Sunday, 23 January, 2022

Grow through Activating Local Potential


6. Wang

Volunteers at the popular Vinerock Music Festival in Wang. Photo: Anne Marte Fiore / Vinerock

Main challenges: Depopulation
Main objectives: Preservation and population growth. Increasing the number of attractive jobs for educated and younger adults. Maintaining and developing good public services and a good range of activities for people of different ages.
Local resources: Nature and culture, human resources
Main explanations for the success: Use of the local community. Desire and commitment on the part of local young people who want to contribute and be creative, supported by the citizens of the municipality and politicians. Originality, authenticity and responsible marketing

6.1 Local context and challenges

Figure 10 Coat of arms and location

Wang is a municipality with nearly 1600 inhabitants, located in the district of Inlandet. 250 km from Oslo and Bergen and a little further from Trondheim, Vang is located in the center of southern Norway. The village of Wang is the municipal center and most residents of the municipality of Wang live there and in several small villages along Lake Wangsmöse and the river Begna (Storone).

The main challenge in Wang was depopulation in the 90s and early 2000s. The population has remained stable over the last decade.

In Wang, nature has been used for hundreds of years, mainly as a food source, but lately also for tourism and experiences. What characterizes Wang today is a positive development in the number of jobs created, especially in sectors related to tourism (activity and experiences, sales and trade, accommodation and catering), construction, traditional crafts, cultural and creative sectors. In Wang and the surrounding municipalities there are a huge number of houses and holiday homes, several mountain hotels and other tourist facilities. In addition, there is growth in technology companies. Figure 11 shows the demographic development and the development of the number of jobs in Wang after 2000.

Agriculture has been and remains an important industry, with many small farms mainly producing grass as fodder for domestic animals. In the eastern part of the municipality there is also industry, as well as four hydroelectric power plants.

Figure 11: Demographic and job development in Wang, 2000-2019

Number of jobs Population

6.2 Activation of local potential - who and what

6.2.1 The role of the municipality

The municipal master plan is the document in which the politicians define their long-term goals for the development of the local community, as well as the guidelines for the work of the municipality to achieve these goals. The Wang Municipal Master Plan emphasizes the following goals.

  • Population: strengthening efforts to reverse the depopulation trend
  • Activities: contribution to a variety of cultural and outdoor activities for the population
  • Municipal services: maintenance and development of good municipal services with a focus on proximity to users
  • Housing: work to expand housing opportunities for people of all ages and with different needs, including ready-to-build plots in different parts of the municipality
  • Business: prioritizing the future development of tourism while preserving local history and culture, cultural landscapes, building traditions, atmosphere and environment, promoting cooperation between agriculture and tourism, increasing the supply of jobs for educated people
  • Cooperation: positive attitude towards cooperation with other municipalities and regions

What characterizes the development work in Wang is the clear division of tasks and responsibilities between the municipality and other local development actors. Local politicians have decided that the municipality should above all be responsible for providing good public services for people of all ages, including high-quality kindergartens and schools, health and social services. Kindergartens and schools are especially important in attracting younger adults who want to start a family and find a job. The municipality also tries to support initiatives and activities that appeal to children and young people, such as cultural experiences and experiences in nature, places for social communication.

As far as business development is concerned, Wang Municipality has business grants and a business development fund to support the growth of enterprises and entrepreneurs. It also provides investment support for those wishing to invest in agriculture. It has also outsourced much of its development work, generally to a local private development corporation. This issue will be discussed in more detail in the next section.

6.2.2 'Innovation'

'Innovasjon' is the name of the local development corporation (the name is a play on words related to 'innovasjon' - Norwegian innovation, and Wang). Innovation was created in 2011 when enthusiasts behind the local Vinerock music festival wanted to define their future. The local development bank and the Vinerock festival joined as owners, and Wang's municipal council backed the initiative by funding two full-time jobs that same year.

