Strengthening the Social Capital in Rural Areas Through the Rural Renewal Program. A Case Study of Opole Voivodeship
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Opinions regarding the limited resources of the social capital in Poland are quite common. The country is particularly often referred to as a place with a lower level of organization of its inhabitants. Therefore, a change is necessary towards a greater activation of local communities and creation of social organizations aimed at solving local problems. The effective implementation of development programs may provide considerable support for the introduction of these changes. The Rural Renewal Program may serve as a particularly good example in this respect because the local community is not only the beneficiary, but mainly the initiator of the actions taken.
The purpose of the paper is to present how Rural Renewal Program affects the activity and social bonds of rural areas inhabitants. Therefore, research was carried out in July and August 2017 among the leaders of Local Action Groups, i.e. the people most involved in the implementation of the Rural Renewal Program of Opole Voivodeship. Each leader is responsible for responsible for tasks implementation in his/her village within the program. The research sample covered 72 of more than 600 rural administrative units (601 units in 2015) participating in the Program, that is over 10% of their entire number. So the article is an attempt to determine the impact of the implementation of this program on the social capital of rural areas covered by the survey. It is worth emphasizing that the first regional rural renewal program was in fact initiated in Opole Voivodeship 20 years ago. Since that time, sufficient experience has been gained to draw conclusions regarding the benefits of the program, its successful aspects and the areas that need to be changed.
The results of the research have shown that there is a relatively high level of trust towards non-governmental organizations among the leaders of Local Action Groups. There is also concern for the weaker members of the community. On the one hand, the main constraints to their activity are the behavioral factors resulting from the attitude of the residents of their village (the lack of commitment) and the bureaucracy involved in funds raising. However, the very fact of respondents’ activity within the framework of the Rural Renewal Program should be positively assessed in the context of social capital building.
KeywordsSustainable development Social capital Rural areas Rural Renewal Program
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