New forms of cooperation and finance models to maintain public services in rural areas / KoFiLändlicherRaum

New Collaborations and Funding Models for Securing Services of General Interest in Small Cities and Communities in Rural Areas

Starting Point

The demographic change is leading on the one hand to significant changes in the range of services in many rural areas.  On the other hand the demand for services of general interest is also changing. Consequently, it becomes more and more difficult to finance viable facilities of infrastructure in regions of low population density, particularly since there is great pressure on budgets of public administrations in shrinking regions.

In regions of outbound migration and severe ageing of population the demand is also changing. The differing ageing structure is, for example, reducing the demand for schools and is increasing the need for nursing facilities of the elderly.

Against this background it is especially complicated to ensure the sustainability of many of the public and private facilities of infrastructure in small cities and communities in rural areas. This leads to either diminish the efficiency, the accessibility or the quality.  Of course, this is hardly to accept considering at the same time the aim of creating equal living conditions, which is ensured in the basic law of Germany.

Nonetheless, there are several new opportunities in rural areas. Many communities have already overcome pork barrel politics by forming collaborations. Newly developed financing and operating structures might help to build up services of general interest to confront challenges and satisfy needs in rural areas. 


This study has the following aims:

  1. To capture systematically cooperative approaches and alternative funding and finance models within the field of social and cultural infrastructure,
  2. in order to analyse these approaches and models further in their regional context and to identify their success factor(s) (case studies) and
  3. in order to derive from them recommendations and conclusions for how to secure services of general interest in small cities and communities.


Based on the aims there are three central project steps: 

Systematic Inventory

As a basis for the inventory there will be a designed survey grid that includes different criteria with respect to the spatial context, the infrastructure, the cooperative approaches and the funding models. With the help of the survey grid we will be able to systematically analyse initiatives, model projects, competitions, project data bases and internet platforms on state and federal level. The identified new collaborations and alternative funding models will be entered into a data base and then categorized according to the defined survey grid.
The aim of the systemic inventory is a comprehensive overview of all existing cooperative approaches and alternative funding models in the field of social and cultural infrastructure in small cities and communities in rural areas. 

Case Studies and Expert Interviews

Building on the results of the inventory 15 case studies will be chosen for an in-depth analysis. In this context the method of innovation biographies will play a central role. It is used for the purpose of analysing the flow of knowledge and networks that have significantly contributed to the innovation process. This methodology helps to understand which constellations caused new types of public services of general interest and in what kind of spaces they emerged.

Another emphasis is put on the investigation of the applied funding and financing models conducted by guided interviews and a document analysis.  The focus is on the type and source of financing, issues of sustainability and beneficial requirements and conditions as well as legitimate regulations.  
The case studies will be complemented by interviews with experts according to the different funding models. 

Transferability of the Results

The results of the case studies and the expert interviews will be assessed and examined concerning transferability. From the obtained results recommendations will be derived. Before processing these recommendations in a practical manner for a final publication, selected experts will give their opinion.  

Key Research Questions

The project will address the following research questions (selection):

 Which cooperative approaches have already been implemented successfully?

  1. Which alternative funding models and types of organization are there in the field of social and cultural infrastructure with respect to services of general interest? What is an adequate way to categorize / characterize them?
  2. How can also small municipalities find new solutions for cooperation between the public sector, the regional economy and the local population?
  3. Where does the potential for financing/ funding lie and how can this be activated?
  4. How can beneficial conditions be defined so that cooperative approaches and alternative funding models work successfully?
  5. How can municipalities contribute?
  6. What role do partners play?
  7. What obstacles are there and how can they be overcome? Are there any risks associated with alternative funding models?
  8. How accepted are these new funding models and cooperative approaches within the population?

What kind of legal regulations hamper new cooperative approaches and alternative funding models in the field of social and cultural infrastructure?


The project is conducted in cooperation with Sprint Consult (project coordination) and Quaestio Forschung & Beratung (subcontractor) and supported by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) and the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR).