As we point out in SARURE project, rural, sparsely populated areas need to maintain their basic services to stay alive and populated in future. In Finland these basic services contain essentially shops and markets offering food and daily consumption goods. This was pointed out also in the beginning of year 2019 in survey conducted in South Karelia area as part of project. 

When talking about the importance of rural retail, we, at least here in Finland, tend often to think that the responsibility is fully on SME’s and entrepreneurs shoulders. This is the model that is familiar to us, but does not work well anymore: new models of cooperation in service delivery and maintaining the services are needed in these challenging areas. In rural areas we need more border crossing cooperation between entrepreneurs, municipalities and other public bodies as well as local associations. Better results can be achieved when combining recourses to produce services in small municipalities and villages. The idea gets support from the examples we have studied in SARURE project from other participating countries and areas. 

As a result of this valuable lesson learned, we are preparing a pilot to create and test so called “multiproducer” –model in rural retail services in South Karelia area in 2020. Pilot is going to be executed as a short project. 

With this pilot, we hope to create a new, permanent operating model in South Karelia to support the rural SME’s not only to survive but flourish in future. 

Eini Arponen  (SARURE Project Coordinator in Regional Council of South Karelia).