The Regions

7 Peripheries

from all across Europe // 


The 7 regions from North to South:

​Lieksa (Finland) 

Danish Islands (Denmark)

Vorpommern (Germany)

​​Częstochowa (Poland)

Larissa (Greece)

Northern Sardinia (Italy)

Valle Del Guadalhorce (Spain)

Each of the regions struggles with issues typical for peripheries in their own way. In this section you can discover the seven unique peripheries in our project.

To find out more about the peripheral regions and why we chose them read on. Interested in one of the places? Click on the regions' names to get more information on the unique challenges and opportunities of each region.

L​ieksa (Finland) 

Lieksa is located in eastern Finland, on the northern shores of Lake Pielinen. It is the biggest in terms of area of the 13 municipalities of the NUTS3 region of North Karelia. Lieksa’s geographic position can be described as very peripheral even in a Finnish context.

The road distance from Helsinki is about 530km (about 6 hours) and from the regional capital of Joensuu the distance is 95km (about 1.5 hours). It is also peripheral in the sense that the eastern border of
the municipality is the border with Russia, and since 1995 the external border of the European Union.











There is only one border crossing point with Russia on the territory of Lieksa, which can only be used with a special permit for lumber transports and occasional cultural visits. 

Moreover, the immediate border area on both sides is largely uninhabited. No international border crossing exists within a two-hour drive from the city, so the border represents more of a barrier than a resource in the specific case of Lieksa.

Danish Islands (Denmark)

In Denmark, the examination does not take the form of a singular investigation into one peripheral region, but rather into an array of peculiar, peripheral, geographical phenomena – the Islands of Denmark. In practice of this report, this is manifested by the study of one in particular, the Island of Samsø. With a population of mere 3,724 citizens and 112 km2 of land, the islands is physically isolated by more than 20 kilometers of ocean from the nearest mainland.

As an island, Samsø is facing unique challenges that only peripheral islands face. Most prominently, it’s geographical location. With 20 kilometers of ocean in all directions, its movement of goods and services is almost entirely restricted to maritime transport.

In addition to that, the island has also been facing socioeconomic challenges in the form of a unsustainable demographic distribution, high number of retirees, loss of jobs and unemployment.

Vorpommern (Germany)

In Germany the projects focuses on the north eastern region of Western Pommerania, Vorpommern in German.

The processes of reunifaction that started 30 years ago lead to the development of structurally disadvantaged regions mainly in the East of Germany. Economically, socially and culturally impoverished regions are located all over this part of the country, although some peripheral regions in are affected more severly. Located in the north eastern corner of Germany Western-Pommerania is such a region - peripheral by geographic and demographic paramenters.





In face of the profound structural challenges and issues Western-Pommerania has, however, been a hotspot for many state founded public and third sector projects developing strategies and methods to overcome challenges of this peripherie. Against this background we found it to be the ideal region to evaluate smart methods of capacity building in peripheries and make them accessible for communities tackling similar situations all over Europe and the world.

Częstochowa (Poland)


We chose this region due to the fact that we live in the largest city of the area. Life of over 500 000 people living outside main city is strongly connected with it. Czestochowa region is starting its new development after almost 20 years of stagnation because of Voivodeship lost.

Częstochowa is a city located in the Cracow-Częstochowa Upland, in the Voivodeship of Silesia. Its area is 160 km2. There are 232 318 people living there. Warta flows through the city.


Częstochowa is famous for the Jasna Góra Sanctuary, to which about 5 million people make pilgrimages every year, but it is worth paying attention to its other advantages. As the center of the Częstochowa Industrial District, it enjoys a high degree of economic development. Regular urban layout with centrally located Downtown, surrounded by clusters of residential buildings from the south and north, provides spatial order. There are many green areas here, and the most popular are the Promenade of Czesław Niemen and Park of Forest Angels.




The city has extensive social infrastructure, including over 100 schools at various levels, including 8 universities and 6 hospitals, well-developed sports and cultural facilities. Częstochowa is located on a transport node consisting of three national roads, a European route and five provincial roads. PKP trains, PKS buses and public and suburban transport run here. The advantage is the city's location on the route of a road of European importance and on the routes of three national roads and five provincial roads.

