The first meeting of the Swedish Living Lab took place on May 3rd, at the Administrative Board of Jonkoping. The meeting was hosted by the Nina Elmsjö, Head of the Division of Rural development, at the County Administrative Board. The Lab’s co-leads Siv Lindén, Hela Sverige ska leva, and Dr Katarina Pettersson, SLU, welcomed seven, of eight, participants to the event. The women pursue various rural and farm businesses, at various stages of innovation. The women have different backgrounds and their entrepreneurial endeavors include a forest garden; a boarding house for retired milk cows; a farm café and vegetarian protein production; farm shops; natural pasture meet production; locally produced pork; and organic milk production; horse activities – and an on-farm dairy producing cheese.
Nina Elmsjö, extended a warm invitation to the women, and stressed their importance for the viable development of the county of Jönköping, and she described the County Administrative Board’s work, including available support for farmers and rural entrepreneurs. During the event a series of discussions and exercises were performed – with the overarching aim of creating a shared understanding of the GRASS CEILING project, the living lab participatory methodology and getting to know each other. The participants and co-leads also initiated discussions on gender equality, innovation, sustainability and rural development, which enabled them to exchange experiences and reflections. The participants’ all shared a strong commitment for contributing to sustainable rural development – and the importance of women’s entrepreneurship for such a development.
During an exercise called ‘The headlines’ the women were encouraged to make visions for the future – imagining what they and the Lab will have achieved during the course of the GRASS CEILING project, and beyond. Thoughts on the Lab’s achievements comprised it having contributed to the creation conditions for thriving rural areas – including well-functioning social and child care service – more rural women pursuing rural businesses and a larger degree of self-sufficiency in food production. The next meeting is scheduled for September, to be held at the farm café, owned by one of the participants. The focus will be on sharing more in-depth experiences of the respective woman’s business development, including reflections on conditions and difficulties for development.