Research project

Why Rural Towns?

Several rural regions and communities in Europe and Japan (as in other parts of the world) are now dealing with global crises or have to prepare to face them. These crises include global pandemics, political threats, refugee-related migration, economy-related rural depopulation, and environment-related climate change. To face them, communities in rural regions urgently require strategies to tackle those challenges. Resilience strategies are scattered and often based only on tangible and visible symptoms and indicators, whereby a lot of intangible yet crucial aspects are neglected. Also, those strategies tend to deal based on “one threat at a time”. Different organizations have provided resilient tools to deal with specific catastrophes or some specific dimensions (environment, socio-economic development, infrastructure, etc.). However, the few instruments allow looking at the vulnerability and vitality of rural communities holistically. Finally, when it comes to community resilience, many would not disagree with the statement that a significant focus has been put in recent years on larger cities and agglomeration. Without being ignored, rural communities still deserve some more attention while knowing that rural challenges are quite diverse from one region to another. For instance, rural communities in Japan sometimes seem different from those in Germany, and rural towns in Spain often deal with different priorities than those in Poland. Those differences are sometimes even significant between rural communities of the same region.

Why 3V?

Vitality, Vulnerability and Versatility. What makes a rural community vulnerable? What makes it full of vitality and ready to bounce back while meeting setbacks? How versatile should a community be to be resilient? The 3VRUT project wants to gather both the signs of vitality and vulnerability of rural communities while looking at the versatility of their resources to deal with the global crises affecting them.

Why Remote Sensing?

Besides the traditional ways to observe the transformation of rural communities (as for field observation, socio-economic data collection, and feedback from community actors), remote sensing allows capturing some new information. Their use by public authorities and scientists has become more important over recent years. The technology has also developed, and discussion about the relevance of remote sensing data aims at providing some directions in detecting land issues. Of course, data gathered from remote sensing have its limits. Nevertheless, one may open a dialogue about these limitations and the new opportunities offered by remote sensing to grasp the challenges of rural communities better.

Main outcomes

  • An integrated conceptualisation, methodology, and set of indicators to verify and validate the degree of vitality, vulnerability and versatility (3Vs) of rural towns using remote sensing, socio-economic data, telecommunication and mobile data, ground interviews and ethnography.

  • A digital report for the local governments (in the local language) that integrates the 3Vs in the diagnosis of the selected rural towns, for them to make the necessary action plans to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

  • A series of statements about the vitality and vulnerability conditions of rural communities through the Publication publication of results in three leading journals and international conferences.

  • A policy brief for discussions at the United Nations SDG Forum.

  • A start-up of transnational collaboration on land management and geospatial sciences.


The consortium members/researchers have conducted a series of research activities and tasks since the beginning of the project. Most of these tasks are related to the first step of the project, i.e. to the data gathering and indicator selection. Research activities conducted during that period (April 2021- May 2022) can be divided into three (3) stages:

● the pre-methodological stage

● the 3vrut indicators selection process stage (7 steps)

● the fieldwork preparing stage

See more details on the methodology


During that period (from April to mid-June 2021), the 3VRUT partners have engaged in preparing the conceptualisation framework to assess the vitality, vulnerability and versatility of the rural communities. Since the Consortium partners have signed their individual agreement with their national respective agencies on different dates, the project start point in time for each partner, i.e. In April 2021 for Japan, in May 2021 for Spain and in June 2021 for Germany and Poland. Nevertheless, the roles of each partner and collaboration scheme for the gathering and analysis of data were precise during this first stage. The Consortium worked also on the preparation of a first conference session meeting.

This first conference session took place on June 14th, 2021 within the framework of the Regional Studies Association (RSA), which organised the e-festival online conference about “Regions in Recovery: Building Sustainable Futures” between the 2nd and the 18th of June, 2021. The special session (SS18) organised by the 3VRUT Consortium under the title “Vitality, vulnerability and versatility of rural societies at the time of cyber and physical threats” offered the Consortium the first occasion to present the research project to a wider international scientific community interested in regional development but also for the members of the 3VRUT consortium to discuss:

● Some first potential conceptualisations of the notions of ‘vitality’, ‘vulnerability’ and ‘vitality’ as well as ‘rurality’ and ‘threats’;

● The prospective contribution of remote sensing to rural resilience assessment;

● Some characteristics of the rural communities (more specifically in Japan and Spain).