In 2015, they started a process of creating a common vision for their work, in which the entire municipality took part. They came up with the slogan "Wang builds Wang", which emphasizes that everyone in the community - from municipal government to businesses, NGOs and citizens - has a shared responsibility to make Wang a good place to live and work. In addition, they identified four main priority areas for their work: 1) business development, 2) housing opportunities, 3) places to socialize and activities, and 4) raising awareness of local opportunities and qualities beyond Wang.

The municipality approved the vision and priority areas of Innovangsion and both sides agreed that children and young adults will always have priority in development work. In other words, Innovangsion and the municipality have a common program. Beyond that, however, the municipality is very careful not to interfere in the way Inovangsson does his job.

Our informants point out the advantages of having a private development company, as it is not subject to the same bureaucracy that the municipal administration would face, such as rules and regulations and hierarchical decision-making processes. If Innovation wants to start a project she believes in, she can do it effectively.

Our informants also emphasize two other things that are important for Innovations: 1) the trust of the municipality and the public and 2) the formation of a culture in which there is nothing wrong with failing. The company tries to work on the basis of experience, through trial and error processes. Our informants share that the company realizes that the future is part of all development processes and it is important to evaluate all projects and initiatives, to learn from mistakes and to transfer the lessons learned from one project to the next. Inovangsson also seeks to share his experience, noting that transparency and sharing (also of things that have gone wrong) can build trust.

As this report shows, Wang is not the only municipality that takes primary responsibility for providing quality public services, while many development tasks are taken over by individual companies. However, it is interesting to note how many of our informants in Wang emphasize the importance of understanding the role of the other and building mutual trust.

Social gatherings and meeting places

As already mentioned, meeting and activity venues are one of the four main goals of Innovangsion. Places where people of all ages can meet are a factor that our informants emphasize when it comes to retaining and attracting new residents. Meeting places are especially important for newcomers because they make it easier for them to integrate into the local community, connect with people and create networks.

Innovangsion, together with other local participants in the municipality, organizes regular social gatherings where people of all ages meet and have a good time. Local food and drinks are often served, each gathering is usually thematic, such as discussing local issues, quizzes, dancing or concerts. . In addition, it is "mandatory" for Wang's new residents to represent themselves and their interests at these gatherings. All this is part of the vision of "Wang builds Wang".

"Fun on Friday" is one of the regular social gatherings of Inovangsson. People of all ages gather to eat, get to know each other and have a good time. Photo: Ida Stromstad / Inovangsson

I prefer a farm

A few years ago, Innovangsion conducted a survey among people considering moving to Wang and other places in the same region about what kind of housing they want. The survey showed that many of them want to settle on a farm or farm, but that it is difficult to get one. Small farms were the most sought after word in Norway's leading online housing market. At the same time, it was known that many farms in the municipality were not occupied. In this context, the project was created "I prefer a farm" (Huga på gard in Norwegian), which aims to increase the turnover of farms that are not used.

The project is a collaboration between the development company Innovation and the neighboring municipalities of Wang and Vestre Slidre. It is funded by rural development funds from the district governor of both municipalities, and politicians and representatives of agricultural services and local branches of the farmers' organization in both municipalities lead the project. "I prefer a farm" has a special project manager whose job is to find potential sellers and buyers of unoccupied farms, to promote local market opportunities for farms and small farms and to understand the laws, regulations, policies and processes related to the sale of farms. The farmers' organization also offers a mentoring scheme for those who decide to buy and run a farm.

Lights and activity on a small farm in Wang. Photo: Innovangsjon.no

The project was a great success. Sales of farms and small farms have increased, and many young people who want to farm have been given the opportunity to do so. The work on highlighting and marketing local opportunities and the good cooperation between farmers' organizations and local participants are highlighted as the formula for the success of the project.

6.2.3 Flexible office space 1724 and the Big Leap

Photo: www.1724.no

Following the success of Vinerok, several local entrepreneurs saw the potential for investment in industries that are not typical of rural settlements in Norway, also realizing that together they will be stronger. They joined forces with a desire to cooperate and create interaction and created their own flexible office space. They contacted the municipality, which owned an old nursing home in Wang that was no longer in use, and received a lease agreement for the flexible office space. The local development bank provided a bank loan, and a local designer took on the task of creating "the coolest office environment" in Norway.

