News, Events and Research Output from ITN RegPol²
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Welcome to the fifth newsletter of the ITN RegPol² project!

“ITN RegPol² – Socio-economic and political responses to regional polarisation in Central and Eastern Europe”

Summer semester is closing, and our fellows will take a short study leave, but this does not mean that the summer will be just a time of rest. We are looking forward to many interesting events in which our fellows can participate. Even during the spring, they all were very active, which you can find out below, often taking long journeys to various meetings, events and conferences.

We would like to thank all our fellows very much for providing their notes, pictures and giving us more information about their activities.

Have a nice summer and enjoy your holidays!
News & Activities of our Fellows

RegPol² ESR Workshop
Report from Aura Moldovan

From 8-10 June, several ESRs attended a RegPol² ESR Workshop, at Tihany on Hungary's Lake Balaton, to discuss their ongoing field research. They shared their progress and also the challenges they are encountering during the empirical phase of their projects.

Seeing that there would be almost a one year gap between the 2nd and the 3rd RegPol² School, the ESRs were happy when given the chance to organize themselves a network-wide event in Spring 2016. The resulting three day workshop focused on sharing fieldwork experience and identifying common, cross-cutting topics for future collaborations and publications.

The ESRs met for the event after their first empirical experiences in the field - conducting interviews, observations and analyzing data. They presented their methodological outlines, how their methods fit into their theoretical frameworks, and their first empirical results. By the end of the workshop, the fellows learned more about each other's projects and about potential points of intersection, both within and outside the three Work Packages. Given the open format of the event, the workshop provided space for discussions, so the ESRs could identify common issues and frustrations, and exchange tips and tricks on applying various methods and software.

Based on the informally collected feedback, the event was a success, as upcoming proofs of progress will surely illustrate.

RegPol² ESR Workshop near the Balaton Lake.

Leibniz in the Bundestag - Science meets Politics

Martin Graffenberger together with his colleague Lukas Vonnahme from Leibniz-Institute for Regional Geography participated in the initiative of the Leibniz Association ‘Leibniz im Bundestag’ on 1 June 2016. The initiative provides a platform for Leibniz researchers to meet and discuss with Members of the German Parliament. In Berlin, Martin and Lukas met one Member of Parliament to briefly present our research projects and to engage in a more general discussion on issues and prospects of regional development in ‘peripheral’ regions.

More information about this initiative can be found here.

LEADER Information Days in Jäneda, Estonia
Report from Bianka Plüschke-Altof

On 15-16 June, Geomedia consultant Rivo Noorkõiv and RegPol2 fellow Bianka Plüschke-Altof were invited to present their current research projects to representatives of the Estonian Ministry of Rural Affairs, the Estonian Agricultural Registers and Information Board (PRIA) as well as to the members of local Estonian LEADER groups at the LEADER Information Days in Jäneda (Lääne-Virumaa), Estonia, organized by the Estonian Rural Economy Research Centre.

Focusing on the impact of peripheral images on regional development opportunities (“Kohakuvandi mõju regionaalarengule”), Bianka Plüschke-Altof discussed the Estonian media discourse on places labelled as peripheries. Based on a critical discourse analysis, she showed how rural areas are constructed as peripheries, by whom and with what consequences. Rivo Noorkõiv’s presentation on community empowerment (“Kogukonna jõustamine”) analyzed the role of village elders, rural development initiatives and community centers. Introducing the results of statistical analysis and mapping, it conveyed the unequal distribution of rural engagement and discussed the possible reasons and solutions. The presentations were followed by a lively discussion on the opportunities and challenges of rural life enhancement in current Estonian society.

More information about the event can be found here.

Bianka Plüschke-Altof and Rivo Noorkõiv during their presentation.


As you already know, largely during the empirical phases of their projects, researchers are seconded to non-academic or academic institutes to find other sources, conduct fieldwork and obtain further knowledge and experience needed for their work. Secondments are also a good opportunity to meet new people and new ways of work, and to learn about life in other European countries.

