that will be suitable for rural communities. Amy suggests this approach as a useful way to think through UK rural policies in the light of its exit from EU.

Mike and Anthonia, Jane  and Meirav apply GIS, a method dating back to the 1960s in contemporary  ways.

Mike and Anthonia talked about how the Global-Rural project is using storymaps – a map based story-telling platform to narrate stories about rural communities, and their responses to globalisation issues. They share some examples of these stories from their collection of storymaps showing how individual and community voices are brought together on an interactive platform using intentionally made maps, narrative text and multimedia.  The Global-Rural storymap platform will be officially launched in January 2018. More on their ESRS presentation here.

Meirav uses 3D GIS model to represent social inequality. By allowing the theory of social topography speak to GIS methods, Meirav creates a 3D digital sand table to spatially visualise dimensions of inequality defined in terms of education, wages and unemployment using an applied case study in Israel. Jane Farmer’s work brings together different forms of data collection – interviews and photographs within a spatial framework by allowing social enterprise participants track themselves using a GPS tracker and then exploring their relationships and engagements with the places of wellbeing experienced by them in their everyday lives.

Sarah Morton assesses the outcome of co-produced response to rural health issues in the case of Tick and Lyme disease. Sarah highlights the importance of not only engaging rural communities in the co-design and development of solutions to rural health issues but also permitting spaces to allow the creation of this knowledge evolve with the specifics of the rural community. In this case study situated in Highlands, Scotland, Sarah talks about how mixed methods was utlised to gauge community knowledge of the disease using questionnaires, followed by a series of consultations to draw expert knowledge from community members using interactive persona activity, community design activity and participatory mapping designed specifically for the project. This was followed by co-developing awareness raising materials – a website, treasure hunt style game and pocket wallet tick check cards that when tested out offered multiple benefits which was only achieved through co-working with the community. More on Sarah’s presentation and paper.

Rural access remains a problem as noted in Dirk and Gary’s review paper calling for the increasing use of mixed methods that respond to the difficulties in rural areas. Mario Fernández-Zarza explores how the use of a combination of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) advances through mobile phones and internet have improved access and coverage in rural areas and allowed his research to untangle the messiness in the chain of food production by providing a right of way through which rural respondents can be reached for telephone interviews.

Pia Heike Johansen uses an iterative methodological process to explore and bring in multiple knowledge and perspectives on the territorialisation of farm shops and sales in European countryside. By conducting a first stage of field work on farm shops using a family (man, woman and two children) to carry out interviews and direct observations, followed by an auto-photo ethnography with same family and the project’s principal investigator, the knowledge generated from these initials steps fed into another stage of data collection by two different researchers. These processes allowed the farm owners to reflect on this knowledge and bring together multiple perspectives.

The mixing of methods and perspectives are not without difficulties, from power plays to practical issues, resource demand and epistemological barriers some of which Katrin’s paper highlighted. Marc in addition shares the methodological challenges of using multiple methods in a French Ministry of Agriculture National Agroecological Plan project with diverse actors and interests (political and social) and how the bringing together of these methods have had ethical and epistemological conflicts. More on the presentation here.

here Recognising the specificity of rural areas and their ethical challenges Dirk and Gary in their review call for a refinement of methods specific to addressing rural challenges. Similarly, Katharine Howell thought provoking presentation prompts us to review old models of doing international fieldwork in rural settings of developing countries. She shares her experience of doing ethnographic research on rural development and the ProSAVANA project in rural northern Mozambique and how the dynamics of power, place and politics with the misalignment of research ethics became problematic for her as a researcher, her host and host community. Katharine traces this problem to a still practised “old model” of doing international fieldwork research that reinforces colonialism and suggests the need to view ethics and positionality as being in a state of constant motion shaped by everyday fieldwork encounters. She proposes drawing on auto ethnographic approach that offers reflexivity, greater participations of all parties including the research institutions and more critical examination of these intersections to minimise the negative consequences that may ensue. You can read more about her paper here.

In Dirk and Gary review paper, they propose a space – call for chapters, in form of an edited book with a working title of “researching the rural” that will bring together intellectual knowledge and experiences doing rural research, from practical advice, to challenges and ontological perspectives to researching the rural. You can access the paper here.