Northern Sardigna (Italy)

The area taken in consideration for the sake of the project is the Island of Sardinia, specifically the northern part of the island where the organization is based.


We have chosen Sardinia because the whole island is facing issues related to marginalization. The island is in the middle of the sea at the same distance from Italy, Spain, Africa and France (not considering Corsica), and there is not an efficient plan to ensure the achievability of the island during the whole year. The issue related to flights’ and ferries’ tickets cost in the last years has been in the middle of the political debate because, from the central government, a clear guideline to ensure to Sardinian residents and foreign sustainable prices does not exist. Travel costs issue is easily linkable with transportation costs issue as all products flow from and to the island is through ferries. The transportation cost represents already an obstacle for who is doing business on the island, plus the main ferry companies are private and they follow market logic to establish ticket prices for tourists, residents, and the logistics companies almost in the same way.

Larissa (Greece)

Larissa is the capital and largest city of the Thessaly region in Greece. It is the fourth-most populous city in Greece. It is a principal agricultural center and a national transport hub, linked by road and rail with the port of Volos, the cities of Thessaloniki and Athens. Larissa although a populous city, in comparison to Athens is considered a periphery and our chosen target group, young people aged 15-30 (also the Erasmus Plus Youth target audience) has limited opportunities and fewer opportunities in comparison with Athens, which is the capital and largest city of Greece, and it offers more opportunities to young people in terms of economic, cultural, social opportunities.





Valle Del Guadalhorce (Spain)

The region of Valle del Guadalhorce is located in the South Center territory of Málaga province and it bridges the countryside and the Costa del Sol. After the Guadalhorce river merging with its major tributary, el Río Grande, it creates the richest of the soils of Málaga. This results in a fertile area for crops and people to live in. Farmhouses and hamlets are spread across the mountains.

Between the mountains you can find the towns and villages of Alhaurin el Grande, Almogía, Álora, Cártama, Coín, Pizarra y Valle de Abdalajís. About 139.915 people live in these regions. It is worth noticing that these towns closer to Málaga capital have been experiencing an increase of inhabitants over the last few years whereas the villages further from the capital city have experienced the opposite. These towns and villages create the region of Guadalhorce, situated west of Málaga capital.


The region benefits from its proximity to the capital city, to the Costa del Sol, the airport, the Parque Natural Sierra de las Nieves, the El Caminito del Rey and to the El Chorro reservoirs, as well as the Montes de Málaga mountain chain. The region also profits from a microclimate with no extreme temperatures. This makes it the ideal place for touristic activities in different areas such as cultural,gastronomical and sport activities.




demolished industrial periphery// 



Population density:

3,2 inhabitants per km²

Population Decline:  56%;

26000 to 11297 (1960 - 2017)




Demography and governance issues are considered as the most relevant elements in terms of local development. Lieksa is an archetype of a peripheral and shrinking rural town in Finland.

Its population has halved during the last 50 years due to demographic change and outmigration fuelled by the lack of employment and educational opportunities.

Typical for a peripheral community, Lieksa, its city administration, has often been the target and receiver of policies rather than a proactive actor that builds on its own territorial capital. On the one hand, the central demographic issues for Lieksa are ongoing outmigration and an aging population, which place continuous stress on the tax base of municipality.

On the other hand, in the context of planned national reforms that would strengthen the autonomy of regions, the role of municipalities is bound to change, which is why municipalities, such as Lieksa, have to realign their governance and administration.

Lieksa is an interesting experiment in local development practices as it has drastically overhauled its traditional redistributive approach in order to privilege entrepreneurial initiative. Neo-liberal local autonomy (or new public management) is the current dominant governance trend in the case of Lieksa and is considered most likely to be relevant within the ten-year window.

In case the planned regional reform takes place (which is likely), the autonomy of regions will be strengthened, which will take some responsibilities away from municipalities.
In light of this, the case study assesses processes and outcomes of a recent change embodied by the new local development strategy adopted in 2016, aiming to raise Lieksa’s level of vitality and viability and thus improve its socio-economic position vis-a-vis other municipalities in the region and Finland.

