On 15-17 May 2018 partners and local stakeholders of the project RUMORE came together in Milan to review the current status of project implementation and to exchange ideas and expertise. Hosted by Lombardy Region, the three-day Interregional Learning Event included a series of public sessions, a study visit and an internal project meeting.  

The Event kicked-off with a sequence of public presentations dedicated to the territorial context of Lombardy Region. Local representatives of the public authorities, universities and the EU funded projects INNOGROW, P-IRIS and Openagri gave an overview of diverse regional activities and good practices of urban-rural cooperation and innovation support. The contributions and discussions aimed at explaining key features of the rural-urban governance on the territory of Metropolitan Milan and at identifying synergies between running initiatives and approaches.  

Taking as his theme the obvious need for collaboration between levels and across sectors, Carlo Palazzoli, project coordinator of RUMORE in Lombardy Region, stressed the importance of the governance agreement Milan Rural Metropoly. Signed in 2015, the agreement is a new framework for institutionalized cooperation, which aims to reinforce local development in the Metropolitan Area of Milan. In the scope of the agreement, public administrations, Rural Districts (clusters of local enterprises) and irrigation authorities work together to stimulate projects and actions in the rural territories of Milan and to preserve their natural characteristics. 

An important part of the public event on 15th May was a block of presentations focused on different approaches for innovation support in Lombardy Region. The participants learnt about the High Technology Agrofood Cluster and the Open Innovation Platform of the Region. The partners and local stakeholders gained insights into the various tools and formats offered by these initiatives. Following the presentations, the participants discussed on how open innovation platforms and ideas could be applied in other regions and in how far cluster initiatives could succeed in involving rural territories and actors in innovation chains. The day ended with short inputs from the partner regions illustrating selected Good Practices for urban-rural partnerships such as the Transfer Center Elbe Weser in Lüneburg Region and the AgroDesign Cluster of Central Macedonia.

On 16th May, the project meeting continued with a study visit into the rural territories of the Metropolitan Area of Milan. The study visit was organized as a living lab with the aim to illustrate how urban-rural cooperation functions in practice and to provide insights into the concrete on-the-ground activities of the Rural Districts. The latter were launched in 2010 to stimulate a series of projects and actions that will support the local economy. Representatives of the three Districts “Olona Valley Rural District”, “Rice and Frogs Rural District” and “Neo-rural District” set out details of work being done on their territories to ensure preservation of the environment, promotion of regional production and support of local entrepreneurship. The visited projects illustrated that rural territories should be seen as a test-bed for more place-centered approaches, which are necessary and important for the local development.

In the last day of the meeting, representatives of the six partner regions discussed the current state of improvement of their policy instrument. They presented the progress and hitherto outcomes of each country’s Local Stakeholder Group and shared initial ideas for actions. The partners and stakeholders exchanged about the strengths and weaknesses of the local learning processes and identified ideas for mutual learning and cooperation. During the sessions, the participants enjoyed the inspiring atmosphere of contemplation and work at Chiaravalle Abbey.

The partner meeting ended with a visit at Cascina Campazzo, where “Milan Rural District”, the first rural cluster acknowledged by Lombardy Region in 2011, manages rural activities just in front of the urban border, inside the Municipality of Milan. Cascina Campazzo illustrates a last and complete example of how a rural entity still serves as an aggregation point for different citizen associations. It fulfills multiple functions and is supplier of local food – rice – to large-scale distribution and food service marketing for schools.