Here is the complete list of all Abstracts from the “Shaping methods, shaping voices and the engagement of discourses in an age of uneven rural change” session of the XXVIIth ESRS conference, Jagiellonian University, Poland themed ‘Uneven processes of rural change: on diversity, knowledge and justice’.

I look forward to meeting you again in the next ESRS congress come 2019 at Trondheim, Norway, 25-28 July.

 

Global Remittances Patterns, Rural Access and Diasporic Networks

We have just celebrated The International Day of Family Remittances (IDFR), a day that recognises the significance of the financial contribution migrant workers make in supporting the wellbeing of their relatives back home as well as the sustaining developmental projects in their home countries.

Over the last 45 years, global remittances flow has soared by over 30,000% with 2016 recording about 580 billion USD in flows. Remittances have supported individual families in improving their quality of life, from accessing better health care, to education, accommodation to starting up and expanding businesses. It was only in the last 10 years that remittances from migrant workers became increasing recognised, and today account for over 3 times of developmental aid sent to developing countries.

Remittances Flow 1970 To 2015

Remittances Flow 1970 To 2015

 

Migration and remittances

Remittances have been on the increase because of the increasing scale of migration across borders – those forced to flee their homelands to those seeking better economic opportunities. Today we have 250 million migrants crossing national borders, a 60% increase since 1990. A phenomenon labelled as “The human face of globalisation”. Despite the slow in remittances flow since 2014, the role it plays in supporting developing countries cannot be underestimated, as top origins of remittances coincide with top migrant destinations like United States and Saudi Arabia ranking top two and have remained on the increase since 2010.

Top 10 Origins of Remittances 2010 to 2015

Top 10 Origins of Remittance 2010 to 2015

 

Top destination countries by continent are Asia (India and China); Europe (France; Germany); Africa (Nigeria, Egypt); Latin America and Caribbean (Mexico, United States). Remittances flow is clearly a North to South thing, and US, Saudi and UAE have the busiest corridors.

Top Ten Origins of Global Remittances and Their Top Twenty Destinations for 2015

Top Ten Origins of Global Remittances and Their Top Twenty Destinations for 2015

 

It is estimated that migrant workers send home approximately $200 to $300 several times a year and of the 750 million worldwide receiving this, 50% are rural residents. A survey by African Development Bank and the World Bank of African diaspora in Belgium from the Dem. Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Senegal and their household members in their corresponding countries were interviewed, showed they sent between $800 to $1600 equivalent as often as about 8 times per year to over 50% of their households living in rural areas. Apart from supporting everyday expenditures like feeding, education, rent, these households make significant investments in land, businesses, housing, agriculture. In particular, over 57% of remittances coming into Nigeria are dedicated to investments.  United States and UK to Nigeria are one of the busiest remittances corridor with over $9.4 billion remitted through formal means in 2015 only.

Remittances from OECD countries are sent mainly through formal means like Western Union and banks compared to remittances originating from African countries where friends and relative or self-delivery are the main medium of delivery. Despite the significance of these funds to rural residents, there is an obvious financial exclusion to formal financial services in rural areas. Social and geographical barriers remain a problem, as banks who take up this particular service in developing countries prefer to establish branches in developed areas leaving rural dwellers to incur additional expenses in transportation and time to commute long distances and send or access funds. In rural Kenya geographic distance to bank could be up to 4 km or further for banks rendering money transfer services. Banks also require documentation, which can be a barrier for less literate rural dwellers. Sending costs within African countries are also high and in some instances, receivers incur further costs.

How Republic of Benin is Responding to Financial Exclusion and Access to Remittances  

Republic of Benin is improving access to remittances in rural communities by equipping post offices to offer basic financial services of sending and receiving remittances without the opening of account. This provision of this service has not only ensured further access to funds to support families and development project but has created jobs to rural indigenes.