In 2013 the first tenants moved in, and today 1724 is full of companies and entrepreneurs from the creative and technological sector.

In addition, 1724 offers people who want to start their own business free offices for a limited time, and through Innovation - access to competencies, such as how to fill out the necessary applications, in matters of marketing, accounting and other things that are important when you move from a good idea to running a business.

Through a project with a title The Great Leap Forward local participants from Wang (Innovangsion, among others) are working with the neighboring municipality to create additional growth in the creative sectors by developing clusters and networks. These networks function as forums where entrepreneurs from these sectors meet, collaborate and lay the foundations for a stronger business community and enhanced value creation and growth. It will always be difficult to determine the importance of development projects like this, but it is a fact that in recent years there have been 14-15 new start-ups in the creative sector in Wang and the neighboring municipality.

6.2.4 Vinerok - a spectacular and sustainable music festival

The main strategy for generating growth and development in Wang is the combination of local natural and cultural resources. A great example is the Vinerock Music Festival, which has become perhaps Norway's most popular and spectacular music festival since it was first held in 2006. Vinerock is organized in Wang, 1060 meters above sea level in the Jotunheimen National Park area. . In recent years, 3000 festival tickets have sold out in seconds.

Photo: Lars Hemsing / Vinerock

The head of the music department of P3 (national radio program for popular music) attributes Vinerok's success to the spectacular setting in the Norwegian mountains, which makes him stand out from every other festival in Norway. He also emphasizes the hospitality of the festival team, which creates a strong sense of community among festival goers, which makes them return year after year.

The festival's CEO attributes the festival's success to his local team and volunteers. Wang's entire community contributes to the festival. Along with music, the festival is also a forum for local cuisine, tourism, outdoor experiences and activities in the mountains. In addition, the festival cooperates with Wang Municipality on the integration of refugees. Our informants emphasize that Vinerok, which attracts attention at the national level, is of great importance for the promotion of Wang's local qualities such as local food, nature and the creative sector.

Although tickets for the festival sell out every year, the management has no plans to expand it, unlike the ambitions of most other festivals in Norway. The reason is in sustainability and in the understanding that they have to protect the nature and the surroundings they use and in which they exist. This limits the capacity of the festival, even though it lasts only a few days a year.

Sustainable development is one of the biggest consumer trends nowadays. People want to do things that are good for the environment and the climate, and people in Norway increasingly prefer to spend their money on those companies that offer sustainable services and experiences, rather than others that do not. There is no doubt that the festival benefits from this trend and uses sustainability and proximity to nature as pillars for its marketing and for building a positive reputation.

6.3 Results

  • After years of depopulation, today the population remains stable.
  • Since the establishment of Innovangsion, about 100 people with higher education have moved to Wang - more than in any other rural municipality.
  • The business is doing better and more diverse than ever, there are technology companies, a growing construction industry and a rich cultural life.
  • The desire and commitment of the local youth, who want to contribute and be creative, supported by the citizens of the municipality and the politicians, created a general stimulus and optimism among the people in Wang.

6.4 Plans for future development

Our informants point out two policy areas that will be given higher priority in the coming years by the newly elected municipal council.

  • Sustainable Development by ensuring that the growth in tourism and the construction of houses does not take away from the natural resources in the municipality and the surrounding area.
  • Increasing the capacity of the municipal planning service and more efficient local planning processes. Until recently, the local and regional construction sector did not show much interest in developing housing projects. At the same time, in the part for land use of the municipal development plan there is almost no regulation of residential areas. This has led to a shortage of accommodation in all parts of the municipality. Today, private entrepreneurs are ready to drive shovels into the ground, but are halted by slow municipal processes when it comes to land use plans, zoning plan proposals and building permits.