The Lieksa Development Strategy 2030 signals a shift to an entrepreneurial approach in local governance to strengthen vitality based on local potential and assets. The Strategy targets a shift from traditional aid-based policies. Indeed, recent local government
processes appear to aim at gaining more local capacities and autonomy, in the sense of more control of this town’s own destiny and development. Elements of this include a more effective and more transparent and participatory city administration; repatriation of economic policy making from the sub-regional to the local level; a proactive take on the changing role of municipalities in light of ongoing regional and social/healthcare reforms in Finland; and almost unanimous support across local party politics to change the fortune of their locality.

Lieksa has a peripheral location and its demographic development is characterised by an aging population and for long ongoing selective outmigration of young and working age people. While the actions at hand (e.g. Strategy 2030) do not directly address these demographic trends, it is obviously set within the context of a challenging operational environment that is conditioned by these demographic changes.

These unfavourable trends are bound to continue and affect the municipality’s future development. Local policy makers are well aware of them and frame their actions accord-ingly.

There are no foreseeable factors which would stop or turn these trends around in the next ten years, which is why the state of demographic depletion was considered as most likely state for the case of Lieksa in 2030. The governance patterns in Lieksa will most likely continue to be influenced by the planned national-level top-down reforms regarding regional autonomy.

In response, increasing use of place-based solutions may be predicted, exemplified by the Action at hand, taking on the approach of New Public Management. Therefore, the state of neoliberal local autonomy was considered as the most viable state for 2030.

The policy environment that characterises the case of Lieksa can be associated with vectors of continued focus on financial stability reflected in contractionary fiscal policies at the national level. Furthermore, there does not exist coordination of project-led development in Finland, and local institutions and the third sector have a strong role. Therefore, locally managed austerity is seen as the most likely state for Lieksa in ten years. Regarding the coming EU policy funding period, it is noteworthy that increasing cohesion fund expenditure on bioeconomy, youth employment and integration of immigrants might have some positive effects on the case of Lieksa.

The process of reorientation and restructuring of the City administration and governance, embodied by the Lieksa Development Strategy 2030, has the aim to provide the City with more effective tools for realising its own local development aims, which are targeted especially at the improvement of the business environment. The spatial justice dimension in Lieksa mostly relates to the safeguarding of the municipality’s/city’s socio-economic viability against the distributive background of continuing demographic decline, peripheral location (poor accessibility) in both
regional as well as national contexts and dwindling financial resources.

Overall, the private sector’s role has been consciously increased as both receiver and initiator of local development initiatives in this reform-affine environment. This intervention logic, applying a decidedly entrepreneurial approach to local development, has resulted in comparatively less attention to the potential inputs of third sector organisations and civil society at large.

There is an observable need to balance between administrative efficiency and democratic responsiveness and it remains to be seen whether this primary focus on business and the economy will become a long-term policy choice or whether it is a short-term ‘fix’ on what has been identified as the crucial point for Lieksa’s development. Nevertheless, although the studied ‘action’ in Lieksa is still in its early phase and it is premature to estimate its long-lasting impacts, the more proactive, dynamic and strategic-thinking leadership offers an apparently sustainable option for tackling the spatial injustices failed by this peripheral municipality.


Danish Islands

Dealing with isolation// 



Population density:

33,25 inhabitants per km²

As an island, Samsø is facing unique challenges that only peripheral island face. Most prominently, it’s geographical location. With 20 kilometers of ocean in all directions, its movement of goods and services is almost entirely restricted to maritime transport.

In addition to that, the island has also been facing socioeconomic challenges in the form of a unsustainable demographic distribution, high number of retirees, loss of jobs and unemployment.

Despite its small population and size, Samsø has managed to become world renowned for its efforts, methods and results when it comes to energy sustainability. A project that was established in part to deal with its challenges as a peripheral area.

In addition, Samsø, as an island, is facing particular challenges that are important to understand for the depth of the project.

