On June 13 the Norwegian partner in the GRASS CEILING project held their first Living Lab with rural women innovators. It was organized by Ruralis, a research organization and academic community focusing on interdisciplinary rural studies – and Oi! Trøndersk Mat og Drikke, a non-profit organization advocating for local food production and sustainability, and among many other events, organizing Norway’s biggest local food festival.
Seven of eight rural women innovators were able to participate in the Living Lab, which was held in the offices of Ruralis in Trondheim. The theme for the Trøndelag Living Lab is rural women innovators in local food production. The women have a variety of backgrounds and produce foods such as potatoes, dairy, eggs, meat, sweets and pastries, fish products, craft beer, and heirloom flour varieties. Many of the participants have aspirations for new and bigger projects. and the women are all active innovators and business owners, ranging from 36 to 79 years of age.
Many topics were discussed, such as really owning the label of innovator and the fact that they are contributing to local livelihoods and developments. Discussing the women’s many roles in their daily lives was also an exercise that brought a lot of awareness to how much they are doing and being in their communities. The topic of rural life and expectations vs urban life was discussed, and how rural life and expectations can yield opportunities but also has limitations, especially in social structures. The women talked about their motivations, and how these are often personal and for the betterment of their lives, their families and their communities, as well as for the local food industry. The importance of sustainability in food production was also discussed, as well as the potential of mutual collaboration regarding residual waste in their food production chain.
They also expressed interest in women’s communities and networks, and places where they can talk, exchange experiences, collaborate and learn from each other.
Towards the end of the day the Living Lab was visited by a stakeholder from Innovation Norway, a government-funded organization that helps innovators and companies by providing access to resources, capital and networks. The stakeholder presented their experiences working with rural women innovators in the food business. They also talked about how men and women behave differently when starting and growing businesses, and how men and women have different ways of seeking finance when they want to raise capital for their ventures.
The women said that they had enjoyed meeting each other and found it both interesting and inspiring to get to know other rural women innovators in their region.
The second Living Lab is set to take place on September 21, again in Ruralis’ offices in Trondheim.