 

Republic of Benin Response to Accessing Remittances in Rural Locations (Source: capacity4devuservids)

Diasporic networks, remittances and rural areas – A Case of Nigeria

Diasporic networks are becoming a medium through which rural communities and migrants are responding to the “human face of globalization” – the need to leave home for better economic opportunities but also bring back development and aid that would not have resulted. Beyond of remittances to individual families, there is also community remittances sent by individuals; formal and informal diasporic networks in migrant destination countries back to their communities of origin. It supports developmental projects in home communities from building infrastructure, hospitals, road, power generation, water, education, providing scholarships, specialist health care provision, promoting culture to tourism.  Nigeria is one of the top sending migrant country in Africa and top remittance receiving country globally, with United States and United Kingdom as key destination of its migrants and key origins of remittances.

Across UK and US, Nigerians in diaspora have set up three formal diasporic networks with the mandate of fostering development and growth in Nigeria as well as support Nigerians in these destinations. They are MANSANG – Medical Association of Nigerians Across Great Britain, Mbano National Assembly and Arondizuogu Patriotic Union. They have over time supported education, infrastructural development, cultural exchange and tourism and specialist health care via medical missions through remittances and skills targeted at rural communities. They bring to rural areas in Nigeria locally unavailable specialist skills. The role of such networks in fostering development through their remittance is less looked upon than family remittances yet it is a way rural areas are responding to the out migration of their workforce and migrants maintaining connections with their rural communities in their home country.  While they support these rural communities, remitting funds to these locations to support developmental work is also an issue.

How much we can respond to financial exclusion of rural areas,  recognize and harness  migrants, diasporic networks and connections is important in curbing the negative impacts of globalisation on rural communities.

 

 

Family farming, water supply and food security in Pernambuco, Brazil

In February the Global-Rural team visited the semi-arid region of Pernambuco, Brazil. This area is home to a unique biome that exists exclusively in Brazil, called Caatinga. This ecosystem is very important from the biological point of view because it has formed a vast biodiversity; rich in genetic resources and vegetation; and it presents unique fauna and flora.

During the first week, Francesca spent some time in the organization of the civil society known as SERTA (Service for Alternative Technologies) in Ibimirim and the last two weeks she visited the organization CECOR (Centre for Communitarian Rural Education) in Serra Talhada. Thanks to these organisations and their networks, Francesca was able to investigate how global issues, such as water supply and food security, are addressed at a local level by family farmers in the semi-arid Caatinga.

The Caatinga in the last four years has suffered of an unprecedented drought which has hindered agricultural production. Although the drought can be considered cyclical, the last years have seen extremely low levels of rain being registered. Some of the respondents connected it to the wider issues relating to climate change and the global warming. This scenario has pushed some of the farmers to search for other sources of incomes. Moreover most of the young population have left for the urban areas or in search of other occupations elsewhere in the country. The harsh conditions generated by the drought have thus reinforced social rural issues such as rural exodus and depopulation. However, this is just one aspect of what is happening in this semi-arid region.

In the last 20 years, civil society organisations are trying to promote agricultural practices and technological solutions that can ameliorate the rural life in the Caatinga. Their objective is not only to deal with the limits and challenges of such semi-arid areas, but rather to emphasise the potentialities of the Caatinga. As one respondent mentioned; “we aim for a cultural change that tries to ‘live with the drought’ rather than to ‘fight the drought’”. Agroecology seems to be

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Technology for Harvesting Rainwater

playing a crucial role in such cultural and technical processes. For instance, the government of Pernambuco funds courses for young people to acquire a technical qualification on agroecology, and supports other programs that aim to provide technical skills linked with agroecological practices to family farmers. Moreover, to reinforce the agricultural production of family farmers, the program “Pernambuco mais Productivo” (Pernambuco more productive) addresses issues of water supply by installing water tanks and other technologies to collect rain water. Organizations such as SERTA and CECOR have therefore the function of implementing such policies and providing the technical and social support to the farmers.

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Agroecology Technique: The Anaerobic Digester

This is clearly a short summary about the case study investigated. The research was based mainly in the municipalities of Ibimirim, Serra Talhada and Santo Cruiz do Baixo Verde and 28 interviews were conducted with young people, family farmers of the rural communities, representative of the Rural Union and collaborators of the two organizations.

At a first glance, this area does not seem to be affected by those violent global processes such as agribusiness or industrialization (mainly located in the specific area of Petrolina).  However we can observe how local assemblages are being mobilised to contest the effects of a mainstream economic development model and how regional strategies are addressing key global challenges.

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Agroecology Course in the Caatinga