Currently the following ESRs are doing or finishing their secondments:
  • Sebastian Schultz – Leibniz-Institute for Regional Geography, Germany (02 – 06/2016)
  • Melinda Mihály – Verband Deutscher Gründungsinitiativen (National Association of German Start-Up Support Initiatives), Germany (05 – 06/2016)
  • Zsuzsanna Pósfai – Leibniz-Institute for Regional Geography, Germany (04 – 07/2016)
  • Aura Moldovan – CERSHAS, Hungary (05 – 07/2016)
  • Martin Špaček – Leibniz-Institute for Regional Geography, Germany (05 – 08/2016)

Public Lectures

During the secondments, the fellows present their projects to the public at their host organizations. Further public lectures were given by Martin Graffenberger, Bradley Loewen, Aura Moldovan and Sorin Cebotari.

Martin Graffenberger presented his Estonian case and fieldwork results from his secondments to Tartu University and Geomedia. His presentation was titled ‘Exploring peripheralisation and business practices in Estonia’. A fieldwork report and some first indications aimed to provide an overview on his fieldwork activities, but also to discuss some of the first indications emerging from the data with local researchers and representatives of Geomedia.

Martin presenting at a public lecture at Tartu University.

Bradley Loewen presented his conceptual framework and results of the Estonian fieldwork to faculty as well as master and PhD students of economics of Tartu University. He also discussed his current paper on decentralization and the implications of the municipal amalgamations process on regional inequalities in Estonia.

Bradley presenting at a public lecture at Tartu University.

Public lectures, presenting themes of individual projects, were given by Aura Moldovan and Sorin Cebotari in CERS-HAS, Békéscsaba, Hungary.

Sorin and Aura presenting at a public lecture at CERSHAS.
Conferences & Events

During the spring of 2016 our fellows attended or participated in the following events:

29 March - 2 April 2016 | AAG Annual Meeting | San Francisco, USA | Sorin Cebotari (Presentation: "Renewable Energy Impact on Rural Community Development"), Bradley Loewen (Poster: "Path Dependence and Path Innovation of Regional Policy in Central and Eastern Europe") and Aura Moldovan (Presentation: "Territorial Mobility and Socio-spatial polarization in Romania") | more

Sorin, Bradley and Aura at Bradley's poster at AAG, San Francisco.

Sorin, Aura and Bradley near the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco.

7-8 April 2016 | PUPOL conference, “Leadership challenges in a global world” | Nijmegen, NL | Martiene Grootens (Presentation: “Leading peripheries, a socio-political understanding of leadership in peripheral places”) | more

Martiene presenting at PUPOL, Nijmegen.

A group photo of PUPOL participants, Nijmegen.

7-8 April 2016 | International Conference, “New ideas and new generations of Regional Policy in Eastern Europe” | Pécs, HU | Zsuzsanna Pósfai (Presentation: “Inequalities of CEE housing markets in a global context”), Melinda Mihály (Presentation: “The role of community enterprises in rural development”), Péter Balogh (Presentation: “Changing national and geopolitical imaginaries in Hungary and beyond”) | more

21-22 April 2016 | “Management in theory and practice” 15th International Scientific conference for PhD students and young researchers | Bratislava, SK | Martin Špaček (Presentation: “Cross-border technology-institutional innovations to address polarization of EU regions: research outline”) | more

11 May 2016 | The 4th lecture from the series “Researcher's view of the Community Led Local Development” | Michael Woods: “Rural Development in a Global Countryside” | Estonian Ministry of Rural Affairs | Tallinn, EE | Bianka Plüschke-Altof & Bradley Loewen | more

24-25 May 2016 | JLS - Jena Lecture Series in Economic Geography | Jena, DE | Martin Graffenberger | more

A group photo of Jena Lecture Series participants, Jena.

2 June 2016 | Nation and City Branding, “Place Branding as an Effective Tool to Generate Attraction for Investments, Talents and Tourists” | Tallinn, EE | Bianka Plüschke-Altof | more

15-16 June 2016 | Rural Life Network, “LEADER Information Day” | Jäneda, EE | Bianka Plüschke-Altof (Presentation: “Millisest ääremaast me räägime? Kohakuvandi mõju regionaalarengule (Peripheral Images Impeding Regional Development?)”) | more

22-25 June 2016 | 5th EMES International PhD Summer School: Social Entrepreneurship, Social Economy and Solidarity Economy | Glasgow, UK | Melinda Mihály in cooperation with her colleague Orsolya Lazányi (Open space session: "How to conceptualise solidarity economy in Central and Eastern Europe?") | summarizing video | more
Network-wide Events

19-23 September 2016 | 3rd RegPol² school, “Beyond disparities: Strategies towards a balanced spatial development” | Velka Lomnica, SK

In September, we will continue the successful RegPol² events and realise the 3rd RegPol² school. As usual, renowned scientists will hold keynote lectures and share their experiences with the PhD fellows. We are happy that Prof. Martin Müller (University of Zürich) and Dr. Lummina Horlings (University of Wageningen) accepted our invitation. Furthermore, there will be a wide range of seminars and training courses providing the fellows with methodological and transferable skills as well as intense discussions with political stakeholders from Slovakia.

