"Without Youth, No Future." In 2008, after a student excursion to Tana, a rural municipality in Eastern Finnmark, not far from the border to Russia, Mathhew Balazs from Ohio, USA, wrote a term paper titled “Without youth no future.” The paper deals with the well-known problem of keeping youth in remote, rural communities of the northern periphery. In comparison with many other communities in this region, Tana has a rather privileged position. It has a differentiated and relatively solid local economy and a modern and well-functioning public sector, including a high school of agriculture and a regional study center with an impressive catalogue of course and study programs, even on bachelor and master level. In spite of this comparative advantage, Tana is experiencing the same problem of keeping the youth as most of the other rural communities of the northern periphery. Even if Matthew’s paper didn’t come up with a solution to this apparent paradox, he was credited for raising the problem.

The evaluation and learning workshop, as the excursion is called, is an integrated part of the UArctic advanced emphasis course in Management of Local and Regional Development and the Bachelor in Northern Studies taught at Finnmark University College (FiUC) in Norway. The student excursions are organized in cooperation with local authorities in the small, remote municipalities where the UArctic Thematic Network on Local and Regional Development and FiUC have initiated and/or participated in local and regional development workshops and partnerships since 2003. The course and study program in mention, including the evaluation and learning workshops, are one of many important spin offs of this research and development project. Through the integration of theory and experience based knowledge the project has proven to be an important tool in knowledge and capacity building for social and economic development in remote, rural communities of the northern periphery.

The international Gargia Conference for regional development in the North, organized by the UArctic Thematic Network on Local and Regional Development and FiUC annually in Alta, since 2004, is another positive result of the above-mentioned educational, research and development project. It was first established as a meeting place and discussion forum for faculty members at FiUC and local and regional development agents and agencies from public and private sector, participating in the same R&D-project. Apart from knowledge and capacity building, another important goal behind the conference was to establish a partnership based regional innovation or development network to better service rural communities and regions.
Inside the thematic framework of regional development every year we focus on a different issue. The While the Gargia Conference 2011 focused on ‘Sport, Tourism and Place Development’, this year’s conference has chosen to look closer at the connections between ‘Youth, Entrepreneurship and Rural Development’. The questions we will raise is not only about what it takes to keep youth from leaving their home communities in the northern periphery, or how to get them to move back after they have left. It is more about innovation and entrepreneurship, or more precisely, how promotion of young entrepreneurs can make a difference in this context.

As usual, the conference will be held at Gargia fjellstue, in a rural community in the outskirts of Alta, Finnmark, Oct. 17-18. Next year FiUC and the UArctic Thematic Network on Local and Regional Development will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Gargia Conference for regional development in the North - together with all our local, regional and international partners.
Contact Tor Gjertsen for more details.