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Identity and region formation Identity is part of the institutionalization of regions, the process through which regions come into being Paasi, The concept of identity is ambiguous and dynamic. Kruit et al , and Ernste indicate that identity is a multi-complex concept that is difficult to grasp. It also relates to an abundance of topics. They identify themselves with a certain area, not only with the landscape, but with a whole set that encompasses culture, sociality, morality, tradition and the social system specific to that region Raagmaa, Identity is not the same as the history or biography of a region, nor is it tradition or folklore Ernste, It is a dynamic concept, subject to ongoing social processes.

The identity of a region refers to those distinguishing physical, cultural and historical features that make one region different from another. Regional identity or regional consciousness refers to the extent to which people identify themselves with the region as the whole of institutionalized practices, discourses and symbols.

While these exist simultaneously as part of the process of social reproduction, this distinction helps us to understand and analyze both the structure and power elements hidden in discourses on regional identity and individual regional consciousness Paasi, As mentioned above, identity is closely interrelated with region formation, and the rise of regional identity must be seen in the broader context of region formation Simon, There are two major perspectives regarding the formation of regions: a structurally oriented perspective and an agency-oriented perspective.

In agency- oriented or social-constructivist perspectives, regions are seen as social constructs, defining and shaping themselves as part of, and through, different social and discursive practices Lagendijk, Paasi , one of the founders of the constructivist approach, describes region formation as a process of institutionalization. Here, institutionalization is the outcome of four simultaneous and interconnected working forces: i territorial, ii institutional and iii symbolic shaping, and iv internal and external recognition or identification.

Lagendijk facilitates study of the construction of regional identities by linking both structurally and agency-oriented perspectives together in a framework. This linkage is seen as part of an evolutionary process in which the region first becomes privileged, then achieves coherence once institutionalized. These various windows are then converted or translated into specific forms of policy-making, as well as practices and performances at both the individual and organizational levels. Once regions have a recognized position, they receive an established role in the territorial structure, and thus have a regional identity.

To stand out from the crowd and capture significant mind- and market share, place branding has become essential van Ham, Place branding or place marketing is a promotional strategy that includes all activities that increase the attractiveness of an area as a place for working, living and spending free time van Ham, Place branding can be applied in cities or countries, and it can also be adapted to regions. Regional branding is aimed at creating a more distinctive image or reputation, which helps to increase regional competitiveness Maessen et al. Regional branding markets the qualities of the region in the broadest sense: landscape, nature, cultural heritage, regional products, regional gastronomy, traditional quality products, and so forth de Bruin, In regional branding initiatives, the identity of the region and the regional identity, as defined by Paasi , serve as a basis for the regional brand or mark used to promote the region Sonneveld, Regional branding stimulates the regional economy, creates added value for the regional products and services, and can break through existing restrictions of sector-oriented approaches to rural development Hegger, As mentioned above, the countryside has experienced a transformation from production and consumption and has become a commodity that can be bought and sold Floysand and Jakobsen, , Kneafsey et al.

Regional branding goes beyond commodification and can be equated with mode IV of the culture economy, a concept developed by Ray and adopted by Kneafsey et al. In the cultural economy approach, cultural identity is used to attempt to localize economic control in order to re valorize place. Culture economy includes those strategies to transform the local knowledge into resources available for the local territory, i.

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The culture economy model has four modes. Mode I can be compared with the commoditization put forward by Floysand and Jakobsen and Kneafsey et al. In Mode III, the territorial initiative sells itself internally, to the communities, businesses, groups and official bodies of the local area. Mode IV, which emphasizes the normative capacity of the culture economy, can operate within each of the other three modes. The local culture then becomes more than an instrument to fuel trade in the global economy, and instead is rediscovered as the source of local wisdom and ethics.

Lee et al. Social capital — with respect to rural development processes — could be defined as the capacity to get things done collectively. It is embodied in the ability of individuals, groups, organizations and institutions to engage in networks, to cooperate, employ and use social relations for common purpose and benefit Tisenkopf et al. When a region markets itself internally, a stronger sense of shared identity emerges, which fosters trust and cooperation that can be mobilized for developmental benefits Ray, Material and methods The aim of the current research is to discover the factors that create success and failure in regional branding processes, to understand how these processes take place, and to map the complexity of the matter.

Because the research question stated above expects qualitative answers based on subjective data, case analysis has been based on the grounded theory approach. Grounded theory involves a consequential induction from empirically collected data in order to build theoretical frameworks. These empirical data, in the form of transcripts of semi-structured interviews, are analyzed through the process of coding Strauss and Corbin, The collection and analysis happens simultaneously, and the theory developed should explain most parts of the process studied.

Analytic interpretations of data, developed throughout the research process, are used to inform and refine the developing theoretical analysis. Empirical data collection in this research is done through the method of purposeful or theoretical sampling, which involves searching for information-rich data Baxter and Eyles, Sample size is determined by the need to involve as many experiences as possible for the development of the conceptual framework, and saturation occurs when no new themes emerge. This research includes all stages of the regional branding process, from the very beginning to the mature stage.

