Facilitating brain gain: Insights from the research secondment in Austria

Typical responses to the out-migration of young and well-skilled people from the countryside are initiatives that strive to prevent people from leaving their homes. The Austrian cooperative Otelo prefers another strategy. It creates open spaces and open technology labs in small towns and villages that provides established residents and newcomers a place for experimenting and for sharing and developing ideas. It creates “white spaces” in an environment that often lacks of public, undefined areas. The Otelo idea is to create inspiring environments that attract talented and open minded people of living in rural communities.

Facilitating brain gain rather than preventing brain drain is one of the insights that result from the RurInno research secondment taking place in September and October 2016. Ralph Richter and Jan Zwilling, two researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space (Germany) came to Upper Austria in order to investigate how Otelo develops, implements and communicates innovative solutions for the challenges rural communities are faced with. They accompany social entrepreneurs from Otelo in their daily activities, observe meetings, conduct interviews with residents and rural decision makers in the communities of Vorchdorf and Vöcklabruck and collect documents and strategy papers. Analysing the comprehensive material will be a task for the next months.