The school will have three main objectives: firstly, to discuss students’ empirical findings in relation to their conceptual and theoretical frameworks; secondly, to provide the students with guidance on analytical and visual tools which might be useful for the last phase of their PhD projects; and last but not least, the discussion of the projects with different stakeholders and researchers in order to get an insight into the workings of policy-making in regions that are considered to be peripheral.

Continuing a good tradition we will offer 5 places for external participants. The Call for Applications as well as the preliminary program is published on our project website:
Upcoming Events

In the first half of 2016 RegPol², will be present at the following events:

16-18 August 2016 | 7th "Periphery" Summer School - Social enterprises on the "periphery" | Irota, HU | Melinda Mihály

23-26 August 2016 | 56th ERSA Congress: Cities & Regions: Smart, Sustainable, Inclusive? | Vienna, AT | Bradley Loewen | more

30 August - 3 September 2016 | The 5th International Degrowth Conference | Budapest, HU | Melinda Mihály | more

14-16 September 2016 | 10th European Urban & Regional Studies Conference: Europe, Crisis and Uneven Development | Crete, GR | Aura Moldovan | more

12-17 September 2016 | 10. Trierer Summer School on Social Network Analysis | Trier, DE | Martin Graffenberger | more

Bradley Loewen (2016): “Omavalitsuste liitmine või innovatsioon?” [“Municipal amalgamation or innovation?”], In: Postimees [Newspaper] | Published in 29 May 2016 (online) and 30 May 2016 (print). English translation can be found here.
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About ITN RegPol²

The ITN RegPol² – Socio-economic and Political Responses to Regional Polarisation in Central and Eastern Europe – centres on new patterns of regional disparities between metropolised regions and the remaining parts of Central ad Eastern European countries (CEE) countries.

Research training for 13 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) and 3 Experienced Researchers (ERs) is divided into 3 work packages of strongly interrelated research projects. The network draws on expertise from academia and private sector specialists from 7 different countries and 8 scientific disciplines used to working in interdisciplinary and multinational contexts.

The project aims at improving regional policy instruments by raising capacities of politicians, public and private sector policy makers related to issues of regional polarisation.

Visit for more information.
Full Partners
Fellow In Profile

Sebastian Schultz

We asked Sebastian to share his secondment experiences with us, below.

After having completed my first secondment at the Slovak University of Technology (STU) in Bratislava, I am currently on my next secondment at IfL-Leipzig until the end of June 2016. Here, my study activities comprise of finishing the theoretical and methodological part of my PhD thesis. I will start to collect data and materials on innovation policy in peripheralised regions in Eastern Germany through semi-structured expert interviews with key stakeholders from the public and private sector and from policy documents on innovation policy.

The secondment at IfL is a good opportunity to learn from the different perspectives of the local researchers and to exchange thoughts and ideas with other ESRs. And to get "gourmet" food from the nearest shopping centre to fuel creativity.

Having spent the first year of my research at the University of Tartu, it was valuable to receive additional scientific input and to experience different environments during my secondments in Bratislava and Leipzig. These places – being part of my case study regions – were quite diverse content-wise (Economics, Spatial Planning, Geography), but also in terms of how research is organised at the different institutes. The blend of disciplinary perspectives gave me more hints in terms of what to do and what not to do. Mostly the latter, so right now I am in the process of re-adjusting key concepts I am working with. I have already conducted a few exploratory interviews in Estonia and Slovakia, which I plan to build upon.

Overall, the new insights from the secondment periods shall help me solidify my conceptual and methodological framework and hopefully move on to the empirical phase proper rather soon.


RegPol² has received funding from the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007-2013/ under REA grant agreement n° 607022.

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