Towards an integrated, action-oriented methodology for region-specific rural development

    Project Details


    Main research question/goal
    Safeguarding of open space is a concern in Flemish rural areas. Administrative, sectoral or planning delimitations are not sufficient in practice to protect open space. At the request of VLM, ILVO and UGent (Department of Public Governance, Management and Finance and Agricultural Economics Department) are looking for methodologies in the IMAGO research project that the various rural actors can use to design qualitative processes in open space. Key concepts are area-oriented, multisectoral, partnership, participation, co-creation, and research. In concrete terms, the aim is to arrive at a comprehensive set of practical tools through action research in two pilot areas where a development process takes place - one that reinforces and enriches the desired area-oriented processes.


    Research approach

    The name IMAGO stands for 'Integrated Methodology for Action-oriented Area Development'. The two pilot rural areas are landscape park Bulskampveld and the region of Mechelen. Through the action research in these areas we collect theoretical and practical knowledge and translate scientific insights into practical tools. We are developing IMAGO into a recipe book, a toolbox that inspires us to work in a defined area. Regional coordinators must be able to create literally and figuratively (open) space. We aim for five tools in total: an EXPLORE-tool (mapping the area and understanding dynamics), a PLAY-tool (interactive thinking about maintaining and strengthening the area), a DEBATE and EVALUATION tool (how to enter into a debate with a board - how to evaluate ongoing processes?) and a COMBINE tool (an instrument atlas with all current measures that may be related to open space policy).

    The area-based action research procesesses in the two pilot regions have now been completed. The toolbox is ready for general use, has been made publicly available at and widely publicized. The tools prove to be useful for generating new insights and dynamic discussions with a long-term added value, without imposing any pre-made solutions. Regional coordinators can get started with the IMAGO toolbox. A manual for each tool is available. In addition, the IMAGO project produced twelve exemplary "stories from open space": through storytelling (anecdotes, testimonies, quotes, etc.) a number of process experiences and possible realistic problems and opportunities were made more concrete. ILVO is likely to supervise new processes in other areas with the IMAGO toolbox.
    Effective start/end date10/11/149/11/16
    • PECSRL 2016

      Els Belmans (Participant)


      Activity: Participating in or organising an eventOrganisation and participation in conference