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Institute of

LV Rural Studies


Innovative Approaches to Public Services (InDaLE)

Mural from a rural town in Germany (volunteer fire fighters)
© Annett Steinführer
Many rural regions in Europe rely on volunteer fire fighters.

Innovative Approaches to Public Services - the Case of Firefighting

European countries follow different approaches to organising public services. Drawing on domestic and international model projects, this research seeks to establish the lessons that can be learned for the future design of public services in Germany.

Background and Objective

The facilities and the scope of public services can be organised in a variety of ways. In the European context, these services’ configuration and governance depends to a significant degree on national welfare state models and past developments, factors which in turn generate current path dependencies.

In the joint project InDaLE we research innovative approaches to public services provision in different European countries and assess their applicability and transferability to rural areas in Germany. This presupposes a focus on suitable adaptation strategies, an aspect that the project team will also investigate.

The research project focuses on the following three public services domains:

  • Medical care and nursing, a domain which is particularly important for upholding people’s quality of life in rural areas (responsible: Technical University Dresden),
  • Fire services and hazard prevention, a domain whose fulfilment through, among others, volunteer firefighters can no longer be taken for granted in regions that are experiencing outward-migration and ageing (responsible: Thünen Institute),
  • Post- and after-school education, a domain whose implications for regional development in Germany are under researched (responsible: Oldenburg University).

We will analyse case studies in Austria, Scotland, and Sweden as well as model projects in Germany.


In the InDaLE project we will analyse three international and two German case studies for each researched public services domain – that is a total of 15 case studies. The common thread linking the cases is their focus on concrete problems of guaranteeing the delivery of public services in rural regions within Germany. These case studies will serve as grounds for proposing, and where appropriate, implementing new solutions. This approach facilitates the comparability and adaptability of European findings on matters of goal setting, initiation, and implementation.

At the Thünen Institute of Rural Studies we investigate fire services and hazard prevention with a focus on (volunteer) firefighters in Austria, Scotland, and Germany.

Data and Methods

For every public services domain we will carry out a literature analysis aimed at understanding the governance structures of the researched contexts. We will select case studies on the basis of a criteria catalogue and an intensive internet-based desk research.

The in-depth investigation of the case studies uses semi-structured interviews with local experts as a key source of knowledge.

Our Research Questions

InDaLE pursues three main research questions, each of which includes corresponding evaluation approaches:

  1. Preparation of good practice projects in other European countries: which success factors can be identified?
  2. Comparison with completed model projects which target public services in Germany: what are the enabling conditions for the projects and what hinders their long-term consolidation?
  3. Deduction of conclusions: what can be learned from the international practice and model projects for the adaptation of the three researched areas of location-bound public services provision?

Preliminary Results

InDaLE will add to the scientific knowledge on the governance of public services in a European comparison. Findings will also be disseminated to the local authorities and the federal states.

The results will be prepared in different communication formats (e.g. workshops, project website, final report with policy recommendations, fact sheet, and working paper) that will target both practitioners and scientists. Knowledge dissemination to practitioners will therefore be initiated during the course of the project. The core element of this transfer will be two expert workshops, the results of which will inform the preparation of the final report and the policy recommendations. In addition to this, scientific publications and presentations at national and international conferences that focus on sub-aspects of the project are planned.

Involved external Thünen-Partners

Funding Body

  • Federal Ministry of Food und Agriculture (BMEL)
    (national, öffentlich)


7.2020 - 4.2023

More Information

Funding program: Bundesprogramm Ländliche Entwicklung
Project status: ongoing

Publications to the project

  1. 0

    Steinführer A, Brad A (2022) Freiwillige Feuerwehren. In: Neu C (ed) Handbuch Daseinsvorsorge : ein Überblick aus Forschung und Praxis. Berlin: VKU, pp 130-141

  2. 1

    Brad A, Adam Hernandez A, Steinführer A (2022) Governance der Daseinsvorsorge. In: Heintel M, Franz Y (eds) Kooperative Stadt- und Regionalentwicklung. Wien: Facultas Verl- und Buchhandels AG, pp 110-127

  3. 2

    Tent N, Brad A, Klöden J, Adam Hernandez A, Bannert J, Gebauer A (2021) A review of the challenges and strategies of delivering services of general interest in European rural areas. Europa XXI 41:77-105, DOI:10.7163/Eu21.2021.41.4

  4. 3

    Krajewski C, Steinführer A (2020) Daseinsvorsorge in ländlichen Räumen und ihre Ausgestaltung zwischen Staat, Markt und Ehrenamt. Schrr Bundeszentrale Polit Bildung 10362:242-260

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