Sustainable and Creative Village Research Network - South West China

Project: Research

Project Details


The Sustainable and Creative Villages Research Network will address an emerging and important need in the village communities of China. These communities have until recently been left out of urban based development, with the consequence of depopulation as villagers move to cities. This has created age and gender based imbalances, as well as leaving many buildings in a poor state of repair. This situation has given rise to a loss of knowledge and skills in arts and crafts that would underpin local community sustainability.
The choice of locus in Southwest China arises because of: the remoteness of the region and of many villages; the relative lack of economic prosperity compared to eastern provinces on the Pacific Rim; and the underutilised wealth of cultural and ethnic diversity and scenic locations present there. These factors provide an inviting opportunity, not to say necessity, to develop and reinforce traditional skills, vernacular design, and creative arts and craft industries to support village based development.
The migration to cities in cities in China and their rapid development is already well-known and there have been numerous projects researching urban sustainability from economic, environmental and social perspectives. However even with the planned increasing urbanisation of the population, about 600 million people will continue to live in rural and village locations. It is towards the future prosperity and sustainable development of such places that this network will focus its efforts. In order to achieve this, the Network will be constructed to enable collaboration between China-based partners; with the influence of the UK Project Team being on facilitation, support and encouragement. A particular feature of the network will be the linkages between well-established academic and non-academic participants and those who are either relatively new participants or located more remotely (both organisational type and geographically) but who have key local and skills based understanding and experience to contribute.
The need to enhance rural and village development was first officially recognised in the 11th 5 Year Plan of the Peoples Republic of China published in 2005 and this was reinforced by elements of the 13th 5 Year Plan set out in 2015. It is clear from recent visits made by the UK Project Team in 2016 and 2017 that efforts are being made to speed up village redevelopment but with potential for unintended negative consequences. These arise because of lack of linkages and mutual understandings between top-down and bottom-up processes that have previously been reported. There is also an emerging risk with current methods of redevelopment which sees factory produced artefacts and unsuitable building techniques being used as substitutes for locally produced authentic products.
There are however some good examples of village redevelopment and also a wealth of knowledge existing in pockets of expertise; the urgent task is to understand how to disseminate information on exemplars and from experts, as well as how to research future optimisation. Operationally there are three key elements: firstly the establishment of the Network; secondly the holding of Network meetings and open workshop events in different locations; and thirdly the dissemination and circulation of information and outcomes through the second level of networking which each of the main collaborators will deliver as part of the project.
Direct outcomes will again come in three main ways: firstly the identification and prioritisation of research and development needs and the options for development; secondly the bidding for funds from academic and non-academic sources to help deal with the necessary research and development facilitated by the Network; and thirdly the publication of outputs.
The Network is expected to continue beyond the initial funding period so as to deal with rural/village needs over a 5-10 year period.
Effective start/end date1/01/181/01/20


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