The Village of the Year Competition Constructing an Ideal Model of a Rural Community in Finland

Rural Sociology

The Village Action Association of Finland (SYTY) organizes the Village of the Year competition annually to award active rural communities. The competition has taken place since 1985, but after the village action movement was integrated into Finnish rural policy networks in the 1990s, it also became a part of rural policy instruments. The competition can be considered a governing technique that constructs norms and an ideal model for rural communities to pursue. In this article, I study the representation of an ideal rural community by analysing the criteria of the competition. I also look for changes to see whether the integration of the village action movement into rural policy is reflected in the norms and representations of ideal rural communities. The results show that an ideal rural community consists of five characteristics: strategic planning, development projects, responsibility for local welfare, cherishing cultural heritage, and village spirit. They also reveal that the requirements for active villages have expanded, which reflects the increasing responsibility of communities for service provision and local development in rural areas.

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