The Euracademy 4th Summer Academy of 2005
The setting of the 4th Summer Academy was a modern Agricultural University campus, located in Ilmajoki, Western Finland, which covers large, beautiful areas in the region of South Ostrobothnia with a landscape dominated by “the sea of fields and barns”. The official history of the Municipality starts on the 16th century and nowdays the Music Festival held annually in Ilmajoki is a well known event, highly appreciated by the Academy’s participants in their farewell picnic night out!
50 people from 12 different European countries kept up the spirit of Euracademy by taking part in a training and networking exercise. Amongst them 30 mid-career professionals and 20 staff taught, learned, exchanged experience, debated and did project work for 9 days, focused on the subject of “Social Capital and Sustainable Rural Development”.
The students came from a variety of professions –planners, project coordinators, managers, university staff, farmers, rural animators and others. Their average age was around 40, and most of them were women. Click List of participants to find out who was there.
Before they arrived in Ilmajoki, the students received:
- A Participant’s handbook, which introduced them to the programme of the 4th Summer Academy and to the highly participative approach to the training. In it they were also asked to write their own case studies and bring them along and present them during the third day of the Academy to the other participants.
- A Thematic Guide to “Social Capital and Sustainable Rural Development”. A second edition of this, revised and enriched in the light of the Summer Academy will shortly be ready for publication and uploaded in the platform of the 4th distance learning course to be offered soon.
The six chapters of the Guide and six thematic workshops guided the structure of the theoretical part of the Academy, spanning its first three days and the final two days. Powerpoint summaries of the lectures presented during this part appear under presentations. Lectures and workshops were followed by small group discussions, creative games of simulation, project work and sum-up plenary sessions. The participants also spent half of the third day on a tour in Seinajoki’s famous Aalto centre and had a beautiful reception by local officials in the manor house, socialising and creating the right atmosphere for networking.
After this largely indoor phase, the Academy split up in 4 groups, who took off for a two-day study tour, each group going to a different location in the South Ostrobothnia Region from the west coast to the hinterland. The groups stayed overnight in picturesque farm houses, met the local people, and made formal visits and interviews to a number of Local Action Groups, schools, SMEs and NGOs, or individuals keen to sustain and promote the social capital of their areas. All groups met in the “giant horseshoe” shopping mall, built amidst the wilderness of forest land and lakes. Each group prepared a written report and a live presentation, that was given to the Academy with humour and emotion the day following their return.
The final two days of the Summer Academy included a conclusions panel discussion about the connection between social capital and sustainable rural development; networking sessions for the participants to take further the contacts they had made in the Academy to plan joint activities for the future; the 2nd General Assembly of the Association; and a formal evaluation session of the Summer Academy conducted through an electronic questionnaire.