As an island, Samsø is facing unique challenges that only peripheral island face. Most prominently, it’s geographical location. With 20 kilometers of ocean in all directions, its movement of goods and services is almost entirely restricted to maritime transport.

In addition to that, the island has also been facing socioeconomic challenges in the form of a unsustainable demographic distribution, high number of retirees, loss of jobs and unemployment.

Green Solution House.jpg




Tackling the Shadows of Reunification// 


Population density:

69 inhabitants per km²

Population Decline:  16%; 1,9 million to 1,6 million (1990 - 2019:)

Unemployment: 10%

 (5-6 German average)



​The main issues Western-Pommeranians are struggling with are:

Infrastructural decline

Due to population shrinkage client based businesses in rural areas struggle to be profitable and often close down, leaving towns and villages without essential shopping facilities and other local amenities including neccessities such as post offices and medical practices.

Social gathering places such as cafés and bars as well as cultural services like theaters and libraries are also affected.


Running low on Education and Qualification: Brain Drain

High rates of young people without a high school degree (9,2%) and cancelations of trainee contracts (33%) as well as declining rates of young people in tertiary education (24% compared to 33% German average)  have been an issue in the region. The long running exodus of highly qualified individuals has eroded the region and many rather lowly educated families remain. The German education sytem is known for maintaining these class differences. Furthermore capable young people still leave for central cities such as Berlin to acquire further education and often remain there.

Lack of Participation

In the past 30 years many social institutions, cultural and political associations, trade unions, educational organisations and also church institutions have disappeared from this region. These are esssential vor social cohesion as they conveyed a sense of belonging. Re-engaging the inhabitants in associations and co-crreation of this region has been particularly hard.  While many people in peripheral eastern Germany have been frustrated by the reunification process and answered subsequent devaluation of their biographies with retreat into the private sphere, the people of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania are stereotypically known as the least talkative Germans. Accordingly motivating the population to get involved and speak up about the developments of their towns, villages and neighbourhoods has been one of the main challenges since 1990.

Racism and Right Wing Organisations

The desillusionment of Eastern Germany has led to the strengthening of right wing organisations such as comradeships and political parties including but not limited to AFD (Engl.: Alternative for Germany). Once involved in such organisations especially young men isolate from non-right-wing contacts including their families and friends.

Since 2015 politically motivated crimes in the form of right-wing violence have increased dramatically in this region.


Polish citizens present here as cross-border commuters  and permanent residents as well as other migrants from Eastern Europe and Refugees are often confronted with racism, acts of racism motivated violence and scapegoating. Shared activities of migrants and natives remain the exception.




a central periphery// 



Population density:

1377 inhabitants per km²

Population Decline:  15% (1994 - 2019); 259864 to 220433 (1994 - 2019)




Image: Bazylika jasnogórska in Częstochowa Source: CC BY-SA 3.0, Author:Frees

Częstochowa is famous for

the Basilika of the Jasna Góra Monastery.

The Częstochowa region covers an area of 6,182 km², the meridian extent is 77 km and the latitudinal extent 127 km. It is located in the Śląskie Voivodeship.

It includes 17 cities and towns (Częstochowa – capital of subregion, Lubliniec, Myszków, Kłobuck, Kalety, Olesno, Pajęczno, Koniecpol, Blachownia, Gorzów Śląski, Praszka, Krzepice, Szczekociny, Woźniki, Żarki, Koziegłowy, Dobrodzień) and 52 municipalities.

The population is 779 600 people and 232 000 live in the city of Częstochowa .

The development opportunities of the subregion must take into account the changes taking place in the global economy. In the 20th century, the areas of the subregion underwent a period of industrial development, creating a strong center of the metallurgical and textile industry in Częstochowa, regional industrial centers in Myszków and Kłobuck, and local industrial "islands", for example Koniecpol.