During the long second stage of the activities associated that took place between mid-June to the end of February 2022, the researchers have worked on the selection of relevant indicators to assess the rural vitality, vulnerability and versatility of rural communities. The selection process went through a long process of brainstorming, information gathering from existing sources and development of tools allowing to structure the selection of indicators and provide some guidance for the future gathering of the data set. With some perspective and following the work undertaken organically as the project developed, this second stage can be divided into seven steps. Each of these steps is articulated around a series of progressive steps and meetings that can act as turning milestones. In turn, each of these meetings and steps has contributed so far to progress in the selection of rural resilience indicators, but also to identifying new methodological challenges and to re-define the research agenda. The seven steps are the following:

● Step 1: 3VRUT Indicators – matrix design (14.06.2021 – 06.07.2021)

●Step 2: 3VRUT indicators – existing literature discussion (06.07.2021 – 29.07.2021)

● Step 3: First collection of potential indicators (29.07.2021 – 16.08.2021)

● Step 4: Harmonisation of indicators and nomenclature proposal (16.08.2021 – 24.09.2021)

● Step 5: Identification and prioritisation of relevant indicators (24.09.2021 – 21.12.2021)

● Step 6: Prioritisation of indicators and validation of data set measurements (21.01-2022 – 28.02.2022)

● Step 7: Finetuning of the 3VRUT RURAL RESILIENCE ASSESSMENT MATRIX (21.01-2022 – 28.02.2022).


During this third stage associated (March to late May 2022), the Consortium partners have worked in gathering

● Confirming the data gathering process for the eight (8) case studies by developing a process of data collection;

● Identifying and examining the methodological, epistemological and communication challenges related to the future development of the 3VRUT model, which should allow for assessing the vitality, vulnerability and rural communities;

● Sharing and discussing a first and preliminary portrait of the eight (8) case studies, namely the communities of:

o Shibushi and Tsukuba (Japan)

o Bayrisch Eisenstein and Obermichelbach-Tuchenbach (Germany)

o Połaniec and Bodzentyn (Poland)

o Alp and Les Planes d'Hostoles (Spain)

From the beginning of this third stage, the 3VRUT European partners (Germany, Poland, Spain) had the occasion to meet in Munich on the 28th of February and 1st of March 2022 (3VRUT Munich Workshop). A series of activity meetings and workshops were organised to:

● Proceed to a last finetuning of 3VRUT indicators definition

● Agree on the indicators and proxies features to be gathered and analysed through remote sensing

● Prepare a first template of the portrait of case studies to be presented at the RSA Conference (Regions in recovery II) (31.03.2022)

● Discuss the surveys and fieldwork preparation in further phases of the project

● Establish a Publication plan and strategy for the following months.

During this third stage, the Consortium has organised two conference sessions that took place within two international scientific events.

● A conference session was first organised within the framework of the Hiroshima International Conference on Peace and Sustainability 2022 (HIPCS 22) that took place between March 1-3, 2022 in Hiroshima. The 3VRUT Consortium organised for the occasion a Special Session (WE13) that took place on March 2nd and was entitled “Assessing vitality, vulnerability and versatility of rural towns: methodological overview and practical challenges”. Five (5) interventions from the four Consortium partners took place and allow for discussion challenges linked to the assessment of rural vulnerability and vitality factors, the development and the use of resilience models for rural communities. European partners and researchers of the Consortium attend virtually the conference from Munich, while members of RESTEC (Japanese partner) attend the session in situ in Hiroshima or online from Tokyo.

● Another conference session took place once more within the framework of the Regional Studies Association (RSA), which organised their second e-festival online conference under the title of “Regions in Recovery Second Edition 2022: Re-imagining Regions” between the 21st of March and April 1st of 2022. The double special session (SS17) organised by the 3VRUT consortium on the 31st of March under the title “Planning rural recovery and resilience-building capacity in small communities: Eight (incomplete) pictures from rural Germany, Japan, Poland and Spain” aimed to present a first picture of the eight (8) Consortium cases studies. It was the first time that all 3VRUT researchers had the chance to listen about the main features of the 8 selected rural communities, but also to highlight the similarities and contrast between them and discuss how they could affect (positively or negatively) their future steps of the project, notably the activities related to WP2 and WP3.

At this step, the 3VRUT consortium can undertake the next part of the project. While much data has to be collected from the eight 8 communities to inform the 3VRUT Assessment model, the researcher can already engage more concretely with the pilot case study (Japan) and work on the 3VRUT Model conception and calibrating.


* This section replicates some segments of the first-year report prepared by and for the consortium