Social learning in transnational projects – lessons from European territorial cooperation projects


  • Joern Harfst
  • David Osebik



Regional Development, Old Industrial Regions, Regeneration, Strategy Development, Regional Learning


Old industrial regions in Europe have undergone radical changes in the last decades. After downsizing or closure of predominant industries such regions usually face big challenges concerning their economic, social and ecological futures. One chance to master this transformation process is the identification and sustainable utilisation of potentials left by industrial production. Utilisation of regional potentials, commonly categorized as natural and cultural potentials, was the aim of two transnational cooperation projects ReSource and SHIFT-X, which were both funded by European Union’s Development Fund (ERDF, INTERREG IVB).

The paper shows how the involvement of research partners in the projects supported and facilitated joint learning effects and knowledge transfer between all project partners. It is argued that on the one hand such an approach offers important mutual benefits for partners, while on the other hand the realisation of such benefits remains a challenging task in a transnational collaboration. In declining industrial regions, especially when characterised by small- and medium-sized towns, the capacities to act are scarce and any outside intervention is often seen more as an unwanted factor that additionally stretches resources and provides little advantages for such regions. Therefore one of the main aims in transnational collaboration has to be the establishment of a trustful and committed working relation between all partners. The engagement in the projects has shown that the joint work between regional actors and the external academic partners can create important transnational learning effects for all involved; nevertheless it has to overcome certain reservations on all sides before innovative ways can be pursued successfully.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Joern Harfst

Karl-Franzens-University Graz
Institute of Geography and Regional Science

Joern Harfst is a research associate at the Karl-Franzens University Graz since 2012. He is mainly engaged in manageing European research and cooperation projects. His main research interests are urban and regional development aspects, as well as governance issues in old-industrialised regions.

David Osebik

Karl-Franzens University Graz
Institute of Geography and Regional Science

David Osebik is a part-time lecturer at the Karl-Franzens University and works in the National Park Gesäuse (AUT) as a transnational project manager.


Cooke, P. (1995). Rise Of The Rustbelt: Revitalizing Older Industrial Regions (1st ed.). Routledge.

Eckart, K. (Ed.). (2003). Social, economic and cultural aspects in the dynamic changing process of old industrial regions. Ruhr District (Germany), Upper Silesia (Poland), Ostrava Region (Czech Republic). Münster: LIT.

Greenwood, D. J., & Levin, M. (2007). Introduction to Action Research: Social Research for Social Change. SAGE Publications.

Harfst, J., Fischer, W., & Wirth, P. (2012). Reflection on Strategic Options for Post-Mining Development. In Post-Mining Regions in Central Europe (p. 242ff). München: OEKOM.

Harfst, J., & Marot, N. (2013). Capacity-Building in Old Industrialised Regions: A Success Factor in Regional Development? In Capacity Building and Development: Perspectives, Opportunities and Challenges (pp. 117–134). Nova Publishers.

Harfst, J., Wirth, P., & Lintz, G. (2009). Scientific Concept of the ReSource Project - “Roadmap.” Leibniz Institute of Ecological and Regional Development (IOER). Retrieved from

Harfst, J., Wirth, P., & Lintz, G. (2012). Governing Post-Mining Potentials: The Role of regional Capacities. In Post-Mining Regions in Central Europe (pp. 168–181). München: OEKOM.

Marot, N., & Harfst, J. (2012). Post-mining potentials and redevelopment of former mining regions in Central Europe – Case studies from Germany and Slovenia. Acta Geographica Slovenica, 99–119. doi:10.3986/AGS52104

Osebik, D., & Harfst, J. (2011). The ReSource Project. Turning Problems into Potentials. In A. Barton & J. Dlouhá (Eds.), Multi-Actor Learning for Sustainable Regional Development in Europe. A Handbook of Best Practice (pp. 183–199).



25. 04. 2015

How to Cite

Harfst, J., & Osebik, D. (2015). Social learning in transnational projects – lessons from European territorial cooperation projects. Envigogika, 10(1).