The development of industry was based on three basic resources: the availability of low-cost investment areas with large surface water resources (necessary for the technologies used in metallurgy, textiles, food processing, and paper production); availability of local raw materials (iron ore, mineral resources, wood resources), availability of cheap labor equipped with technical skills. The new economy requires different resources; Man is the most important wealth: his knowledge, creativity, ability to adapt new solutions. It can be assumed that two-track development will continue over the next few decades. We will deal with the development of "old industry" enhanced with new technologies, and with new forms of "industry of tomorrow", which today cannot even be precisely determined. In both cases, however, the basic development determinants will be preserved: the availability of resources and the right level of communication enabling both the transport of raw materials and products, as well as the appropriate speed of information transfer. The object of economic use is primarily mineral resources and underground drinking water - based on extraction from Jurassic reservoirs, food processing plants are also dynamically developing.

Main Challenges of the Region

1) Modernization of the country's key transport system, including the area of ​​the subregion, - Construction of the A1 motorway;

2) Support for transport cohesion of subregions in EU policies and funds,

3) Central support for the development of public services, with particular emphasis on services targeted at families with small children and the elderly,


Image: Steelworks "Częstochowa"Source:CC, Author:Cezary Miłoś


Northern Sardinia

unemployment and seasonal work// 




Population density:

68.8 inhabitants per km²

Unemployment rate:​ 15.4%

Youth unemployment rate: 46.8%

​The Sardinian backcountry is quite similar from north to south, from west to east, in terms of social structure, density, occupation, and issues. The trend in these rural areas follows a growing depopulation process for decades. The depopulation process numbers are mostly related to young workers moving away from rural areas or the region, even workers over 30 y.o. are interested in the trend. The migration of people from rural to urbanized areas has several reasons. Typically youth moved because in the rural areas the lack of places for leisure activities pushes them to move away to join more active realities. Cities and urban areas are for sure more attractive in terms of social activities especially for people age 18 – 30. The migration has effects on rural areas economies in terms of less workforce and consumptions. Adult migration is due to occupation issues and to the lower guarantees offered by the work environment as less profitable contracts or difficulties to get a permanent job.


Because of depopulation, in the last 15 years 277 out of 377 municipalities in Sardinia registered decreasing resident population, only 78 municipalities registered an increase of inhabitants, and the others had no significant movements. Only 30 municipalities have more than 10.000 inhabitants.

The Sardinian population is getting older in the last years, natality index is decreasing, and youth are moving away after the studies. This situation is reflected better in numbers: in Sardinia at the end of 2019 were resident 1.639.591 with an average age of 46,3 years, in 2000 the average age was 40,1.  Most of the population is over middle age plus is not equally distributed in the 24.100 km² of the island. The main concentration of people is in the urban area of Cagliari with a density of 346 inhabitants per km², followed by Sassari province with 64 inhabitants per km², then South Sardinia with 54 inhabitants per km² and Nuoro 37 inhabitants per km². 22.8 % of the population is over 65 years old and 11.2% is lower than 14 years old. Comparing Sardinia to a similar island as Sicily we can state the inhabitants in Sicily are almost 3 times more, 5 mln against 1.6 mln, and the density is double in Sicily, 196 inhabitants per km² against the 68.8 of Sardinia.

The unemployment rate in Sardinia is higher than the Italian average. From 2014 to 2018, the unemployment rate decreased from 18.7% to 15.4% (Eurostat, 2019).

However, the unemployment is still far above the Italian and the European average. In 2018, the employment rate is lower (52.7%) than the national average (58.5%) and very far from the European average (68.6%); Sardinia turns out to be one of the Italian regions with the lowest level of employment (Eurostat, 2019).

One-third of the population is fully employed, 562.000 people are currently working and divided into the 3 sectors as follows: 34,000 are employed in Agriculture, 94,000 in the industry and 434,000 in services. Considering the third sector is interesting to underline that 33% of employed in serviced are living in the Cagliari area, which is even smaller compared with the other one-third only in Cagliari and hinterland area, that is even the smaller per extension. The level of youth unemployment is quite high, 46.8% of youth are not employed, 43.4% are male and 53.3% are female.