The criteria were formulated, and the cases selected, to cover different stages of this process and to ensure informative results Table 1. These key informants then referred to other possible interviewees snowball sampling , which could be farmers, entrepreneurs, local guides, mayors, chairmen of local societies, teachers, and the like. The international cases, namely West Cork and Groene Woud, served as exploratory case studies. These regions were examined on-site during one week each.

Factors of success and failure of these cases are then verified in the Belgian case study, Pajottenland. This region, which started only recently with a regional branding process, can be observed in detail due to its close proximity. It is a rural area of , hectares of mainly grassland, has mountainous scenery, and is surrounded by the sea.

Other distinguishable characteristics are small villages with colored houses and fuchsia hedges that border narrow meandering roads. Many people from outside the region have chosen to live and work in West Cork in order to improve their quality of life. The passion and pride of the inhabitants for the region and its food products emerged out of conversations with various inhabitants. The peripheral location of West Cork impedes access to external markets, but on the other hand, it contributes to a more pronounced regional identity and collaboration among the inhabitants.


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Many respondents stressed the importance of the connection with the soil and the awareness of the food they are consuming. In this regard, small-scale family farms that provide genuine food make a substantial contribution to the territorial identity. The West Cork Leader Co-operative Society started in to use the unique image and identity of the West Cork region as the key driver of the rural development strategy of the region. The basis of the regional branding strategy, the Fuchsia brand, is seen to assist broader development, rather than as a mere marketing strategy.

The Leader co-operative, a project agency with seven young and dynamic staff members with a private-sector ethos, now co-ordinates the development process as well as the branding process. Their European and national funds are spent on wages of the staff of the Leader Co-operative, communication of the brand and the branding concept, and capital investment in individual entrepreneurial projects. These entrepreneurs can be farmers, artists, hotelkeepers, restaurant owners, retailers, and so forth. The very flat landscape is characterized by small agricultural parcels framed by lines of poplars and a few nature reserves.

The core of the region consists of 7, hectares of forests, swamps, heath, and agrarian landscapes. Typical to the area are picturesque villages with small chapels. A National Landscape is an area in the Netherlands that has a unique combination of agricultural area, nature and cultural heritage. A couple of entrepreneurs started the branding process of Het Groene Woud as a reaction against the increasing influence of the green movement, which was found to be threatening.

In , a group of these entrepreneurs traveled to West Cork in Ireland to learn from a region more experienced in region branding. Figure 2 Situation of Het Groene Woud The interviews with the inhabitants of Het Groene Woud did not give evidence of much intrinsic passion for the region, nor of regional pride. The entrepreneurs want to make money by branding the identity of the region, because they expect customers to pay more for products with a regional brand. The development process of Het Groene Woud is led by a number of enthusiastic entrepreneurs mostly farmers that wanted to cooperate.

The entrepreneurs used the available Leader funds to hire a project agency that drew up and implemented a business plan for their projects. All projects include several regional partners, as Leader funds are not used to support individual project partners: financially supported projects must be able to continue without this support. To resolve the lack of coordination between the different projects, the same project agency was asked to draw up a business plan for the region as a whole, based on the view of the different stakeholders.

Regional branding process in Pajottenland Pajottenland is a rural region located in the southwest of the Belgian province of Vlaams-Brabant, only km from the center of Brussels. The northern municipalities are more urbanized, while the southern municipalities are rural towns.

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The majority of people living in the region work in Brussels, which results in reduced economic activity in the region itself. Almost everyone in the region still feels somehow related to agriculture. Only the southern, rural municipalities comply with the conditions put forward by the European Union. The development strategy for takes three tracks: boosting the rural economy, strengthening the infrastructure and rural accommodation, and preserving the rural character. The Local Action Group LAG is made up of 24 regional associations social, economic, cultural and ecological , the town councils, and the social services departments.

Since the start of a number of coordinating projects, people have started to think more outside the box of their organization. One particular mayor is seen as a very important person in this whole process and is supporting and stimulating several different cooperative initiatives. There are many good individual initiatives in Pajottenland, and more cooperation is sure to follow, but co- ordination is still lacking. Figure 3 Situation of Pajottenland Compared with other Leader areas in Flanders, there is rather little emphasis on support for the agricultural sector.

People try to work bottom-up as much as possible, which is not always easy.

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A new project to brand the region was begun in November This project is also financed by the European Fund for Regional Development and is done in cooperation with two other Flemish regions. An external marketing bureau was contacted to help determine some unique regional characteristics and to outline the branding strategy. This regional branding project also includes efforts to raise the awareness of the inhabitants and build community.

Critical success factors The analysis of the interviews of these cases led to the formulation of some critical success factors. First of all, there is no such thing as a standard manual for regional branding. Every region has its own physical, social, cultural and historical features, which define the case-specific context. Read more Read less. Thousands of books are eligible, including current and former best sellers. Look for the Kindle MatchBook icon on print and Kindle book detail pages of qualifying books.

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