​​GDP PPS per capita in Sardinia is much lower than the Italian average. In 2017, it was €20,900, far below the Italian (€ 28,900) and the European average (€ 30,000). This indicator, from 2008 to 2014, has registered 6.2% decrease (higher than the Italian average decrease, 4.5%)

There are 103.802 businesses currently active in Sardinia, 80 % of them are working on services, the remaining in industries. The distribution of enterprises is not geographically balanced as well, 32% of the currently active is working in Sassari province and 30% is working in Cagliari hinterland.



finding opportunities for the young// 





162 591

Population density:

485.2 inhabitants per km²

Youth unemployment:​ 51.9% (15-24 yrs)

Larissa although a populous city, in comparison to Athens is considered a periphery and our chosen target group, young people aged 15-30 (also the Erasmus Plus Youth target audience) has limited opportunities and fewer opportunities in comparison with Athens, which is the capital and largest city of Greece, and it offers more opportunities to young people in terms of economic, cultural, social opportunities.

​​According to ELSTAT 1, there is a quite intensive gap in terms of job opportunities, education providers, number of enterprises and businesses etc. in Larissa (the capital of Periphery of Thessaly) in comparison with the capital city of Greece, Athens. Official statistics based on a survey implemented by ELSTAT (Hellenic Statistical Authority) were presented in 2016, regarding the high percentages of young unemployment in the region of Periphery of Thessaly. The Hellenic Statistical Service, recorded the percentage of unemployment at 24.9% nationwide but in Thessaly was higher than this, reaching 51.9% in the groups of 15-24 years, with young people being the major "victims" of the crisis.


In terms of cultural, social activities targeted for young people Larissa doesn’t have any Youth Center or specific facilities that implement activities solely for young people in comparison with the capital city. Considering the placement of Larissa in the center of Greece and combined with the high levels of young unemployment, reversing gravity and bringing back life is needed in this area.

Larissa could be transformed in an youthful and vibrant city that could offer employment, cultural, social opportunities in young people. Agritourism and youth agriculture could also be an attractive factor for young people and citizens of Larissa, to stay in the city and work in the field of agriculture having in consideration that the area of Larissa has one of the largest plains in Greece, the Thessalian Plain (Thessalikos Kampos). Also, since 2015, Larissa has welcomed many refugees, among them many young people with limited opportunities, and it could be transformed in a multicultural center of the central Greece, if proper action plan and strategic implementation take place in the area.




Valle Del Guadalhorce

valleys in the shadow of the Costa del Sol//


Population density

173.69 inhabitants per km²



Foreign population

15,075 (10.8%)* 

*Data from (01/01/2018)

The Guadalhorce Valley located in the interior of Malaga creating a triangle between Malaga capital and the Costa del Sol. The SWOT diagnosis carried out for the Development Strategy 2016-2022 shows key data on the development situation of the Valley as well as new opportunities that arise from weaknesses and new challenges.


On the one hand, it is a region affected by unemployment (especially overqualified and youth that leads to "brain drain"), both structural and seasonal, and due to the deficiency of infrastructure and public services, especially those related to transport and communications. , but also those related to new technologies, high-speed internet connection in the most rural areas and support for care (kindergartens, attention to functional diversity, etc.).


On the other hand, it is also a growing region with a multitude of innovative initiatives, job creators and opportunities linked to the territory, such as entrepreneurial initiatives related to active tourism, agrotourism and gastronomic tourism; business initiatives in natural settings of special interest such as Caminito del Rey and initiatives based on SOCIAL INNOVATION especially geared towards creating local employment for young people with fewer opportunities and disabilities.


In addition, we must highlight that for a few months, rural areas have become an area of innovation that has accelerated with the pandemic and the crisis we are experiencing, accelerating a global trend regarding the relationship with rural areas, in that the population is beginning to be aware of the need to reorganize the peripheral and rural areas, since we cannot depend on large cities, in this case Malaga or the coast, whose economy is based solely on tourism and big companies. The new challenges are leading us to connect with our roots, the need to be more independent leads us to be closer to the territory, to small businesses and to a more local and sustainable economy, in addition to thinking about developing a sense of community and mutual aid, including first of all people with fewer opportunities or at risk of social exclusion.